We all like to think that we’re constantly pressed for time, but the reality is that most of us waste this vast resource simply by remaining unaware of how we spend our days. So if you need to find more time in your day – whether to take on a new fitness program or to make some major progress on a business goal – check out the following 17 tips on how to get more done in less time:
Tip #1 – Set your alarm clock earlier
Yeah, yeah – this is the one tip that nobody ever wants to hear… But here’s the thing – if the rest of your day is already packed full of productive work, you’re going to be hard-pressed to free up as much time throughout your day as you can by waking up earlier in the morning. Even getting to the office a half hour ahead of your coworkers can give you the quiet time needed to start your day off on a productive note.
Tip #2 – Lay out your clothes at night
Morning indecision about what you’ll wear is a huge time-waster, so take a few minutes each evening to lay out the clothing you’ll wear the next day. If you’ll be hitting the gym before you’re home again, setting out your gym clothing as well will help you to save time and avoid forgetting important items. Nobody wants to get to the gym and realize he’s going to have to wear his dress socks with his athletic shoes!
Tip #3 – Have a plan for your workouts
And while we’re on the subject of hitting the gym, be sure you’re walking in the door with a purpose every time. If you arrive at the gym without a plan, you’ll waste time drifting from machine to machine and seriously compromise the effectiveness of your workout. If you can’t come up with a plan on your own, try a single visit with a personal trainer in order to get things sorted out.
Tip #4 – Prep meal ingredients ahead of time
Let’s face it – are you more likely to eat your healthy salad if you can walk up to your refrigerator and make one out of an assortment of pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables, or if you have to go through this prep process before every lunch? Taking the time to do as much of your meal prep work ahead of time as possible can save you some major time – not to mention help you avoid unhealthy “eating out because you don’t have the energy to prep and cook a meal” trips.
Tip #5 – Opt for public transportation
When you drive to work, you can’t send email messages, finish up a set of business documents or watch training videos (or, at least, you can’t do so safely). If you have the option to take public transportation, consider doing so and use the spare minutes you’ve found to catch up on business tasks before you arrive at the office. If you must drive, download informative podcasts or audio books to ensure that you’re getting something valuable out of your trips.
Tip #6 – Limit email checks
This tip isn’t exactly a surprise – Tim Ferris has been telling you to do so since at least 2007. However, if you haven’t yet gotten around to implementing a system that ensures you only check email at certain times of the day – minimizing the countless distractions that doing so more often can create – do it now! Set the times you’ll check your messages throughout the day and then enlist the support of an accountability partner who can either reward you or assess penalties you set up in response to your compliance.
Tip #7 – Start each day with a pre-made “to do” list
As with the gym tip mentioned earlier, if you’re arriving at your office without a clear vision of what you must accomplish throughout the day, you’re already wasting time! Instead, take a few minutes before you leave the office each night to write a list of the 1-3 most important things you must do the next day. Then, when you get to the office, start in on this list in order to avoid wasting precious time.
Tip #8 – Gather files and supplies ahead of time
Once you’ve created your daily “to do” lists, take a few moments to gather up any files or supplies you’ll need before you can begin the next day’s tasks you’ve assigned to yourself. Nothing slows down your progress more than having to spend 20 minutes hunting down a missing document in your company’s file system, which is why compiling necessary resources in advance will help you to save time and become more productive.
Tip #9 – Be conscious of task switching
Official estimates vary, but there’s no arguing with the fact that we waste huge amounts of time switching from one task to another. As a result, if you want to find more time in the day, minimize the number of times you move from one project to another. Creating a “to do” list and gathering the necessary supplies in advance should help you to reduce the number of times you need to switch between projects, but do try to be conscious of the amount of time that’s lost between unavoidable changes.
Tip #10 – Wear headphones to minimize distractions
Having fun coworkers is great – until you need to actually get work done. If you can’t seem to stop gossiping with colleagues when you should be handling the items on your “to do” list, invest in a comfortable pair of headphones and wear them – music on or off – until you’re finished. People are often more reluctant to interrupt those wearing headphones.
Tip #11 – Use tools like Text Expander
If you find yourself typing out the same email messages over and over, you can free up extra time in your day by using template messages services like Text Expander or Gmail’s Canned Responses. Both of these services save common messages, enabling you to call them up with a few key strokes or mouse clicks – saving you the time that would otherwise be required to re-type these same messages.
Tip #12 – Outsource or delegate whenever possible
Again, this one isn’t rocket science and, in fact, I’ve talked about how outsourcing and delegating can save you time on this site before. Unfortunately, though, it seems that while most people understand the benefits of sharing tasks with other workers, few people actually choose to put this technique into action!
So today, I want to challenge you to find one task that you regularly perform that can be done by somebody else. Then, find that person – whether it’s a coworker or a remote worker you have yet to hire – and pass off the task in order to free up more of your time.
Tip #13 – Stop going to meetings
Here’s the deal… About 99% of meetings are functionally useless – so stop going to them! If you’re an attendee, find some gracious way to let your boss know how much time is being wasted, and if you’re a meeting organizer, consider carefully whether the meeting you’re about to propose is truly necessary or if the information that will be shared can be passed on in some other way. Eliminating just a handful of meetings each week can result in huge time savings for everyone in your organization.
Tip #14 – Hire a cleaning service
The number of tasks that are required to keep a home functioning and clean eats up the spare time of even the sloppiest of people, making cleaning services a great option for those in need of some free time. By hiring a maid service or an assistant from a program like Task Rabbit, you can free up a huge amount of time in your day for a relatively low cost in comparison.
Tip #15 – Get rid of your TV
Want to uncover an extra 10-20 hours of free time each week? Get rid of your TV and you’ll instantly gain back this time and more, depending on your regular viewing habits! Let’s face it – do you really think your life will be that much worse off if you aren’t able to watch the latest Real Housewives episode when it airs? I didn’t think so…
Tip #16 – Only watch DVR’d programs
That said, if you aren’t yet ready to free yourself from TV altogether, invest in a DVR box and only watch shows that you’ve pre-recorded. That way, you can fast forward through the commercials – freeing up an extra 15-20 minutes per hour of recorded programing that would otherwise be wasted on commercials.
Tip #17 – Set a media cut-off time
Finally, regardless of the types of media you allow in your home, consider setting a defined cut-off time, at which point you’ll shut off your TV, computer, video game systems and other electronic devices. Without this finite limit, it’s easy to allow an extra 10 minutes of digital programming to turn into an hour or more – and if this excess is occurring at night, it’ll make that earlier waking time we talked about in Tip #1 all the more difficult to stick to.
Instead of wasting time in this way, set up regular cut-off times and enforce these boundaries with yourself. You’ll be amazed at the amount of spare time you’re able to recapture!
What other tips and tricks have you picked up that help you to find more spare time in your day? If you’ve got a great idea for finding extra time, share it below in the comments so that everybody can benefit!