Don’t you wish you had more time each day to do everything that needs to be done? Are you wondering how to do things more effectively each day so you can focus on the things that really matter?
From my own experience I have compiled a list of 5 main tips to create that extra bit of time each and every day. Combine these tips for maximum effect. In no particular order these 5 tips are: 1. Shift Working Hours, 2. Combine Activities, 3. Minimize Time-absorbing Habits, 4. Do Things Faster and 5. Be Prepared.
Read on for specific details and examples of each time-creating tip.
5 Tips to Create More Time
1. Shift Working Hours
The most effective way to create more time is to increase the number of productive hours in a day. This basically means to create a habit of sleeping less and using the remaining hours more efficiently.
Get up early
This is one of the most important changes I have gone through in the last year. I get up around 5 or 6 a.m. each morning. These early hours are highly productive because there are none of the usual interruptions like phone calls and e-mail. I frequently use these early hours to “eat my frog” for that day, as Brian Tracy puts it.
Use your evening hours
I get up earlier, but I go to sleep at the same time as before. However, instead of watching TV or something similar, I have created the habit of using my evening hours more effectively. For instance, I use that time to review my GTD system, or to read a few chapters in that book, or to prepare my home office for the very next task in the morning.
2. Combine Activities
Many times I found myself “wasting” time that could be used more productively, if only I had taken that tool or that document or …
Combining activities whenever possible is a sure way to create a feeling of having more time in each day.
Make productive use of traveling or waiting time
Before, I frequently found myself thinking about more or less useless topics while driving my car, or simply listening to my radio. Then I discovered that I could easily turn my car into my personal university by listening to audio books in my car. The same thing applies to train, plane or any form of transportation of course.
Other useful activities to combine: work through your call list in the car or train, take your laptop while traveling by train or plane, work through your read & review folder while waiting for an appointment.
Make meetings more productive
Sometimes skipping a meeting is the best thing you can do. However, some meetings have to be attended for various reasons. I make productive use of my time in meetings by combining it with reviewing my (mobile) GTD system, creating a planning for the upcoming week or even reading stuff from my read & review folder. This all depends on your capability to multitask of course.
3. Minimize Time-absorbing Habits
Minimizing or completely stopping certain habits that “waste” more time than you probably think, is one of the most effective ways to reclaim or create more (productive) time in your day.
Turn off that TV
Ever since I kicked the habit of being glued to that TV almost every evening for several hours, I created the time to do more productive things. I started running in the evening. I started catching up with my read & review stack in the evening. Or I play with my kids of course!
Break those breaks
Instead of taking a coffee break in the morning, a long lunch break in the early afternoon and a coffee break in the afternoon, I have started to take fewer long breaks and more short breaks. I find that taking a short break every hour (5 or 10 minutes) is more effective than taking a long break every couple of hours. This effectively reduces the total break time for each day, while maximizing my productivity for each hour of the day.
This can be a tough habit to break and it is easy to become more isolated from your colleagues than you really want. However, some days I find myself chatting with colleagues a little bit longer than I really want to. I have made a conscious choice to work more from home and to create large chunks of “isolated time” while working at the office. Be careful not to become completely cut off from the informal network at the office.
Check e-mail only 2 or 3 times each day
This can be even harder for some people, because so many of us are still living in their e-mail inbox. Create more time in your day and peace of mind by only allowing yourself to check your e-mail 2 or 3 times each day. The same goes for checking your favorite websites and RSS feeds.
4. Do Things Faster
I am a big fan of constantly trying to do things faster, more efficiently and most of all more effectively. There are so many simple activities in your day that could be done faster (or even, not at all!) and consequently give you the feeling of having more time in your day to do more important things.
Speed reading and speed listening
You can work through documents, articles and books at least 2 times faster by applying speed reading. I also sometimes apply “speed listening” when trying to work through some of my audio books. For more information, see my article about speed reading and speed listening.
Much of our work is done on computers. You will be amazed to see how much extra time you will create in your day by improving your typing speed. I can easily type 60 words per minute by using only 4 to 6 fingers. Currently I am teaching myself touch typing to increase my typing speed to about 100 words per minute.
Even if a certain task does not have a natural deadline, you can create more time for other things by imposing a deadline on the task yourself. For instance, give yourself no more than 1 hour to write a blog post and see where it leads. I also use this technique frequently to minimize the time I take to prepare myself for workshops I give.
Sense of urgency
This is a general attitude you can teach yourself. Don’t procrastinate, do things right now, be active and alert and execute tasks as fast as possible. Once you reach this momentum, hold on to it and enjoy the (productive) ride.
5. Be Prepared
As you all know by now, I am a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. One of the great things about GTD is that I usually have a sense of relaxed control and that I feel prepared for the (un)expected things in each day. Having a pretty good idea about what you are going to do and especially what you are NOT going to do each day, can give you an almost peaceful feeling of having more time for unexpected or more important things.
Learn to say “No” and learn to delegate
One of the hardest things to do for most people, yet one of the most effective ways to create more time in your day, is to simply say “No” to certain tasks and responsibilities. If you cannot afford to say “No”, perhaps you can delegate the task or responsibility to somebody who would be much keener or better than you at it.
Work on paper and off lists
A key insight to me and a major part of GTD revolves around getting “stuff” out of your mind and processing & organizing it into a trusted system, for instance on paper. Create a planning for each day and/or week on paper. Brainstorm or mindmap on paper. It works fast, flexible and portable. Work off lists to organize your day and get more things done. You will soon discover that you are working more effectively and that you have more time for other things in your day.
Invest in preparation time
Make sure that your workspace is set up just right, so you can start working right away the next day. Always work in a neat and organized environment. Prepare the first task of your day the evening before. Stay current with your GTD system by performing a mini review each evening. Preparation is key to creating more time in every busy day.
Let me know if one of these tips to create more time in your day works for you! Perhaps you would like to share your great tip to create more time?