15 Ways to Reclaim 2 Precious Hours Every Day
“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”
Do you want to make better use of your time? If so, you’re not alone. We all want to be more productive in order to get ahead in our lives.
Time management is really about managing yourself. It’s about making a commitment to be more organized, maintain your focus and use your time to your best advantage. You probably know that effective time management will help you get more done each day. But it has important health benefits, too. By managing your time more wisely, you can minimize stress and improve your quality of life.
Whether you’re a time-tested veteran or a promising rookie, the following tips will help you reclaim some precious hours.
1. Make lists.
Making a list externalizes your worries. In your mind, tasks can get intertwined. On paper you can divide and conquer, crossing them off as you go.
2. Learn to BANJO.
BANJO is an acronym for “Bang A Nasty Job Off”. Doing anything gives you a sense of achievement, but getting something really unpleasant out of the way makes you feel even better. That task may seem trivial, but it’ll distract you until you do it.
3. Slam junk.
Wading through the latest ‘unmissable’ offers from some pizza delivery or loan companies is the last thing you need when you’re legging it to work. The average adult spends three minutes a day opening and disposing billions of unsolicited items delivered every year. Remove your name from 95% of direct mail lists through mail preference service. And with each fragment of rainforest that lands on your mat, ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen if I bin this? If you can live with the answer, it’ll save hours of unnecessary filing.
4. Morning glory.
Unless you fancy the cleaner, staying late at the office is a waste of time. Our natural bodily rhythms make us most alert between eight and nine in the morning. Arrive an hour early and you’ll get through the equivalent of two hours of post-6pm work. So you can leave on time.
5. The wheel deal.
Getting on your bike could seriously speed up your commute. Research from Citroen show average rush-hour driving speed in big cities is 7mph. Cycling it’s 13.5mph. Three quarters of all car journeys are less than five miles, and you have thousands miles of traffic-free paths as alternatives.
6. Stand and deliver.
Feel like you’re constantly in meetings? According to TUC figures they take up three hours of the average worker’s weekly time, and if you’ve tried everything bar amputation to cut the collective thumb-twiddling, try this unorthodox approach: Take all the chairs out of the room. People will stop chatting and start making decisions as they won’t get too comfortable, and they’ll actively face each other so will be more engaged. Your meeting times should be cut by a third.
7. Take a break from technology.
When you’re trying to concentrate, is there anything more distracting than a vibrating cell phone or the pinging sound of an incoming email or IM? If possible, take periodic breaks from technology. This will allow you to work free of interruption and get more done.
Most of us now work in teams with overlapping responsibilities. If you look hard enough you may discover you have jurisdiction over a shared junior. Or at least a junior who believes you have. Delegate clearly, say, “This is your project, this is the timescale, these are the resources.” Then stand back. It will happen quicker if you don’t interfere. Trust is a skill.
9. Make it your call.
Old Mister Graham couldn’t have imagined the hours of precious time his ‘electrical speech machine’ would cost the modern man. But you can save wasted minutes on the blower. Write a mini agenda of what you want to accomplish and you could spend five minutes less on each call. As for Mr Bell’s other unwitting time-bomb – the curse of phone tag – don’t make calls between 12 and 2 p.m.
10. Uncharted territory.
If you’re nipping out somewhere new, don’t rely on your internal atlas. Recent studies show that the average man spends 36 hours a year stuck in traffic or lost because we don’t plan new journeys before setting off. Combine Google Maps with up-to-the-minute travel news on roadworks, accidents and other traffic problems. You could also ask directions.
11. Keep busy.
Keep your skills sharp by having at least one project on the go at all times. Two or more is even better, as it gives you the opportunity to switch gears and concentrate on something else for a change of pace. Working on different projects simultaneously ensures that you always have something to work on. It also keeps your mind active and your perspective fresh.
12. Cook smart.
If you’re time-poor, culinary challenged, or a little of both, takeaways are an obvious time-saver. The ONS’s latest Time Use survey clocks the average man squandering 54 minutes a day shopping, cooking and washing up. So, play your telephone dinner joker. You can have restaurant-quality food delivered to your door, either fully-prepared or ready for self-assembly. All you have to do is hide the packaging.
13. Off the hook.
It may be good to talk, but it’s not so good to have your ears bent by telemarketers trying to flog you a new kitchen/set of Encyclopedias/path to salvation when you’re trying to eat your dinner. Register free with the telephone preference service and within a month you’ll no longer be on speaking terms with the New Delhi switchboard. The average household gets three cold-calls a week. Once you’ve deregistered, it’s illegal for telemarketing companies to call. You’ll have to get some real friends.
14. Cranks for the memories.
According to a Leeds Memory Group research, adults waste about twenty hours a year back-tracking because of our distinctly unelephantine grey matter. If you often forget names or make return trips to the shop to pick up what you originally went for, write this down: Emotion is the glue that makes memory stick. You can’t tell everywhere you’ve been in your car, but you can tell where you’ve crashed. The difference is emotion. Use it and you can imprint information and retrieve it quicker. So, to remember your wife’s relatives, for example, associate each with some graphic deformity (Aunt Emmy = bad breath, Cousin Dave = unsightly ear hair, etc).
15. Get the nod.
Unless you’re tucked up with a good book, there are few things more frustrating than the average twenty minutes a night we spend trying to get to sleep. Hit the 12-minute optimum nod-off time identified by scientists at Penn State in the US by avoiding intense exercise for two hours before hitting the hay. Exercise raises core temperature, which elevates your heart rate for over an hour. And have some milk. Edinburgh University study found that a hot milky drink cut the time it took people to fall asleep by six minutes. It contains tryptophan, the building block of serotonin, which is one of the body’s natural sleep chemicals. And you’ll feel a damn sight at better at breakfast than you would after a few pints of amber sleep chemicals.
Resolve to pay closer attention to how you spend your time. Success comes to those who work hard and know how to manage their time well.
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