Time’s precious. Stop letting others steal it from you!

Here are 7 simple ways for you to take back control of your time, so you can make the very best of it (i.e. what you’ve really decided to).

Nicolas Chan
7 min readNov 3, 2019


Do you ever end up the day, wondering how you can feel so exhausted when you’ve hardly managed to tick off half of your to-do list? Well, that’s how I felt a few months back. And that’s when I decided to take back control of my time and stop allowing others to turn their priorities into mine.

Time flies! Or, does it?

Time’s a limited resource. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO, a nurse, a clerk or Beyoncé. You only get 24 hours a day. That’s why you should spend them wisely.

But these days, it seems like anything’s competing for your attention: your family and friends, your work, your colleagues, your social networks, Netflix, your favorite TV shows, billboards on the streets… Before you realize, all these tiny time-consuming activities add up and leave with nothing but crumbs of your time to deal with your priorities.

We often think of ourselves as super-busy. And we actually are. Busy is the new default in our societies. But the real question is: are you really busy doing what you want or are you letting other people, Instagram or your TV dictate your schedule? Are you spending most of your time working on your priorities and investing in yourself, or are you working on other people’s priorities, therefore neglecting yourself?

Realizing you’ve put yourself last is the first step towards taking back control of your time. To do so, you might have to fight some of your habits, and accept to take a few steps back from our instant society, which requires you to always respond faster and faster.

7 ways for you to take back control of your time

The philosophy behind taking back control of your time is not that you should never indulge yourself in social media, Netflix or even help others. It just means that you should only do something if you’ve decided to, not because you were pressured into doing it or because it was the easiest thing to do.

  1. Write down your goals (and stick to them)

It might sound too simple to be true, but writing down your goals actually increases their chance of becoming real. It forces you to focus on what you want and helps prioritize.

They don’t have to be long-term, life-defining goals (though it wouldn’t hurt). You can just start with goals for the upcoming week, or just for the day. Knowing where you want to go and what you want to accomplish will help you find the motivation to regain control of your time.

2. Turn off your phone notifications

Studies show that an average US smartphone user receives 46 notifications a day. If you’re anything like I used to, notifications probably trigger an almost immediate response from you. Which means you’re letting your phone tempt you with distraction 46 times a day.

Turning off your phone notifications will help you cut a huge part of these. Of course, you don’t have to turn all of them off. Just ask yourself “Do I really need all the notifications I’m receiving? Are they helping me achieve anything?” If not, cut them loose. You’ll be better off without them.

3. Monitor and limit your social media consumption

Have you tried the Screen time feature on iOS or Digital Wellbeing on Android? It’ll help you realize how much time you’re really spending on your smartphone.

In his book The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy shows how small actions repeated very regularly can lead to great effects. Of course, it works as well for the good stuff as for the bad.

Applied to screen time, the compound effect is pretty scary. Let’s say you’re spending 45 minutes a day on Instagram (and trust me, that’s easy if you’re not paying too much attention). At the end of the year, you’ll have spent 11 entire days scrolling your feed, watching other people’s lives. Add Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter: that should be enough to scare you.

Of course, you don’t have to delete all of your social media apps. The idea is to use them reasonably. You can begin with setting a limit on your daily consumption of each (try 15 minutes of each). Removing them from your home screen is also a good idea: try to get them out of your face so that each time you reach your phone, you won’t be tempted to open one of them.

The precious daily hours you’ll save will help you accomplish your previously defined goals.

4. Cancel your Netflix subscription and sell your TV

I used to love Netflix and my TV. And yet, I got rid of them both. I doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped watching Stranger Things or any other TV show. It just means that I’ve stopped considering them my default activity every night of the week. Once they’re on, it seems to require an incredible amount of will power to turn them off, and you’ll often end up scrolling through Netflix for something (anything !) to watch rather than turning it off and reading a book.

When you cancel your Netflix subscription and sell your TV, you’re regaining 2 to 3 hours a day. You can still go to the theater from time to time if there’s a movie you’d like to watch, or download your favorite TV show. You just stop letting your TV control your schedule.

5. Check your e-mails at predefined times

It takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to your original task after an interruption at work. If you leave your email app open all day long, incoming emails from your colleagues will surely be a major distraction from your goals.

Emails have the same effect as notifications on your phone. They come in unexpected and will keep you busy all day if you let them. Before you notice, you’ll have spent the whole day answering people and dealing with their emergencies and left all your priorities aside.

Instead of letting others’ emails interrupt you when you’re working on something you really care about, you can just choose to open your email app at predefined times and answer all of them at once. For instance, you can decide to only read and answer your emails in the morning, from 9 to 10pm.

If anyone has a real emergency, they’ll find their way to your desk anyway, won’t they?

6. Check your news once a day at max

I used to work as a UX designer for the French newspaper Le Figaro. At that time, I watched and read news all day long. Until I realized all it did was making me nervous with all the bad news on repeat and the so-called debates were actually always the same people rambling the same things over and over again.

I’m not saying you should live like a reclusive person. But if you want to stay focused, you should leave all those demoralizing news behind. What can you really do about it anyway?

Checking the news once a day (or even better: once a week) should keep you decently informed. If there’s any major breaking news, the chances are they’ll get to you anyway.

7. Set your default to no

Everyone has a default answer. If you’re determined to take back control of your time, yours should become no.

It doesn’t mean that you should be rude to people. It just means that you value your time enough to only accept invitations you deem useful, and decline unsolicited distractions. If you can’t attend a meeting, just say you have another priority right now, give your insights to the organizer, and kindly ask for the meeting report.

Setting your default to no doesn’t only apply for work. You should do the same in your personal life. If you set your eyes on a goal, you shouldn’t allow things to distract you from it.

If you liked this article, feel free to clap :) If you’ve had issues managing your time, please share your experience in the comment section.



Nicolas Chan

I’m a French designer, currently working as a head of design at the French Civic Tech Make.org