Want to feel like you have more than 24 hours a day? It can seem as if we have more time when we change a few habits. We’re often living on autopilot, doing things because we always do them that way, i.e. they are habits! If we review how we spend time, however, we can make different choices. Do you… always start the day checking email? Always have an open-door policy when in your office? Always drop your kids at school?
For the next week, reassess your habits, tasks and chores. Are they worthwhile? Do you enjoy them? Do they help you achieve personal and professional goals? Are there faster ways to do them? Could you stop with no consequences?
Create more hours in the day by adopting some of the tips below:
- Free yourself of perfectionism. That email you spent over an hour crafting was ready to send after 30 minutes. Your home doesn’t need to be at Martha Stewart’s standards. We don’t need to be perfect! Let go of this idea. B level work (instead of A+ work) is reasonable for most tasks. When lives could be in peril, however, you need a higher level of excellence, but for all else, perfection is probably not needed.
- Remove distractions. It’s time to handle interruptions and distractions more rigorously. Priority Management, a leading productivity training company, estimates that we’re interrupted about every 11 minutes. Wow, that’s a lot of interruptions! These disruptions cause tasks and projects to take longer. Change how email, texts and people affect you by making different choices about how to handle them. Turn off your email bell, apps that ping you and other distracting noises on your computer and phone for non-critical software. To clarify, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email are non-critical! (We check email frequently enough, it doesn’t need to interrupt us every time a new email arrives.)
- Quit your job as taxi driver. Instead of driving your children to school each day or being overly tied to their activities, think of alternatives. Could your kids take the bus two days a week? Could they carpool, walk, ride their bike or take the T? Are you spending too much time being a taxi-service and not enough time on more important items?
- Get organized. Did you know we lose roughly 55 minutes every day looking for things we own, but cannot find? That’s a lot of lost hours! De-clutter and you’ll save time not looking for tools, papers, clothes, glasses, car keys and so forth. Since you will find things more easily, you will complete tasks and projects faster. (Not sure where to start? Tackle it in tiny steps. This week clean off your desk or clean out one drawer.)
- Pause before saying yes. Everyone wants to be a good colleague, parent, spouse, boss and so forth. To perform these roles adequately, we need capacity. By saying, “No” to some tasks and requests, we will create the bandwidth needed for all our roles. We need to define what’s important so we don’t feel guilty turning something or someone away. Creating personal and professional goals will help you focus on more meaningful tasks and projects instead of attempting to do it all.
- Practice focusing. We create more time when we stop “time leaks” - little things that squander away our minutes. One “leak” is the inability to focus. When we concentrate, we complete tasks faster which leaves more time for other things. Focusing is a skill we can learn, practice and improve. If you want to develop better focus, use a digital timer (available on your smartphone), close your office door, wear earbuds, post a sign on your cube wall or use any other method that keeps you in the zone longer.
Use these tips to increase your available time! You won’t get more hours, but if you change a few habits today, it will seem as if you did.