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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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