37 Simple Daily Behaviors That Will Immediately Free up Hours in Your Weekly Schedule
Time is the only element in the world that is irretrievable when it’s lost. Lose money and you can make more. Lose a job and you can find another.
Eighty percent of your time can be used better. A few actions done well bring you the most results, according to the Pareto principle.
Making good use of your time isn’t always easy. There are tough choices to make, and sometimes it means cutting out things you like to make room for important things that can help you work better, faster and smarter.
Stephen R. Covey said in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, “The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.”
Begin your day on purpose and the rest of the day will be awesome.
- Try The New York Times seven-minute workout in the morning. It’s scientifically proven. You do 12 exercises in seven minutes and it works. It’s a quick and effective way to exercise every day.
- Never sit at your desk in the morning without a plan for what you are going to do for at least the first half of your day.
- Start your say with a plan. Plan tomorrow today. Spend time planning the night before. For every minute you plan, you save minutes in execution. When all you do is execute and you never step back from your work to plan, it’s difficult to work smarter.
George Harrison once sang, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
4. Get everything out of your head. Your memory sucks, even if you’re a genius. Write things/tasks down.
5. Make the most of your peak times. We try to squeeze as many hours in one work day, to be “productive”, but in the end, everything depends less on time, and more on your focus, motivation and energy.
6. Break up your day into precisely-timed chunks, and you’ll find yourself more focused and energised for the whole eight-hour day. Take a break after every 90 minutes of intense focused work.
7. Batch your MITs (most important three tasks). Start with the most important first thing in the morning. “The things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” says Goethe.
8. Suppress urgent tasks and focus on important ones. Your MIT’s are important tasks. Notifications and alerts are urgent tasks that can wait.
9. Beware of “time bullies”. When you are on the clock or supposed to be working, your time is for your work. Protect it. Say no more often. Don’t get suckered into tasks you don’t have time for.
10. Make appointments to check your email. Email can force you to be reactive instead of proactive, structuring your day according to the needs of others. Take control of your time.
In her book, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, author Jocelyn K. Glei explains:
“The biggest problem we face today is “reactionary workflow.” We have started to live a life pecking away at the many inboxes around us, trying to stay afloat by responding and reacting to the latest thing: e-mails, text messages, tweets, and so on. Through our constant connectivity to each other, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us.”
11. If you can answer an email in two minutes, do it immediately. Planning it for later, remembering it, doing it in the future will take more time than necessary.
12. Keep all of your emails five sentences or less, and make a note of it in your signature. Most people don’t mind when you keep your emails short and to the point. I have been using this hack for almost a year now.
13. Use the pomodoro technique. Timeboxing work. For 30/40 minutes do only the task at hand. Nothing else: no phones, email, talking to people, social media or other distractions.
14. Schedule less time for important tasks. This seems counterintuitive, but it isn’t in practice. When you limit how much time you give yourself to work on important tasks, you force yourself to expend more energy over less time so you can get the tasks done faster.
15. Schedule time for just one thing at a time. Do one thing well and move on to the next. Use the Kanban board; to-do, doing and done lists. Visualise your tasks. Visual board can help you keep an eye on what you are doing every day.
16. Learn to delegate. Look at all the tasks you complete each day and decide which ones you shouldn’t be working on.
17. Protect your “flow time”. Figure out when you’re typically most alert. Then set up boundaries so that you can get your most important work done then.
18. Turn off your alerts. It’s terribly tough to get into your “flow” when your phone is buzzing every few minutes. You don’t need that kind of distraction. Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.
19. Schedule time for the news. Checking the news constantly is a tremendous time sink. Schedule a time at some point in the day to check it and get back to work immediately.
20. Write things down. No, you will not remember everything. Writing it down (or putting it in your phone calendar) will prevent forgetfulness.
21. Use the “touch once” principle. When an actionable task crosses your path and only takes a couple minutes to accomplish, take care of it right away.
22. Silence your inner perfectionist. Do the best you can do in a reasonable amount of time, and then stop. Don’t spend all your time perfecting a single task.
23. Make the most of waiting time. Find things to do when you are waiting in line for your morning coffee, catching a train, or when you are early for a meeting.
24. Demonstrate the 80/20 rule in everything you do. This means spending 80% of your time on the work that moves the needle, and only 20% on the smaller stuff.
According to the Pareto principle, 20% of what you do creates 80% of your results, so you should focus the majority of your efforts on that 20% (rather than the less impactful 80%).
25. Batch small tasks. When you are ready to check email, continue with that quick phone call or even a few minutes of social media updates.
26. Unsubscribe to stuff you find yourself regularly skipping without reading. Keep newsletters that directly contribute to your personal growth.
27. Be mindful of how you spend your time. Constantly check and reflect on how you spend your time (and energy and attention) throughout the day. Adjust and make changes where necessary.
28. Stop keeping a million tabs open. If you can, keep your tabs to a minimum of three.
29. Start a done list. Progress is the ultimate motivation you need to keep working smart and hard.
30. Set strict social media time. Your favourite social app is time suck. If you’re not the one in charge of running social media for your business, create guardrails around it, similar to email time (maybe even fewer minutes than email).
31. Set hard but achievable deadlines. For each of your to-do list items, give yourself a deadline. Or even better, relay it to someone else. This accountability holds your feet to the fire.
32. Spend time away from the computer to refresh. Get up every 45 minutes and move around. Don’t spend more than 90 minutes on a task without break. When you do take a break, you actually need to take a break.
33. Do something not work related. Go for a walk. Listen to soothing music. Talk to the people in your office and discover things about them that aren’t related to work. It’s an effective hack to refresh and get to ‘flow” mode.
34. If you are an audio ebook fan or love podcasts, consume your audio while you do activities that don’t require a lot of concentration.
35. Move the apps you use consistently on your phone to the first page. This will save you the time you would waste scrolling through each page and finding that particular app every time you want to use it.
36. Avoid queues. Avoid peak periods to save precious time that can be spent on more important tasks. Go for lunch a little earlier to avoid crowds. You’ll have more time to focus on other things that need your attention instead of frittering away time waiting. If you can’t avoid every queue, read or listen to podcasts while waiting.
37. Plan for the unexpected. All of your best laid out plans can sometimes not be enough and something may happen that skews your entire schedule for the day. Instead of freaking out, adapt, adjust and make the most of your working day.
If you want to be good at something, do it every day. No exceptions. You can use your time effectively and productivity if you are consistent.
Have the best. day. ever!
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