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We all get just 24 hours every day. For some of us, it seems like not enough to get all we want and need accomplished. We are often exhausted… running the rat race we sometimes refer to as life.
Yet, there are other people who seem to do so much during those hours and still seem healthy and well-rested. Happy even! So what kind of magic are they using to get it all done?
The truth is, it isn't magic. It is simply them understanding time – and how to work with what is available. These people understand how to get rid of time wasters, both physical and psychological time thieves, that are ready to spring up at a moment's notice.
Don’t fret! This can be you too. And by the time you are done reading this, you will know some of these tricks that can help you take back some of those lost minutes.
Why is It Important to Make the Most of Our Time Each Day?
Time management is one of the most important skills you can learn. When you learn how to take control of your time, you start to gain a sense of accomplishment.
You get more time to spend with your family, you are less stressed about completing projects, and you feel more in control of your fate. When you are making the most of your time, you:
Tips to Save Time Every Day
Tip #1. Track Your Time
Before you can get a handle on your time, you need to know where all of it is going. By getting a picture of how your time is spent, you can find hidden areas of empty space and see where you are spending too much time on non-essential activities.
You may discover that the time you think you are spending being productive is drastically cut by interruptions. You will be able to find your periods of procrastination. The point is to track each and every activity to see what you are spending your time on.
Get an hourly planner to write down everything you do for a week. Make sure you include everything such as eating, showering, and walking the dog, as well as work and sleep.
At the end of the week, make a list of activities you worked on and how much time was spent on each. You will easily be able to see where time can be better used and can start putting a plan into action.
Tip #2. Streamline Meal Planning and Preparation
How often do you find yourself thinking about what you can make for dinner that night? Too often, we fail to plan in advance and find ourselves either stopping by the local drive-through or the grocery store at the end of the day.
Consider how easy it would be if you didn't have to make that decision each and every night. Luckily, it can be done with a little planning.
Sit down and make a menu for the upcoming week. Once you have the week's meals planned, create a list for the grocery store. Hint: you could save more time at the store if you organize your list by category so you are only visiting each aisle once during your shopping trip.
Now, go to the store and shop for the week. Then, place the menu on your fridge or wall calendar and there’ll be no second guessing what’s for dinner.
Tip #3. Schedule E-mails, Phone Calls, and Social Media
Did you know that even if you don't look at your phone, the ding that lets you know you have a message distracts you? It may only be for a few seconds, but those seconds add up.
Leaving your phone in another room may be necessary, as we are all accustomed to checking our phones often throughout the day.
Set aside a designated time when you can make phone calls and answer e-mails. Turn your notifications off and don't think about these things until your designated time.
The same goes for social media. Actually, put time to dedicate to that on your schedule and keep a timer handy so you don't get lost in scrolling.
Tip #4. Make the Most of Wait Times
It never fails. You get to the doctor's office and then end up sitting there and waiting because they are running behind. And I won’t even dare think about the wait at places like the DMV and social security office.
With the accessibility of tablets and laptops, even phone apps, you can get a lot done from almost anywhere. This means that those unpleasant wait times don’t have to equate to wasted time. Technology can be a great resource for you during long wait times, especially if you plan ahead.
The next time you have the probability of a long wait, think about the tasks on your to-do list that could easily fit into that time. Do you have a report to write? Put the info on your tablet or laptop and spend the time waiting to draft that report.
Have Christmas or grocery shopping to do? Now would be the perfect time to get that done. Or you could use the time to create next week's dinner menu and grocery list.
Come prepared with an idea of what you can accomplish in that time.
Tip #5. Avoid Multi-Tasking
You might think getting more than one thing done at a time is productive, but studies have proven that multi-tasking – for the most part – can reduce productivity up to forty percent. This doesn't mean that you can't multi-task at all.
You can do things like make phone calls or listen to an audiobook while doing your laundry. You can fold clothes while talking to a friend or exercise while catching up on a TV program. When it comes to important tasks, however, multi-tasking is not your friend.
Instead of trying to multi-task, set aside a designated time to work on one project. Give it your full attention. This way, you stay focused. You'll find that not only do you complete each task in less time, but you also do a better job on each project.
Tip #6. Delegate When Possible
Despite what you think, you do not have to do everything yourself. Other people are often very willing to step up and help. There are also plenty of people who make it their business to offer services for hire – such as dog walking, shopping, and cleaning.
If you have kids, there is nothing wrong with having them help with the cleaning chores. Granted, if you are a person who is very attached to a certain way of doing things, you will have to be willing not to micro-manage. I have confidence in you being able to do that!
Take a look at your to-do list. Ask yourself if it is you that absolutely has to complete a task or if someone else could do.
Do you have chores that you can assign to the kids? Do it. Are there things that you might be able to hire someone to do, especially if it means you have more time to do what only you can? Think of it as supporting local businesses if you are still hesitant.
Tip #7. Learn to Say No
One problem many of us have is our inability to turn down a request. We take on more projects than we can handle comfortably. We accept more invitations. We help out our coworkers when we still have work to do.
Helping is nice, but when it adds more stress to your day and puts you at risk of not being able to do what you are already obligated to do, there is a problem.
Don't allow yourself to make snap decisions. If you are asked to work on something new or asked to help someone out, tell the person you need time to see if you can fit it into your schedule. Consider how much time it will take and go over your schedule.
If you see that you will have to do a lot of re-arranging and you know that there are other people who can do the task, say no. Explain that you simply don't have the time to do the task efficiently. More people will understand than you realize.
