8 Small Things You Can Do to Save Yourself Hours Every Week
Even if you've mastered multitasking and dabbled in delegating, you could still use a few extra tricks to free up your time.
First, know it’s not just you
Ever feel as though you don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish your goals? You’re not alone. A Gallup poll reveals that 48 percent of Americans feel as though they don’t have enough time in their day even though they engage in multitasking practices and are engaged in fast-paced, highly connected lifestyles. Learn how to make the clock work to your advantage—and become more productive as a result—with these offbeat suggestions to free up your time.
Wear gym clothes to bed
There are many things successful people do before going to bed, but this one is a time-saver. If you have every intention of heading to the gym in the morning only to spend a ton of time searching for that just-right tank top and then ultimately end up not going, consider sleeping in your gym clothes. It’s advice from entrepreneur Peter Shankman, author of the forthcoming book, Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain, who has completed 23 marathons and an Ironman Triathlon. He goes to bed wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and socks, saying, “once I’m in my gym clothes, the choice to go to the gym has pretty much been made for me.” He keeps sneakers at the foot of his bed, putting them on within seconds of waking. “It’s hard to go back to sleep with sneakers on,” he adds. This is one way of eliminating choice (“should I wear these shorts or those?” for example), a strategy Shankman says can help give you more time while also keeping you on, well, track. “It all adds up,” he says.
Think and act like a cat
Shankman says his cat NASA spends a lot of time taking care of basic life necessities—eating, going to the bathroom, and sleeping. While human lives are clearly more complex, Shankman points out that there’s still something to be learned from the feline lifestyle. When NASA’s routine is disrupted, he simply walks away. He doesn’t give into the demands of Shankman’s daughter, who may be in cat-and-tea-party mode one minute, then singing to him the next. Shankman suggests that like NASA, we try to avoid the potentially bothersome, uninteresting, or problematic whenever possible. “Don’t waste your time engaging with people or situations that don’t serve you well,” he says, “especially if you know that doing so may create a series of triggers that could lead to anger or frustrations.” Don’t miss the clear signs you might have toxic friends.
Settle for good enough
Being able to cherry pick from tons of options—from breakfast cereal to hiking boots to living room rugs—seems like a luxury, but it can seriously impede productivity, according to Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert and the author of I Know How She Does It, 168 Hours, and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. Instead of sorting through myriad choices to find the absolute best one, she recommends learning to be “a satisficer.” “Some people are ‘maximizers’—they want to find the best option all the time,” she says. By contrast, satisficers have a set of criteria, and they go with the first option that clears the bar. “While it might sound good to want the best, in reality, this wastes an incredible quantity of time, because to find the ‘best’ of anything, you have to look at everything!” Vanderkam says. Among her suggestions: Skip studying the menu at restaurants and ask the waiter for a suggestion. Choosing a new cell phone plan? Ask a friend what’s been working for her and go with it. “Give yourself a short time period to make any decisions that aren’t life altering,” she advises. “Good enough is almost always good enough.”
Ditch work meetings
While the idea of saying “no” to a work meeting may make us think we’ll be on the brink of being fired, an Inc.com article suggests it may actually help us make productivity strides. As many office workers know all too well, and as the article explains, meetings “are one of the biggest time-sucks around,” with the average worker spending more than 30 hours monthly in unproductive meetings. “Before booking your next meeting, ask yourself whether you can accomplish the same goals or tasks via email, phone, or Web-based meeting,” the article suggests. Here’s how to look smart in a meeting if you get stuck in one.
Stop seeing your therapist
Or, just see less of your therapist. Sue West, a productivity and ADHD coach based in New Hampshire, says that “if you are seeing a therapist, coach, or physical therapist and you’re feeling like too much is coming at you to absorb it all, drop the frequency of your appointments.” Taking a break to engage in self-reflection and get more me-time in can be helpful. Here’s how to carve out more me-time. “Just because the provider says ‘weekly is best’ doesn’t mean you need to follow the advice,” she says. “Plus, less pressure often means being more productive—and you’re more likely to make the best use of your time when you do meet again.”
Book some blank spaces into your day
In today’s society, the tendency is often to cram so much activity in our lives both personally and professionally. To not be busy at work or socially is often viewed as lazy or even boring, so many people fill their entire day with non-stop plans. West urges people to refrain from doing this, saying that doing too much can prevent you from, well, doing much at all. Instead of “looking ahead to next, next, next,” West encourages others to do one less activity. For example, if your weekends are so booked with social outings that you’re left completely exhausted—and probably less productive to boot—on Monday, she advises scaling back on activities, if even just one. Try booking blank space into your schedule and you’ll be so glad you did, even if you just read the newspaper on the porch.
Forget about creating ordered lists
Think twice about creating lists the traditional way, where to-do items begin at the top left and run down the page. Consider instead starting in the center of the page and jotting down assignments in spatial relation to one another, “so that you create clouds of related tasks,” writes Ben Schott, author of Schott’s Original Miscellany, in a RealSimple.com time management article. “Varying the format can make a list far more useful,” he writes, which can free up your time.
Make 7 your lucky number
It’s common for people to think lists or daily goals should be handled in sets of 10 or more, but Schlott suggests thinking in terms of 7s to help manage their time. He points to historical times, from the seven deadly sins to Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man,” noting that it’s often easier to remember— and stick to—seven things rather than twice that, or more. Keep it simple.