Everyday we wake up to somebody or something needing our time. We never seem to run out of people trying to solicit our time and attention, whether if it’s someone we care about or not. And in the end, it usually comes down to you saying “I don’t have time for this!”. No matter who you are or what you have, you, like anyone else only have 24 hours a day.
So how can we get a little more juice out of these 24 hours? What we will discuss here is how, by little increments, we can manage to do what most of us long to do but not have been able to—to get some more out of our 24 hours a day. To do a few more things, to take care of a few more people, to get closer to our goal.
How to Make Better Use of Your Time?
1. Track your Time
If you want more time to work towards your goal per day or per week, or if you want to spend less time doing your daily chores. The first step is to track it. Write down what you are doing at the moment, on a smartphone app (see part 2), on a spreadsheet, or even on a piece of paper. When the subject of action changes, write down the new action. Make sure you include as much detail as you can, don’t say ‘12am-8am sleep’, rather, ’11:30 bed time reading, 11:40, set the alarm for 8am, 12pm light off, 8 am awake, 8:07am in the shower, etc.’
I know it’s kind of painful to remember to do this, but get this, you don’t have to do this forever. Usually, you just have to do it for 1-3 weeks to get a representative idea of where your time is going each day in a typical week. The amount of effort you will need to put into this practice also depends on how repetitive your actions and your lifestyle. By the end of day 7, you should be able to get a clear idea of two things: How much time you put towards productive things (what I call your utilization ratio) and a general idea of how your time is spent on different activities in a typical week.
Now you know how much time you spend on each type of activities per week and hopefully, you made some efforts to increase the hours that counts. If you received little progress, don’t feel defeated. The road to success is a long and bumpy ride, setbacks and challenges are normal. But here is a tip which successful people employ and you could always try yourself, as I mentioned in earlier posts that if applied correctly, could potentially boost your utilization of time beyond 100%. And that tip is multitasking—by which I am encouraging you to use some creative thoughts to combine actions that you want to take to time spent doing daily chores that take up time but does not lead to any personal improvements, namely those things that don’t lead to your goal.
Here are some examples: I listen to audio books when I commute alone, my friend Kyle listens to his Spanish course material during his train ride to town, Clove listens to motivational speeches during his morning stretches. Be very careful here, multitasking allows you to increase productivity during the time that were gaps on your time chart, you are adding things you could do to help you achieve your goal to chores that don’t. Please don’t fall into the trap of doing the reverse, like listening to music while doing your homework, or watching TV considering yourself spending time with your family as your wife cleans the house.
For this trick to work, you have to be adding the productive actions to the time gaps that you were not doing either, rather than adding ‘fun stuff’ that brings distraction listening to music on your phone or watching your favorite TV show, to actions that count themselves. Some scholars argue that human brain is operating less efficiently while multitasking between subjects that the brain is not used to juggle at the same time, therefore you might be doing the opposite by adding ‘fun’ to work.
technology-smallWe are spoiled by technologies these days. If you take a look at history, not long ago the fastest way to send a piece of document to another city that was 500 miles away was by horse, and it would take minimum a week. The romans built an empire because they had roads leading to provinces. The British had great ships to carry them to colonies. Now, one email, a couple of seconds and one click gets you instantly connected to the rest of the world. The communication cost has dropped significantly. We have so many ways of saving time on such things now. But are we really saving time whenever we use our fancy gadgets?
I sincerely doubt it. Look around you, I bet you must have seen someone you know or someone you run into, that spends at least half an hour in the washroom with their smartphone while it would take them only 5 minutes once they realize they don’t have their phone with them. We have people who developed OCDs about checking their email every 10 minutes or some teenager you might know spends the first hour of the day awake in bed playing with social networks. Ask yourself, are you using the technology available to you to make what you want to do, that is to produce, faster and easier; or it just feeds your constant craving of having something to occupy your mind? If you are of the latter or are leaning towards wasteful usage of tech, please do yourself a big favor, cut back on technology. You read it right, cut back your usage of electronics. Set your email fetching on your phone to the lowest frequency that will not affect your work or business transactions. When you try to spend quality time with your family, turn of the cell phone for half an hour. Make a house rule that anything that runs on a lithium ion battery doesn’t enter the bedroom.
In the beginning, your mind will bring you thousands of excuses to defend obsessive behavior you used to have; that’s just inertia of your habit talking. Beat the addiction, one small step at a time; you will see some immediate benefits in newly freed up time, and more importantly it allows you to be more focused and conscious about your priorities in life. The ancestor who rode a horse to deliver a message from Boston to Philadelphia was focused. Otherwise, he might’ve gotten lost or fallen off his horse. Stay focused on your mission, and let phone send the message to Philadelphia for you. After all, the phone is smart, so should you be.
Now that you know where you spend your time, how much time each activity costs you and where you can combine activities to increase productivity. The next question usually is: ‘I still don’t have enough time to get everything done!’ Well, that’s great, because anyone who has a goal large enough to be meaningful, has this pinch in time.
We are not magicians, you have to prioritize. That is: do the important ones first. Make yourself a list, not the usual ‘to do’ list, but a ‘what to do in what order list’. Put down what you need to do under these 4 blocks: ‘II’-for Immediate+Important, like setting an appointment with the notary to conclude a purchase of a house, ‘IU’-immediate+unimportant, like pick up mail, “I”-Important, like calling mom and “O”-other, like helping my friends write this article. This way, instead of an intimidating long list of things to do, now you got 4 blocks of things of which you know which ones needs your immediate attention.
As a rule of thumb, always take care of the “II” block things first, no matter how hard and time-consuming they seem to be. Because they are immediate and necessary, not doing them will bring you immediate and serious damages. This way, even if you couldn’t do everything on the list, the set back is already minimized with the lesser blocks receiving less of your time.