Do you ever feel like you have way too much time on your hands, and far too little work and life to fit into it? Unless you're a teen on summer break, I reckon it's unlikely! Most of us would love to have an extra couple of hours in each day. With two more hours, we could find time to exercise, to read some of the books that are gathering dust on our shelves, to spend time with the kids...
But, unless you're lucky enough to find a magic genie who can stretch your days to twenty-six hours long, you're stuck with the same twenty-four hours per day as the rest of the world. So how can you create more time in your day? Here are seven magic ways:
- Get Up Earlier
Okay, this one's not exactly genius (or even genie) level. Get up fifteen minutes earlier. If you're like most folk, your morning probably feels rushed: you drag yourself out of bed at the last possible minute, grab a hasty shower, maybe get some breakfast if you're lucky, sort out the kids/cat/partner and dash off to work.
Getting up just a bit earlier can give you some breathing space. Perhaps it'll give you time to actually sit down and enjoy your breakfast for once. Maybe you can use that fifteen minutes a day to read through that book or stack of journals that you keep meaning to get to.
- Create a Plan
At the start of your workday, before you even check your emails, make a plan. Jot down the three most important tasks you want to accomplish that day. Put a big star next to the most important. Now, before you get into the busy work of emails and photocopying and tidying your desk, start on that important task and see it through to the end.
Surprisingly few people take the time to plan their workday, and end up spinning their wheels on a number of low-priority tasks without really accomplishing anything big.
- Batch Tasks Together
When you're going through the workday, try to keep similar tasks together. When you switch from one thing to another, your brain takes a few minutes to catch up and settle in: constantly jumping between answering emails and writing a report and tidying up your desk just means you'll lose track of where you'd got to. You might feel like you're working super-efficiently (because your mind is buzzing all over the place), but you'll actually be wasting a lot of time.
If you need to answer a number of emails, do them all at once. The same goes for phone calls, filing,photocopying and other similar tasks.
- Block Out Chunks of Time
Do you have some big project that you'd love to get round to? Maybe it's writing a novel, starting a business,training for a marathon, decluttering your home ... whatever your particular venture or goal, you never get around to making progress.
The best way to tackle big projects like this is to force them into your schedule. Spare time doesn't just appear from nowhere - you need to make a conscious effort to create it. Block out a weekend afternoon, for instance: tell family and friends you have another engagement that day. Then storm on ahead with that project. Trust me, you'll feel great for having made a start.
- Don't Multitask
Although multitasking feels efficient - because it feels busy - it actually loses you time. By sticking to doing one thing at a time, you'll be much more focused and able to produce your best work: there's nothing efficient about rushing a job which you then end up having to redo.
If you want some more advice on this one, read The Death of Multitasking and Rebirth of Unitasking, or Mono-Task And Work More Effectively.
- Stay Focused
When you are working on a task, make a conscious effort to remain focused. Sure, you'll have intrusive thoughts like maybe I should check my email or this desk could really do with tidying. Just recognize that those thoughts are impulses which you don't need to give into. If you think of something while you're working on your task like I really must phone Joe, then just make a note on a bit of paper or in your diary so you don't forget - and get on with the task at hand.
You'll accomplish much more by working in a deliberately focused way than if you let yourself jump around from task to task as things come to mind.
- Finish Work On Time
Finally, one of the best ways to make more time in your life is to finish your work on time! If you work for an employer, make an effort to leave the office on time - at least a couple of days each week. (I know this is difficult if your workplace has a long-hours culture).
If you work for yourself, you need to be even more self-disciplined, as your work is likely to be very easily accessible when you're at home! Some good ways to create a boundary at the end of the day are to keep your work separate from the rooms in your house where you relax. You could also schedule something social in the evening (perhaps meeting friends for a drink) so that you can't get caught up in just one more email...
What could you do with an extra ten hours every week? How could you create more time in your day?