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7 Ways to Make Better Use of Your Time

7 Ways to Make Better Use of Your Time

You only get 24 hours every day, and while there are plenty of ways to wring more out of the time you have, there isn’t a way to get more of the stuff. But no need to worrythere are plenty of ways to use the time to have better. Here are 7 of them!

1. Slow down

Slowing down to get more out of your time may seem counterintuitive, but when you actually slow down, you will find that what you do becomes a lot more meaningful.

Imagine for a second that you’re driving through a beautiful forest. Your stereo is blasting a new song, you’re talking to a friend in the passenger’s seat, and before you know itwhooshyou passed right through the forest, and it was like you weren’t there at all.

Now imagine that instead of driving in a noisy car, you’re walking through the same forest. Summer is changing to fall, and as the leaves fall around you, you take in a deep breath of warm, October air.

Your walk is ten times more meaningful, because you slowed down. You were able to notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you, and what you were doing became much more meaningful. Slowing down brings meaning to how you spend your time, whether you’re walking through a forest, spending time with a loved one, playing an instrument, or even working on a report at work.

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2. Structure your free time

According to researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book “Flow”, Sunday at noon is the “unhappiest hour in America” because that’s the time people are the least productive. According to his research, people are oddly more motivated and focused at work because of the structure work provides, and he recommends structuring your free time.

That might sound counterintuitive: shouldn’t your free time be, well, free?

Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced CHEEK-sent-me-hi-ee, if you’re playing along at home) argues that when we don’t structure our time, we either spend it on pointless stuff, or just ruminate without much care or focus. Structuring your timeeven your free timeis proven to make you more motivated, focused, and ultimately, happier, because it gives you a direction and a purpose.

It’s totally counterintuitive, but when you have a purpose behind your actions, you will feel much more productive and happier (even if that purpose is to do nothing for an hour or two!)

3. Keep a time diary to see what you’re doing wrong

Keeping a time diary of how exactly you spend your time throughout the day is one of the most powerful ways to discover how you can better use your time. Keeping a time diary:

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  • Allows you to see patterns and trends (favorable or otherwise) in how you spend your time
  • Lets you see what activities impact your productivity the most (e.g. whether getting a good night’s sleep affects your motivation the next day)
  • Makes you second-guess yourself when you want to spend your time on low-leverage stuff
  • Lets you see whether how you spend your time matches up with your priorities (e.g. if you consider family important, but spend every night watching TV)

When you keep a time diary, it’s much easier to make changes to how you spend your time, because you can see, right in front of you, exactly what changes you need to make with how you spend your time. When I track my time, I keep it as simple as possible in order to reduce the mental friction I have to actually tracking my time. In front of me, throughout the course of a week, I keep a notepad that tracks: what I’m doing, when I start/stopped an activity, and any observations I have.

Keeping a diary of exactly how you spend your time seems simple on the surface, but produces profound results when you actually do it.

4. Do less

Apple is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world for one big reason: they make only four main product lines. Apple makes the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and the Mac (with software to support them), and that’s pretty much it. Apple is a $431 billion company that puts all of its weight behind four small product lines.

Taking a similar approach with your life is also incredibly powerful. When you do fewer things, you spread your time over less, and so you have much more of yourself to give to everything you do. I think one of the best ways to boost your focus, become a better person, and use your time better is to do less.

Question the elements of your life, and constantly ask yourself if you’re doing too much. Doing less may seem like a counterintuitive way to better use your time, but it boosts your focus and success because you can invest so much more of yourself into the things you want to do.

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5. Think about what matters most to you

Everyone spends their time differently: one person may invest a lot of time into developing a successful career, while another may care more about investing their time into building a rewarding family life.

Take the time to think about what you really, truly care the most about, then invest your time in what you care about. This seems like simple advice, yet hardly anyone does it. A lot of people wing their way through each day, not thinking about whether how they’re spending their time will produce meaningful results.

I think the only way to make sure you get the most out of your time is to start with what matters the most to you, and work backward to your actions to figure out how you should act.

6. Focus on high-leverage activities

You may have heard of the 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. I like looking at the 80/20 rule a different way: every action you take is either high or low leverage. The higher leverage an activity is, the more you’ll get out of a small amount of effort.

Some people invest their time into low-leverage activities, which they get almost nothing out of. Take watching TV, for example. If you watch 3 hours of TV a day (the average is more than 4) and you live until you’re 80, you’ll spend 10 years of your life watching TV! That’s time you’ll never get back, and time you could have invested into a much higher leverage activity, like reading a book, having a coffee with someone you want to learn from, exercising, writing, or meditating.

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When you invest your time in high-leverage activities, you can cut the cruft from your life and make sure that what you invest your time in the activities that produce the greatest returns on your time.

7. Know how little time you have, and live accordingly

This may sound like a corny tip, but it isn’t. You really don’t have that much time.

If you’re average (I know you’re not, but bear with me), according to the American Time Use Survey, each work day you’ll spend: 7.6 hours sleeping, 8.8 hours working, 1.1 hours eating, and 1.1 hours doing chores around the house, leaving you with about five and half hours left over for doing what you want to do. And these figures don’t include investing time into your relationships, caring for others, or any other commitments you have already.

You start every day with 24 hours, but once you subtract all of commitments from that, you’re not left with much. When you constantly remind yourself how little time you have, you light a fire under yourself to make the most out of your time. You start to say “no” to commitments that don’t mean much to you. You bring more energy and drive to your work. You become more defensive of your free time, and make the most of it.

Knowing just how little time you have will let you put the time you do have to much better use.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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