10 Jan Need more time? Use these 23 productivity tips to create more time for you.
We talk about how time is our most precious commodity but we are anything but time productivity geeks. We treat time is as if we had infinite amounts but we have no more than 24 hours every day – or 168 hours/week. These proven productivity tips will give you up to 10 extra hours a week to do anything you want. That’s crazy you say. What if I told you, it’s yours if you really want it? Read on.
So many of us have an unhealthy relationship with time. I did and you might too. When it’s there, do you take it for granted? When it’s not there, do you yearn for it? When we’re in a groovy relationship with time, we live in the moment and time can seem to stand still. But most of the time when we’re with time, our minds are totally somewhere else. Status: complicated.
We talk about how time is precious but then we fill up every minute of our days with stuff we don’t really want to do. We say yes yes yes to others because we feel we should do it rather than whether we want to do it. We fritter away our free time on social media or with TV. We multi-task thinking we are getting more done when we aren’t. The result? We are over-subscribed. We are resentful. We feel stuck.
My relationship with time used to be complicated. For years and years, I gave away nearly all of my time to work. I was a complete workaholic and rationalized how I had to work long hours. My relationship with time grew considerably stressed after the birth of my daughter while I had a full-time job. That was when I felt a total loss of time and hardly took care of myself. For so so long I saw the problem as my circumstances – a demanding job, or the time demands of parenting. But after a long struggle, I learned one truth: the only one who would create a healthy and loving relationship with time was me. I have lived and used most of the tips below and can attest they work. And guess what? I get just as much or more done in less time. And I have more time for myself to do what I really care about.
You can have that too. Let’s dig in! Read the entire list below and then find the key tips at the bottom to create those extra 10 hours a week.
Redefine your relationship with time
I’m sure you know how to use a calendar but a lot of time management comes down to how we schedule time. This is an essential foundation.
Tip #1: Every morning, plan out your day. Create a clear plan for your time to start having a new and healthy relationship with time. Unplanned days can fly by in a dysfunctional blur. Getting into the habit of planning out each day will allow you to see opportunities for time-saving and, more importantly, scheduling time for you.
Tip #2: When you plan, schedule time for you. And I mean schedule it on your calendar even if it is only 15, 20, or 30 minutes. When you schedule what matters, you will make time for it. Want to exercise? Schedule it. Want to meditate? Schedule it. Want to write? Schedule it. What you schedule is what you prioritize. You might be surprised what happens when you actually schedule something on your calendar.
Tip #3: Block time on your calendar. When it comes to important work or personal time, schedule those blocks of focused and uninterrupted time on your calendar. Time blocking at work can be instrumental to get a good amount of work completed.
Stop wasting time
When you cut out wasted time, you can recover that time for you.
Tip #4: Do a time audit. Do you really know where your time is going? Really, truly? Think twice if you said yes. I thought I did until I actually logged my time for a week using a free app called Toggl. My audit showed me I was wasting as many as 90 minutes a day! Once you see where your time goes, you will see opportunities to make the best use of your day.
Tip #5: Stop multi-tasking: Study after study has shown that multi-tasking is a complete time waster. When you are on your computer, do you start a task but then an email comes in so you open that, and get distracted so you open your web browser to do another project? And then by noon you are “working” on 5 different projects at once? You are wasting time approaching work this way.
Tip #6: Reduce your social media time. Globally people spend 118 minutes a day on social media. What about you? That time truly adds up. If you want to check social media, block that time off and limit it.
Tip #7: Limit your consumption of TV. Did you know Americans spend more than 2.4 hours a day in front of the TV? Be conscious about how much time you really want to dedicate to TV and then create a time limit for screen time. We all love TV but sometimes we can lose hours and hours.
Make your time productive & focused
Not all time is created equal and that is especially true when it comes to work time. You can get the same task done during a highly productive and focused 25 minutes than can you do in a distracted and unfocused 60 minutes. The average American worker puts in 8.8 hours a day but is only productive for three of those hours.
Tip #8: Cut back on checking email. Email is a major time waster. So much of our day is spent reading and re-reading emails. We get easily distracted when new emails come in. Did you know it takes an average of 23 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption? If you are checking your email throughout the day, consider turning on your email only 3-4 times a day (twice in the morning and again in the afternoon).
Tip #9: Focus your time on your three most important tasks. Nearly all productivity experts tell us to pick anywhere between 3-5 items to focus on during our day. When you remain focused on your most important tasks, you are more likely to complete those tasks.
Tip #10: Use the mornings to get the most done. You are freshest in the morning. Pick 1-2 of your most important items, and do those using uninterrupted time. This way, you will feel that sense of productivity and achievement before lunch.
Tip #11: Batch your smaller obligations. We often have a lot of obligations that take two minute or less. Productivity experts suggest batching these items together so you can get a lot of these items done together.
Learn to establish boundaries to protect your time
So many of our time woes come from making ourselves completely available to everyone at all times. Change how accessible you are to others. Establishing boundaries around your time is absolutely essential tool to protect and make the best use of your time.
Tip #12: Establish clear boundaries about your availability. How much does your work life bleed into your evenings and weekends? Consider reducing how responsive you are during off-work hours.
Tip #13: Block off time on your work calendar. Revisit how much you make yourself available to others. Could you block off part of your schedule – ideally in the mornings – so you can get some important things completed? It is a good practice to schedule uninterrupted work time on your calendar every day that doesn’t get eaten up by conference calls and other interruptions.
