We are always looking for ways to make more productive use of our time. Do you always seem to be playing catch up? Do you end your day with a longer to-do list than you started? Are you stressed over how you spend your time? Here are eight steps you can take right now to help regain control of your clock.
Eliminate time wasters. At the top of the list is television. The average American watches 5 hours of TV a day. That equals an incredible 6 full days in front of the tube each month. What could you do with an extra 6 days this month? Turn off the television and find out.
Cut back on possessions. Bigger living spaces and more stuff come with a double price: the cost to purchase them and the time to maintain them. A simpler lifestyle frees up time previously spent on vacuuming, fixing, and replacing. If taken far enough, you may be able to work less because you are buying less stuff.
Consolidate errands. Making several trips in the car to run errands wastes time and money. With a little planning you may find you can do it all in one trip instead of two or three. Can you wait until tomorrow? Can you try to run errands only four days a week instead of six or seven?
Keep a time log. Write down what you do and for how long each day for the next week. The idea is to get a good sense for where your time goes. Just like a budget for your money, you can’t save time if you aren’t really sure how you are spending it.
Go on an e-mail and Internet diet. It is likely your time log will show that you’re spending quite a bit of time checking your e-mail, tweets, Facebook page, or just surfing away without a real purpose. If that’s the case, go on an electronic diet. Spend time at the sites that are important to you or help you solve a problem (like this one!). But ditch the mindless wandering from site to site. You lose weight by cutting calories. You gain time by cutting back the time you waste on the computer.
Do some chores at night instead of weekends. Some of that time you are not spending in front of the TV can be used for chores you usually do on weekends. Just 30 minutes one or two nights a week will save more of your weekend for relaxing, having fun, being with family and friends or working on a project you enjoy. Weekends are not supposed to be workends.
Say “No” to some of the requests for your time. It is good to help those who need your assistance, just not to excess, Learn to say “No” to things that you really don’t want to do. Be choosier about what volunteer work you accept. Be unavailable if someone is overusing your generous nature. Realize you are sacrificing your time to give someone else more. Some sacrifice is good. A lot is probably not. Abstain.
Re-think routines and habits. I used to spend at least 60 minutes every morning reading two newspapers. It finally dawned on me that is when I’m most productive. To spend an hour or more on something I could do later in the day or at night was a mistake. Changing that habit has made a tremendous difference in what I accomplish before lunch. How much of your schedule is habit instead of what is most productive? Review your time log for anything that might produce better results if you make a change.
Time is the most valuable resource we have. We can’t increase it, but we can make the most of what we have. What you do with that resource can be the difference between a satisfying and productive life, or one that is constantly stressed and unfulfilled. What is your time plan?
Bob Lowry writes the blog Satisfying Retirement, helping you create an exciting and productive life after work.