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How to Drastically Increase Your Free Time

How to Drastically Increase Your Free Time

It’s the end of another busy workday, but before you can relax at home, you’ve got to make a 30-minute drive through congested traffic. When you eventually pull up to your home, you open the front door, and then immediately crash on the sofa. You’re completely exhausted.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s certainly a common scenario. But, what makes it even worse, is the fact that it’s unlikely to be a one-off situation. Many people experience this every workday of the year!

It’s no wonder then that the majority of people are feeling overwhelmed by work and stressed by the demands of life. They feel like they just don’t have the time or energy to achieve what they want, and to do things they’d like to do. In fact, I would go even further, and say that most people can’t even find the time to do what HAS to be done – let alone time for family, friends and hobbies.

To give you a couple of examples of this, just think for a moment of the pressures that full-time working parents experience, as well as the many people who are forced to work more than one job in order to keep paying their bills.

Are you one of these people?

If yes, don’t worry, as I’m going to show you some simple ways of ordering your life so you have time left to do the things you really want to do. Take Control of Your Schedule

Just like money – you should have a budget for time.

That’s because time is non-renewable. Meaning you can’t get it back once it’s been spent. That’s why it’s important to understand where your time is going and where you could improve – especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate.

Chances are, you’re spending time doing things you may not need to be doing yourself (delegation), should be doing for less time (prioritization), or could get rid of all together (replacing bad habits with good).

Prioritization

You may be surprised to learn that you consume a colossal 34GB of information every day. And that’s on top of the 50,000 thoughts you generate in the same 24-hour period.

With this amount of mental activity and pressure – it’s easy to see why you might feel overwhelmed by the endless information and data that come your way.

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Fortunately, there’s a simple way to take back control of your mind. And, it involves using something that you almost certainly already carry with you every day… your smartphone.

Yes, your smartphone can act as the perfect memory and organization tool.

Let me explain.

Instead of trying (and inevitably failing) to remember all the important stuff that comes your way, you can let your smartphone take the strain. It can also help you plan and keep track of your days, weeks, months and years.

Until now, you might have only thought about using your smartphone for social media, news alerts, phone calls and selfies! But, your phone can do much more than these things. Especially if you install the right apps.

I recommend installing Evernote on your phone. This powerful app makes it quick and easy to jot down notes and ideas – anywhere, anytime. For instance, you can manually type notes, or you can capture images or even links to webpages. And, searching and finding things in your notes is easy, too, thanks to the clever tagging and categorizing options.

I’ve used Evernote for several years now, and I can honestly say that it’s saved me hundreds of hours. Previously, I used to jot things down in the inherent notepad app. But I frequently found myself wasting time searching through old notes as they were very unorganized and sometimes difficult to retrieve. With Evernote, your notes are stored securely in the cloud, so even if you lose your smartphone – you won’t lose your notes.

The other app I recommend you install is Google Calendar.

This app is available for iOS, Android and any browser.

 If you’ve never used it before, here’s why you should:

  • You can capture important dates, such as meetings, birthdays and anniversaries.
  • You can set reminders and alarms for key times and dates.
  • You can easily view your upcoming days, weeks and months.
  • You can share your calendar with other people, such as your partner or colleagues.
  • You don’t need to spend a cent (it’s a free app!).

Google Calendar has helped me simplify and streamline my day-to-day life. And, I’m sure it’ll do the same for you, too.

Of course, to get the most out of the Evernote and Google Calendar apps, you’ll need to make a habit of using them. (See the habit improvement section below.)

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Delegation

However strong your willpower and however much energy and drive you have – you are just one person. That means you only have a limited amount of time to work on the things that you want to achieve.

This is why delegation is such an important part of a healthy and successful life.

So what exactly is delegation?

I like to describe it as leveraging time from an outside source to give you opportunities to increase your quality time.

Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.

You’re no fan of gardening, but you hate to see your lawn at the back of your house turning into a jungle! So, every week or so in the summer, you head to the shed and pull out your rusty old lawn mower. It’s not great at cutting grass anymore, but with persistence, it does the job. From start to finish, you spend about 2 hours to get your lawn looking half-decent.

But, as I mentioned, gardening is not your thing. And quite frankly, having to regularly cut the grass has become a painful chore that eats into your free time on the weekends.

There is a solution to your problem…

You could choose to hire a professional gardener, or even a neighbor kid to help out–you simply need someone who could come every week to cut your lawn and look after your flower beds, etc. Not only would this save you the hassle of doing the work yourself, but it would also give you a few hours of extra free time a month. You could use this for whatever you fancied, perhaps learning a musical instrument, writing a book or just for meeting up with friends and family.

Of course, it’s not just gardening you might want to delegate. Think about delegating things that fall into the following three categories:

  1. Tasks that you don’t enjoy doing – perhaps cleaning your car or preparing your tax returns.
  2. Tasks you shouldn’t do – you might enjoy fixing your washing machine, but it’s likely to take you much longer than getting an expert to fix it quickly.
  3. Tasks you can’t do – for example, if you want to set up a website for your business, but you don’t have any technical skills, then you’ll probably want to hire a website developer.

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to delegate, then start delegating it!

It’s at this point that you’ll begin to see the tangible benefits to your life. You’ll have more energy, more time, and you’ll also feel freer and happier than you’ve done in ages.

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Habit Improvement

We all have habits – some good and some bad!

However, you may not have thought about just how much bad habits can cause you to waste time.

One quick example of this relates to the start of the day.

If you wake up with an alarm, do you get out of bed immediately when the alarm goes off, or do you hit the snooze button (perhaps several times)?

Snoozing might seem like a good thing at the time, but it’s definitely a bad habit. Even if you only snooze for 10 minutes in a morning, that’s an hour a week that you could use to practice your hobbies or even to help build your career.

Fortunately, snoozing is just a habit. And, habits can be changed.

Let’s see how it’s done…

First, you need to understand how habits are formed.

Picture in your mind when you learned to drive a car. At the beginning, it was nothing short of nightmarish. The pedals, the mirrors, the maneuvering, the parking! After your first few lessons, you probably thought of giving up. But, your determination was strong, and you persisted with your lessons. And, a couple of months later you were rewarded with a successful driving test pass.

While the lessons you had were certainly helpful, the real reason for you becoming a proficient driver was the power of habits. Just think how many times you practiced changing gears, reversing into parking spaces, etc. The first few times proved embarrassingly bad, but as you persisted, you became better and better – and eventually the required skills and techniques became habits for you.

This is how all habits are formed: the constant repetition of a specific behavior.

Of course, once a habit has been adopted, it’s very hard to break (just think about the difficulties people have quitting alcohol or cigarettes).

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But, there is a way to do this…

Instead of trying to break a habit, work on replacing it with something more positive.

For instance, coming back to snoozing, if you force yourself to get out of bed when your alarm goes off, you could then use the next 10 minutes or so for some gentle exercise. Now, this would probably be a very difficult thing to do for the first few days. But, keep going, and not only will it get easier to replace your snoozing with exercise, but after a few weeks, it will become a habit for you.

In other words, your old, negative habit will have been replaced by a new, positive one.

Reclaim Your Time

So now you know the secrets to drastically increasing your free time.

Use your smartphone to improve your time management and to schedule your tasks, and replace your time-wasting habits with productive alternatives.

All that’s left is for you to begin taking action.

As the famous proverb states:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Take yours now!

Featured photo credit: Photo by Zach Betten on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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