Tip #8. Prepare and Stick to a Schedule
This may seem obvious, but how many times have you created a schedule and then found yourself re-arranging it numerous times? Also, what have you put on it–work and maybe appointments?
Now is the time to actually sit down and think about what you need to do and make sure the important items on your to-do list have a designated time. This includes giving yourself time for sleep and relaxation.
Create a weekly schedule. Make sure you include ALL the important things and remember that relaxation and sleep are important things. Whenever you have something new to do, make it a habit to check that schedule.
You don't want to commit to something only to find out you already have something scheduled at that time. Check the schedule at the beginning of every week and again at the start of each day.
Try not to rearrange it. Remember, an item is on the schedule because it is important.
Tip #9. Put Your Computer to Work
We are very rarely far from our computers. They have become an essential part of life, yet we often don't make full use of what all they can do.
Now is the time to start thinking about how your computer can save you time. Let's take a look at some things you can do now that will save you a great deal of time later on.
How much time do you spend paying bills each month? What about shopping for groceries and other essentials? Most bills are now set up where you can set them to auto-pay, allowing the bank to release the money at a certain time each month. This save you the time of having to sit down and take care of the bills one at a time or visit individual websites to make a payment.
It is also easier than ever to order groceries and essentials online. You can arrange to pick them up on your way home from work or have them delivered, saving time in traffic and money on gas. Some stores even save the items you order regularly and allow you to reorder with one simple click.
Take a look at the regular mundane tasks you do regularly and set up to do them online.
Tip #10. Stay Organized
We all waste a lot of time trying to gather all the tools we need to complete tasks. Spending a bit of extra time for one afternoon will save you much more time later on.
You only need to organize your home and workspace in a way that makes sense for the tasks you need to do regularly. Of course, that also means making sure you return items to their designated spot once you finish using them.
Pick a day and organize your workspace. Make sure you think about all the things you regularly use and how and when you use them. Find a home for everything, even going so far as to label drawers if needed.
Now, you not only know where to find an item but you can also see when you need to reorder supplies before you reach for something you have used the last of. Next, do the same with your cleaning and cooking items at home.
Tip #11. Get a Grip on Procrastination
Procrastination is one of the biggest time killers there is and it is something that approximately 20-50 percent of people do regularly. The reason for procrastination may vary, but the result is the same. You lose precious productivity time that you can never get back.
Make it a point to notice when you are putting off something. One way to get started is to tell yourself you will work on the dreaded activity for half an hour. Set a timer.
You will find that when the time is up, you may want to continue. If not, you have made progress toward the next session. Many people find that it is simply the getting started part that is difficult. If you can get through that, you have it made.
Tip #12. Take Regular Breaks
Your brain gets tired. Have you noticed that if you work on something too long, you start to slow down or lose focus? That is because the human brain and eyes are not machines that are designed to work endlessly without rest.
In order to work at your top form, you need to allow yourself breaks throughout the day. This will allow you to stay fresh and focused. That is why many shops have required break times built into the schedule.
You will probably want a timer or some way to set an alarm for this one. One of the best and easiest ways to get required breaks is to follow the 50/10 rule. Set a timer for fifty minutes and focus on the task at hand. When the timer goes off, stand up and stretch. Take a quick walk if you can.
After four cycles of this, take a longer break of 30 minutes. You will find that your work is all the better for having taken these breaks and allowing your brain a much-needed break.
Tip #13. Create and Prioritize a To-Do List
Before you can schedule anything, you need to make a list of everything you need to do. Once you have listed everything, both big and small, prioritize your list and place the items on your schedule in order of importance.
This will help you insure you have made room for everything and aren't scrambling at the last minute to find a way to do something you forgot. Besides, crossing things off the list as you complete them gives you a mental boost.
Take a look at the number of to-do apps available and choose one that feels comfortable to you. Make an effort to go over the to-do list each and every morning as soon as you can.
Make it a habit to keep this list nearby at all times. This way, you won't have to spend time trying to decide what your next task is. It will already be listed.
Tip #14. Group Similar Tasks
This is an example of how multi-tasking may be advantageous. If you have several similar tasks to do, doing them all at the same time can eliminate the time needed to prepare. For example, if you are going out to pick something up at the cleaners, it makes sense to make other stops that are in that area.
If you have several phone calls to make, designating a block of time to do all of them will help you get them out of the way all at once.
Look at your to-do list and see if there are like items on it. If you have several errands that need to be done, map out your route so you can stop at all of them in one trip. Do this with all the tasks on your list.
Tip #15. Cook in Bulk and Freeze
This task will help save you a lot of time throughout the week. It takes just as much time to double a recipe as it does to cook just one meal's worth. You can freeze the second portion for a quick dinner later on.
If you are really ambitious, there are a number of places online that show you how to prepare a month's worth of freezer meals all in one afternoon.
Take a look at these freezer meals for two. You can make them as is or double the recipes if you have a bigger family, or want something left for another night. Prepare the meals. Any leftovers can be put into containers to grab on your way out the door in the morning for a nice lunch.
Get in the habit of cooking just a bit more than you need and you'll have the makings of a great meal even if you are tired.
Final Thoughts on Saving Time Each Day
Time tracking and management is key if you want to reclaim the time that seems to have gone missing from your life. You can start slowly by utilizing one or two of the above tips… all of which promise to offer benefits that are well worth the effort.
And who knows? Many of these tips could even become habits that require little thought once you get used to implementing them.
Up for one more? You should read our article on The Pomodoro Method for tracking time. Before long, you will be one of those people that others look at and wonder what magic you are using.
Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.