Tip #14: Stop automatically saying yes to others.When someone asks you for your time, stop yourself before you say yes. Take some time to consider whether you can really add a new obligation to your plate. If not, you can do one of three things: 1) Say NO that you are unable to help; 2) Offer to do part or a more limited version of what was originally requested; or 3) say you will do the obligation but not until a time that works better for you.
Use “waiting” time wisely
Tip #15: While you wait, do something productive. It seems we are always waiting somewhere. Waiting in line. Waiting at the doctor’s office. Waiting for kid activities. Anticipate that you will wait and do something productive. Keep a 2-minute list (items that take two minutes or less to do) and use your time productively.
Tip #16: During your commute. If you have a long commute, consider how you might use that time wisely. Could you listen to books on tape that help you learn something new? Could you meditate if you sit on a train?
Take care of yourself
Tip #17: Get enough sleep. When you aren’t rested, you will not make productive use of your time. Sleep is a key foundation to getting a lot done. If you are consistently not sleeping enough then it’s no wonder that your relationship with time is challenged. Lack of sleep affects motivation and focus.
Tip #18: Engage in self-care. When you take care of yourself, you will be more productive. When you don’t take care of yourself, you will not make good use of your time. Be sure to
Tip #19: Lean on outsourcing. Before I became a parent, I did everything in my life. I cooked. I cleaned. I made homemade presents over the holidays. It wasn’t until only very recently that I realize I had an attitude to “do it all.” Now, I rely on people to help me like sitters, a cleaning service, and sometimes grocery delivery. Don’t hesitate to outsource to grab a little time for yourself.
Tip #20: Delegate. High achievers like you probably think you are the only one who can get things done. This is a trap. If you have coworkers who can do something, try to delegate. Delegating is an important skill that doesn’t make you the center of everything that needs to get done.
Developing a different relationship with time
Tip #21: Lower your expectations. How much are you spending time making everything perfect? Does your house need to be spotless? You can free up a lot of time by asking yourself, “Is it good enough?” You will always find obligations to fill your day but to make time for yourself, you may need to lower your expectations to make some time for yourself. That could mean not doing the dishes one night, or waiting until some laundry piles up. A perfect house is secondary to a happy self.
Tip #22: Change your attitude toward time. Do you think, “I have no time!”? For years, I treated time as a scarce commodity. But then I changed my thinking and saw that I had a lot of choices about how I spent my day. I went from feeling I had no time to feeling excited about how to spend it. What we think about time heavily shapes our attitude. When you choose to think you have plenty of time, you may notice you will start to feel like there is plenty of it.
Tip #23: Improve your time estimation skills. Keep in mind that people will always overestimate what they can do in the short-term and underestimate what they can do in the long-term. How can you do a better job at estimating time? With a task, estimate as conservatively how much time it’s going to take to do something and then add 50 percent to that estimate.
So how can you grab those extra 10 hours?
With these proven time tips, you have tools in your toolbox to create an extra 60-90 minutes each day to set aside just for you. Using a foundation of planning (look at Tips 1-3!), you can design your days and weeks to create space just for you. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some ideas about how you can play around with your schedule:
- Get up a little earlier (and go to bed earlier). Consider waking up a little earlier (and maybe going to bed a little earlier) to create time for yourself. Mornings can be an excellent time to exercise, mediate, journal, or even work. This has been my essential strategy to create extra time just for me giving me extra 60-90 minute each day.
- Convert a slice of your work time to time for you. With greater productivity at work, you can take the extra 30-60 minutes you saved and convert it into time for you. For example, you could extend your lunch break. Or perhaps you can show up to the office a little later in the morning to make room for exercise or to work on a personal project. Finally, you might consider scooting out of the office a little earlier a few days.
- Leave work on time to set aside the evenings: If you find yourself having trouble leaving the office in the evening, set a hard deadline for when you leave the office. To make sure you leave on time, approximately, 30 minutes before you leave, begin a process to shut down for the day. Leaving the office at a reasonable hour can give you the evening for personal time.
- Change your commute. If you have the option, could you shift your time to work from home 1-2 days a week? Alternatively, could you start work early so you can leave early? Or vice-versa?
Whatever you do, the key is design a schedule that includes protected blocks of time just for you. This means setting clear work and personal boundaries.
Finally, parents have an especially difficult time looking for personal time. For that reason, I’ve included a few more tips for this group! See below.
You, too, can change your relationship with time into a healthy, long-lasting, and loving relationship.
Time Tips Bonus for Parents
- Examine flexible work options: Work flexibility especially for working moms can be essential for better life balance. But so many women never ask assuming it isn’t possible. Learn about asking for a flexible work schedule. Could you tele-commute 1 or 2 days a week? Could you work a compressed work week and get Fridays off? Investigate and explore.
- Stagger the parenting load. My husband and I used to a ton of parenting together. But then we started an approach where one parent spent quality one-to-one time with our daughter while the other did what they needed for themselves. Each parent gets their own kid “shift” so the other parent gets 2-3 hours blocks to themselves. Ah ha!
- Consider meal planning. You can find considerable time savings with meal planning and preparation. This probably deserves its own blog post but the big opportunity is to plan in advance, shop in advance, and meal prep in advance (like the night before or over the weekend) so that your evenings open up. My experience is this can give you hours back in any given week
- Morning routine: Creating just a . Make your mornings work for you so run as smooth as possible. Can you get you and your family’s outfits set out? Can the breakfast be prepped? Can the lunches be packed in advance? Can backpacks be organized in advance?