Life is all about experiences so the more you can fit into your day, the better.
Also, today’s culture focuses on ‘more, more, more’ and everyone seems to be in a rush. I know I feel that way a lot. Do you?
Over the years, I have learnt how to manage my time effectively and get more time in my day. This was especially true during my first year of university where I was studying full-time, working 26 hours a week in part-time jobs, going to the gym regularly, and commuting about three hours most days.
Whether you want more time in your day to allow for some down-time to catch your breath, or to be able to handle a higher load and therefore be more productive, then these tips can help you achieve your goals.
1. Plan Your Day the Night Before
Sitting down and planning your day with a pen and paper or a calendar app for 30 minutes can boost your productivity immensely. Not only does it allow you to slot in the most important activities for the day so that you’re aware of what to do and when, it also mentally prepares you.
The difference between planning your day in the morning and planning your day at night is like starting a race from a sitting position or from a starting block1.
If you’re aware of what your actions will be the next day, you think about those actions while you sleep and (depending on what you plan to do) contemplate any potential problems and how to overcome them. You want to accomplish everything on your list for the day so you wake up in motion and aware of how to proceed.
Contrast this with waking up not 100% sure of what you are doing today, not wanting to get out of bed because you’re comfy and you don’t think there is any urgency. And when you eventually drag yourself out of bed (possibly after several presses of the snooze button) you have already used a portion of your limited willpower for the day.
Planning your day allows you to estimate how long each activity should take you to complete. For example, you could set a 6am wakeup time, allow exactly 30 minutes to wake up, get changed, and get to gym. Then allowing 1 hour for gym, 15 minutes transport home, 30 minutes to clean up and be ready for work, and 30 minutes to cook and eat breakfast.
With the deadline to get to gym by a certain time, you’re encouraged to get up as soon as your alarm goes off and to not dawdle. Similarly, if you think about staying in the shower for too long, you’ll know it’s coming out of your breakfast time.
Pre-setting deadlines like this helps you to keep the pace up and get more done.
Also, make sure to schedule in some relaxation time for the end of the day. The reason for this is two-fold: (1) if you take too long to finish the tasks you had planned to do, you have less time to relax; and (2) relaxation is a reward. If you relax at the beginning of the day, you will set yourself up for a sluggish and unproductive hour or two afterwards because you have slowed down.
When planning your day, or when deciding what action to take next, do the task with the highest priority first.
Don’t confuse being busy with being productive. The idea is to get more done in less time, so do the activities that will give you the most satisfaction at being completed first. Prioritise using a mixture of urgency and importance.
For example, you have an assignment to finish today but you need to hang out the washing by a certain time or else your clothes won’t be ready for tomorrow. Also, your car is dirty and you told yourself you were going to clean it last weekend.
The assignment is urgent and important, the washing is just urgent, and the car cleaning is neither. So, you leave the car until last and clean it only if you have time left in the day — it can wait if it must. The main focus will obviously be the assignment but since both the assignment and the washing are urgent, which one do you do first? The washing will need at least half the day to dry, so as soon as it hits 1pm, hang the washing out. Until then, work on the assignment because that’s of a higher priority and nothing else is urgent enough to take its place until 1pm.
3. Eliminate, Automate, Delegate
If you want extra time in your day all of the time, see the post on how to beat your time-related excuses and on valuing your time to get everything necessary done in less time — leaving you more time to relax or be extra productive.