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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.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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