Have you ever noticed how often people say “I wish I had more time in the day?” It’s a chronic desire that plagues the vast majority of the population. We wish we had more time to finish work tasks, chores, spend time with our loved ones, do something that relaxes us. The list goes on and on.
Instead of feeling like you’re constantly scrambling for time, adopt some of these tactics to help you get more time out of your day.
Start the Morning Out Right
Everyone’s morning routine is different, but there are a couple of things you can do in the morning to help you start off on the right foot.
To feel more energized, when you wake up, do some stretches. Doing 5 minutes of stretching will help get your blood flowing and shake away the sleepy feeling. That initial energy will help you get through what you need to do and to your first cup of coffee.
Next, turn your coffee pot on and grab your to-do list or planner to review what you need to get done today. Ideally, you wrote down everything you wanted to accomplish today the night before. Take 5 minutes to review your list and write down anything else that pops into your mind. Also, prioritize your tasks for the day. It’s best to start with the biggest or hardest tasks because they require the most energy.
Block Your Time
Adding a little structure to your day can help you achieve a lot more than you think. That’s where time blocking comes in handy.
The process is simple. Just open your calendar and write down timeframes for certain tasks. Let’s say your tasks include writing a brief report for work, conducting two meetings, and researching something for a new task later in the week. Your calendar could look something like this after blocking:
8AM-11AM: Writing report
11AM-11:30AM: Prep for meeting
2:30PM-3PM: Prep for meeting
4PM-5PM: Buffer time for uncompleted tasks
Your time blocking can be more or less detailed than this. However, having the rough outlines of how your day should go can help you from wasting time wondering what you need to do next or which tasks have higher priority.
You can use a paper calendar for this. We find sticking to a digital calendar that you keep open on your screen is a bit easier to manage and edit.
In addition to blocking off your time, you should also reserve slots to check your email. Depending on your level of emails, try sticking to blocks that are no longer than 15 minutes. That should give you adequate time to check and respond to emails. Reserving email for specific times each day can help keep you on track with your tasks and not get derailed by being immediately reactive.
There are a number of tools that can help you get through all your work. One of our favorites is more of a technique than a tool called the pomodoro technique. This technique involves working for 25 minutes then taking a mental break for 5. There are several apps you can download for your phone or computer that count the rounds for you.
StayFocused is another great tool if you have a habit of procrastinating by browsing the web. This is a plug-in you install in your browser. You input all the websites where you waste your time, set the window for which you need to be productive (like the workday) and let it go! Each time you visit one of those websites, the predefined time limit ticks down.
Here are some of our favorite productivity tools:
Project management: Asana or Trello
Note taking: OneNote or Evernote
Task automation: IFTTT
Task list: Wunderlist or Todoist
Cloud sharing for collaboration: Google Drive or Dropbox
Remember, you don’t need to use ALL these tools to be productive. Try them out and find the ones that help and weed out the ones that feel like extra steps.
Getting more time out of your day is a topic that can be talked into the ground. We feel the items we discussed above are practical first steps you can today to get more out of your day. When you’ve mastered these basics, you can move onto the topics of delegation and decide when to call something “done.”