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21 Ways to Add More Hours to the Day

21 Ways to Add More Hours to the Day
Time is ticking…

A twenty five hour day isn’t coming any time soon. As long as your feet stay planted on the ground here, twenty four is all you’re going to get. However, with a bit of skill you can squeeze out a couple more hours to add to your day. Here’s how:

Step One: Remove Big Chunks

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The first step to reclaiming more time from your day is to get hold of the big chunks that aren’t being put to good use. “Good use” is a fairly subjective term here, but it could mean both work that doesn’t get much done or leisure time that isn’t enjoyable. Here are some places to start looking:

  1. Television – This is a good starting point if you need more time. If you don’t completely eliminate it, cut it down to only the key shows you enjoy viewing or news you need to hear. Otherwise power-off this timewaster.
  2. Internet – Quickly replacing television as a huge time consumer is the internet. Try going on an internet diet where you halve your net usage for two weeks. The first few days will be hard, but each time I’ve done this my results have been that almost no work was lost in the cutback.
  3. Games – A friend once told me that World of Warcraft was electronic crack. I’ve seen 14-Day subscription CD’s for dirt cheap, so I can see they’re even using the drug dealer business model. In all seriousness though, cutting back on game playing can give you more time.
  4. E-mail – It’s easy to get lured into checking your inbox, just one more time. Unfortunately, if you are checking it every hour or two, it can waste more time than it’s worth. In the past I’ve maintained a once per day inbox clearing routine and found it saved a lot of time. Now I’d like to aim for twice per day.
  5. Work – Cutting time from work isn’t easy. But as Tim Ferriss demonstrated in the 4-Hour Workweek, if you can maintain productivity or increase it, then cutting low-value work is possible. Outsourcing menial tasks to virtual assistants or simply cutting work that isn’t useful can help you reclaim work hours.
  6. Chores – Beyond just hiring a maid, there are ways you can reduce time from your chores. Cooking meals in advance, keeping things perpetually tidy, maintaining an organizing system to reduce the need for overhauls can all cut down your time usage.
  7. Schoolwork – For students, the classroom offers a lot of opportunities to save time without ruining your GPA. Most of these involve changing how you try to learn things to reduce wasted time in cram sessions. Read this article for more on how to do that.

Step Two: Reclaim Gap Time

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Anywhere from 2-5 hours of your day is probably spent in “gap time.” Gap times are those between meaningful activities but aren’t normally long enough to get more done. Commuting to work, waiting in line, time spent cooking foods, commercial breaks in television programs and small breaks in your schedule all count. Here are seven ways you can fill those gaps:

  1. Books – Bring a book with you at all times and get a few minutes of reading in.
  2. Listen – Put some audio books in your iPod and listen while you drive or walk.
  3. Problems – Solve problems in advance during gap periods so you won’t waste as much time on them later.
  4. Articles – Print off longer articles and read them while waiting for food to cook or in lines.
  5. Creativity – I use gap time to come up with new article ideas. You can use it to come up with new ideas for work or life.
  6. Rehearsal – Use gap minutes to visualize important parts of your day you want to perform well in.
  7. Engage – Make your gap minutes more enjoyable by focusing on what you are doing. Focus completely on the drive to work or observe everything when waiting in line.


Step Three: Triage

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The final step is to use the principle of triage to focus on what’s important and ignore what isn’t. The easiest way to waste hours of your day is to do “work” that isn’t getting much done. Here are some things to think about when using triage:

  1. E-mail – Consider an autoresponder for common messages. Use concise yes or no answers for questions that don’t need a length explanation.
  2. Reading – If your purpose for reading is information, learn to change your pace from a knowledge absorbing crawl up to a fast skim over unimportant details. Ignore whole chapters and focus first on the ideas that are crucial to understand.
  3. Television – If you still watch TV, tape in advance and cut the commercials. You can save fifteen minutes from an hour program by doing this.
  4. Exercise – Plan workouts in advance so you can get the most exercising done without time spent flipping though fitness magazines or too much rest.
  5. Meetings – A good management trick is to conduct all meetings standing to speed them up.
  6. Relationships – I hesitate to say this, since relationships aren’t the normal domain of productivity time-cutting. But there are people in your life who use up much of your time without adding to the relationship. Not entirely caustic, these relationships drain your energy without providing much benefit. Navigate away from those people and focus on friends where the investment is worthwhile.

Final Tip: Prioritize Work

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The final question isn’t just of doing things faster, but of doing the right things. Constantly measure and be aware of the actual value each of your work activities brings. Those that don’t add much should be simplified or eliminated entirely to focus on those that do.

More by this author

Scott H Young

Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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