Creating Time in Your Day
Maximizing a Busy Schedule
Time – it's something that money can't really buy, and something that many of us would like more of! And, with the breakneck pace of work today far outweighing what we had to contend with even a few decades ago, many of us could achieve so much more with a little more time on our hands.
In this article, we're looking at strategies that you can use to create more time for yourself. With these, you can get more done at work, or spend time doing more of the things that you enjoy.
It's unlikely that every one of these strategies will fit your own circumstances. However, some of these strategies are sure to help!
According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), we spend, on average, an hour a day or more looking for lost items.
So, how much time every day do you spend looking for important files, old email, documents, books or even your house keys? What could you do with that time if you could get it back?
Learning how to get organized is one of the most powerful ways to find more time in your day. Our articles How to Get Organized and The Art of Filing will show you how to manage your documents, supplies, and schedule so that you can stop wasting time due to disorganization. Our article on the 5S System may also be useful.
Get Up Earlier
Do you get out of bed at the last minute, bolt down breakfast, and race into work?
Many people do – after all, it's all too easy to reach over and press the snooze button for "just five more minutes." However, getting up earlier is a great way to add some high-quality time to your day.
For example, imagine how much productive work could you get done if no one else was in the office, and your phone wasn't ringing off the hook. Alternatively, you could use this extra time to work on goal setting, to draft that novel you've always wanted to write, or to explore that tantalizing opportunity you've dreamed about.
If getting up earlier fits in with your situation, start slowly. Begin by getting up 10-15 minutes early, and then add another 10-15 minutes every week or two. In a month, you'll be getting up an hour earlier – that's seven extra hours of quality time a week! Just make sure that you're getting enough good-quality sleep.
Reexamine Your Schedule
How many obligations or commitments do you have right now?
It's easy to get stretched thin when it comes to your schedule. In addition to work demands you probably have obligations and commitments to family, friends, social clubs and volunteer organizations.
It's hard to say "no" to people, especially if they're your boss, or a trusted colleague. You can use Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle to decide if a task or project is truly worth your time, or if it's something you should say "no" to.
It's also important to look at how you're spending your time outside of work. What are you doing, or involved with, that wastes time or doesn't bring you joy?
For instance, how much extra time would you have in your day if you simply stopped watching TV? How much time could you gain by avoiding aimlessly internet surfing during the afternoon, or by hiring someone else to do your household chores?
Use an Activity Log to discover how you're really spending your time. This can help you to spot tasks and activities that could easily be gotten rid of, giving you more time in your schedule. Additionally, focus on how to use effective time leverage to add hours to your day.
Use Your Peak Time Wisely
Do you know when you're most focused during the day? For some people, it could be when they first come in to work. Others may feel more energetic and focused late in the afternoon. Using your peak time wisely can help you add time during the day, because you'll get more done, freeing up more time to do other things.
For instance, imagine your peak time is between 9 and 10 a.m., but when you get into work, you spend the first hour checking email and returning phone calls. You save tasks that require the most effort and concentration for after lunch, when your energy is lowest. This may be one reason why your work takes longer than it needs to.
Instead, you should be doing your most important work when you first get into the office, and schedule tasks that require less effort – like checking email and returning phone calls – for early afternoon, when your energy is lower.
If you're not sure when your peak energy time is, our article, Is This a Morning Task? will help.
Colleagues with questions, team members that need help, last-minute meetings, and constant accessibility with IM chat... Interruptions can seem endless!
Every time we're interrupted, it can take us a few minutes to regain the focus we had before. So, learning how to manage interruptions successfully and minimize distractions can add significant time to your day.
When you have more time to focus exclusively on tasks, you can also achieve flow easier. This is an exceptionally productive state of mind: the more you can achieve flow during the day, the higher is the quality work that you're likely to do.
Some people believe that multitasking is a great use of their time. After all, if you can read an email and talk with your boss on the phone, you'll save time by doing both at once, won't you?
Unfortunately, the problem with multitasking is that it's a productivity myth – it often costs you more time. You do both activities slowly, and you can't fully retain or process the information from either. Often, you'll have to go back and re-read or re-do something.
Instead, do one task or project at a time. Focus fully on what you're doing and, whenever you can, complete it before moving on to something else.
Work From Home
For many of us, the commute to and from work takes up a big chunk of the working day.
So, if your job suits remote working, consider working from home for a few days each month.
For more on managing your time effectively, take our quiz: How Good is Your Time Management?
Most of us wish we had more time in the day. And it's relatively simple to create more time for yourself by following a few simple strategies.
First, take the time to get organized. You'll waste less time looking for lost items. Next, try waking up earlier. You can use this quiet time to relax and reflect on your day, or head into the office early to get some quality work completed.
You can also add time to your day by learning how to use your peak time wisely, by minimizing distractions and managing interruptions, and by focusing on one task at a time.