Time – your life’s currency – is limited. It’s a non-replenishable resource. So, making the best use of your time – particularly at work – is critical for living the life you desire. I have identified 13 daily habits that will add hours back to your life so that you can spend it with family and friends, or to get your side-gig going.
Good Read: Motivation To Work Hard
- Wake Up Earlier. I get up early so I can do yoga and go to the gym. This gets me energized for the day, and if I go to the gym after work, this cuts into time for family and friends. Plus, it allows me to get to my day’s work earlier.
- Set Your Routine On Auto-Pilot. Have you ever noticed how many highly successful Silicon Valley executives wear the same thing every day? There’s a reason for that. They don’t have to spend any time thinking about what to wear. Many also eat the same breakfast every day. There are many things you can set on auto-pilot. For instance, Wednesdays are lunch at noon at Mac’s with my friend Gary. What things can you develop a routine for?
- Have A Plan. As a famous life coach, The Cheshire Cat, once told Alice in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you take. At the end of each day, plan what you need to accomplish the next day. This way, when you reach your desk the next morning, you know where you are going. You are not dithering, wondering what needs to be done. You have a plan of attack and can hit the ground running on the right road, in the right direction.
- First Things First. As Roy T. Bennett said, “Life is short. Focus on what really matters.” What are the core activities you must accomplish or your job falls apart? Most of the things you do during the day are tasks which could be left unattended for a while. But there are certain things that are must-dos. Figure those out and do them before you tackle the less important tasks, like checking email and making phone calls.
- Write It Down. Most people have terrible memories, me included. I’m old school and keep a pad on the desk to write things down when I think of them. Remember that plan for the day we talked about? It’s on the pad, too. Feel free to use whatever tool – legal pad, Evernote, OneNote, SimpleNote, Google Keep – you want. Then, instead of losing time trying to remember what needs to happen, I know where to look during the day.
- Get Chunky. Find ways to break up your day into chunks of time and write it down in your day’s plan. Place your core work activities into the day’s first 90-minute chunk. This allows you to focus on the most important items, and to remain energized. Always take a break between chunks. This allows you to stay fresh and to make the mental switch between work activities. And during the chunks of time, don’t do anything that is not scheduled for that time period.
- Edit The In-Box. If you’re like me you get a lot of emails that you don’t read. Unsubscribe from those commercial ones which you only rarely read, or which don’t contribute to your self-improvement. Consider using Unroll.me. Once signed up, you can instantly see a list of all your email subscriptions and easily unsubscribe from those you don’t want anymore. It also will consolidate the emails you want to keep into a daily digest. Sweet.
- Take Charge Of Your Email. Editing the inbox is a good start, but it’s not enough. Recent research indicates that 28% of our time is spent on email! So, we have several tips to get the email monster back in its cage. Bunch your email replies – in priority order – for a certain period of time. If the reply will take more than two minutes, put it off unless it is on fire. Limit your replies to no more than five sentences. Recipients will thank you for your brevity.
- Consolidate Services & Errands. Going to the drug store, picking up dry cleaning and the like take time. So, consolidate your errands and run them at lunch one or two days per week. When I worked in an office 30 miles from home, I used services – doctor, dentist, drug store, and dry cleaners – near the office. This way, I could get these errands done at lunch and not have to eat into home time.
- Control Your Environment. Whether it’s a co-worker sticking her head into your door to ask a question or your iPhone alerting you that you have a message, interruptions can quickly take control of you. Some research indicates that it takes more than 23 minutes to recover from an interruption. I understand that you may work in a cube or an open office, so you may not be able to just shut your door. However, you can advise co-workers the time and circumstances when they can interrupt your workflow. You do have complete control over your technology. So, turn off all alerts on your computer and your phone.
- Limit Input. Information overload can sap the energy and productivity right out of you and your day. So, limit the amount of time you spend on social media, watching or listening to the news, as well as reading blogs and magazines that don’t aid in your personal growth.
- Go To Bed Earlier. You aren’t going to be at your best if you don’t get enough sleep. Research indicates that people who get the requisite amount of sleep retain information and perform memory tasks better. Sleepy employees cost the US $411 billion in lost productivity every year. People who don’t get enough sleep also have higher mortality rates. Talk about a time killer!
- Just Say No. Requests from others can truly eat into your day. No is a powerful word, and it is OK to use it to protect your precious time. Co-workers want to go to lunch and you don’t have time? Just say no. Boss tries to add work that is not your responsibility. Just say no, or at least negotiate – nicely but assertively – to get something taken off your plate.
A survey in the UK found that more than half of the respondents said they could claim back an hour per day by eliminating bad work habits like those we’ve discussed. Follow our 13 daily habits and you are well on the way to owning your time so you can spend that currency on what you want to do most.