There are two things we always complain about—being tired and being busy. No matter how demanding our jobs are or how diverse our personal lives may be, it seems as though we never have enough time—weekdays are spent trying to cram workouts into packed schedules (and mostly failing), while weekends are lost to running errands and trying to meet our social obligations. Modern life is so overwhelming that when someone says we need to manage our time better, we simply think, “What time?” If you’re likewise feeling underwater without a rescue boat in sight, worry not; here, eight ways to do more with less time so you can actually experience the living of your life.
We love to-do lists—they're great for keeping track of what needs to get done when. Still, they aren't the most efficient way to organize your tasks. Instead, we suggest scheduling your day so that you don't, for example, spend three hours vaguely working on a few things rather than one hour completing a specific task. At our most overwhelmed, we like to sit down first thing in the morning and schedule our to-dos into an hour-by-hour (or even more micro-scheduled, depending on the size of your tasks) calendar. If you don't know exactly what you're doing between 4 and 5 o'clock today, in other words, there's a chance you will waste a good chunk of that time trying to figure it out.
We've all heard that multi-tasking is a productivity killer (by as much as 40%), so if you want to make the best use of your time we suggest you practice the old-fashioned art of doing one thing at a time. Don't toggle between tasks, and practice checking your emails just a few times per day as studies have shown that those distracted by incoming calls and emails suffer 10-point IQ drops. You may also want to switch your phone into airplane mode for hours at a time while working, unless your job requires you to use it to conduct business, of course.
Workplace chat rooms are supposed to make things more productive, and often they do. Those of us who like our coworkers, however, know they can also be time sucks that allow us to gab endlessly about our weekends rather than focus on the tasks at hand. Plus, if you're being interrupted by an incoming message every few minutes, your IQ is dropping (see slide #2) twice as much as it would on marijuana!
This advice goes hand in hand with that of the previous slides, but here we suggest disconnecting from the digital world entirely when you're not at work, at least for small windows of time. If you feel like you don't work out enough, for example, consider the extra time you spend at night returning texts or scrolling through Instagram as lost time you could easily reclaim with a digital curfew. If you feel like you don't have enough free time, consider the possibility that you're not fully free during your recreational time and are therefore not enjoying the moment. Everyone is different when it comes to how the uber-connectedness of their smartphones makes them feel, but as an experiment, we suggest you turn them off just a smidge more often. Also, we hate to say it but the television is a huge time suck. If you don't think you need to turn it off, we suggest you keep a journal of your TV time for one week and then see how you feel about things.
Okay, so we know not everyone can do this, but it's true that 9-to-5 jobs are not always the best use of your time. If you work in a field conducive to freelance or consulting opportunities, you might be able to make just as much as or more than you do working a "real" job by striking out on your own, often in much less time. Here, five things to consider before you make this jump.
Anxious thoughts are definitely a waste of time, and yet many of us let them run our days. If you're among those who find themselves drifting off into their worries rather than being present, we suggest regular meditation, particularly in the morning and at night. This can help you declutter your brain so it can focus on the now and therefore make you more productive in each moment.
This writer once tried hypnosis to enable her to say no more often after realizing she spent the bulk of her time doing things she didn't really want to do. If this anecdote strikes a chord with you, you might likewise be committing your time in all the wrong places and feeling stretched thin as a result. If you don't want to spend four hours of your Saturday at a co-worker's birthday party, don't. It's your life, and you only get one of them—there is zero reason you should be making babies out of Play-Doh rather than working out, spending time with a friend or lover or, honestly, just curling up with a good book. Need help saying no? Here you go.
Not sleeping enough ruins focus and makes it impossible to function optimally. If you want to make the most of every day, you need to first prioritize your nights.