There aren’t enough hours in the day. This would be true, even if you lived on Mars. Work expands to fill the time available, no matter how much time you have. At the same time, most of us aren’t totally aware of how we’re using time – or wasting it. With a few small changes, you can steal back an hour or so of your workday, every day, and use it on whatever you please. (Something non-work-related, ideally.)
(Photo Credit: Ales Krivec/Unsplash)
1. Track your time usage.
One of the best ways to figure out where your time is going is to keep a diary. For a day or a week, write down everything you do and how much time it takes. Be honest: if you’re checking Facebook, even if it’s only for a minute, write down that you’re checking Facebook. You might be surprised how many minutes you’re losing here and there to things like social media or checking email.
2. Batch tasks.
What do making dinner and compiling reports have in common? Both are loathsome tortures invented by people who hate fun. (Just kidding, cooking aficionados and report lovers. Sort of.) The good news is that tasks like these can take less time, if you group them together. Batching tasks so that you’re working on similar things, one after another, minimizes the mental energy loss that happens when you change gears and helps you concentrate on what you’re doing.
Try answering emails at set intervals, a few times a day. Spend Sunday making a week’s worth of dinners and freeze them for the week ahead. Don’t be tempted to think you can multitask. Most of us can’t. It’s science!
3. Be less available.
You train people how to treat you. That goes for your co-workers and your boss as much as your partner or your best friend. If you want to have the evening to spend with your family, don’t give in to the impulse to check your work email right before dinner. If you want to get time off, take your vacation time. Some employers do have legitimately demanding expectations for how their workers use their “off time” – but many of us beat them to the punch by asking too much of ourselves. You need time away from the office. It will get easier to take that time once everyone is used to the fact that you don’t answer email at 4 a.m.
4. Park your phone.
It’s 10 p.m.: do you know where your phone is? Of course you do. It’s probably in your hand as we speak. That’s a problem, because even if you’re playing games or noodling around on Twitter, you’re just a click away from your work email, and all the potential trouble it brings. Even if you have an iron will and know you won’t look, you need time away from your screens in order to truly unwind. It’s good for your eyes, too.
5. Take time off.
Working too long and too hard diminishes productivity and makes life less fun, at home and at the office. To do your best work, you need time away. So take your vacations and jealously guard your evening and weekend time. It’s in your employer’s best interest, as well as your own. Well-rested, you can do more work in less time, which means that you’ll have more hours, even in a normal workday.
Tell Us What You Think
Did you make a small change that saved you a lot of time? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.