By Barry Eisen
Below are 24 great ideas designed to give you back your time and life. Managing time, rather than letting it manage you is an art form. Little changes can make huge differences. Look at what is offered below and incorporate 1 or 2 ideas that make sense to do. You can always come back to the list for more when you’re ready for more.
- Get Ready the Night Before. Get it out of your head. Plan out your next day by writing a “killer” To-Do list and prioritize A, B and C business and personal priorities. You’ll sleep better too.
- Focus on the Important Things.
Less is more. Commit to doing the A things on your To-Do list. Stop randomly playing games and surfing social media. Focus on what’s important. Here’s the procrastination-be-gone formula: Do the important stuff first. No “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” – do it.
- Remove the Clutter. Much of our “visual noise” is caused by stuff. Practice a three-part clutter rating system that will help you prevent and remove clutter:
♦ It’s important now. Use it and then put it in its home (where it’s supposed to be).
♦ It will be important. Put it in its home (where it’s supposed to be).
♦ It’s not important. Get rid of it: Toss it or if possible, consider donating it.
- Get Organized and Stay That Way. Pick an organizational system, execute it, and stick to it. Your new system may feel foreign at first, but it will eventually form into a habit. If you slip or feel like you’re ready to give up, recall the benefits of being organized and pick up where you left off. When necessary, make adjustments, but avoid switching to new organizational systems or you’ll lose the benefits.
- Keep One Calendar. Whether it’s a Week/Month at a Glance appointment book, wall calendar, smartphone app, etc. – keep ONE calendar. First, keep track of the usual calendar events: birthdays, and appointments. Second, use your weekly calendar to keep track of bills, plan menus, make appointments with yourself to write or read, etc. This will help prevent the scenario of sifting through bills, notes, and multiple calendars.
- Focus on What’s in Front of You. Of course, not all tasks require 100% focus, but for tasks like prospecting or writing, never multitask. Lots of studies have shown the inefficiency of juggling tasks. If you refocus your attention on another task, it can take more time to refocus on your original task. Don’t do it. Stay focused. Turn off your phone and disconnect from the internet during tasks, like writing or studying, to focus. Don’t drop what you’re currently doing to address something you just thought of or remembered. If you think of something completely unrelated to what you’re working on, jot down a few quick notes (a word or two to jog your memory will suffice). Keep up momentum: FOCUS.
- Execute Decisions Faster. If you find yourself hemming and hawing over a decision, make a decision then and there. If the task has a lot hanging on the outcome, seek/ask for more information if you need it, but the key is: make a decision now.
- Delegate and Learn to Love It. We can be greedy with our workloads. Drop the, “if you want things done right, you have to do it yourself” mentality. If it can be done by someone else (more effectively) and it’s not an important task, delegate it.
- Just Say “No.” Stop agreeing to take on things for which you don’t have time. If you don’t have time for it or it will take your focus away from other priorities, say no.
- HELP Is not a Dirty 4 Letter Word. Ask for help. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all you need to get back on track, but be sure your plea is directed at the right person and is respectful of their own priorities.
- Time Activities. We all can get swept away by television, social media, internet browsing, article reading, and games. Allot yourself an amount of time for online activities and playing games. Set an alarm. When the time is up, stop the activity.
- Time Your Conversations and Meetings. I’m not recommending that you don’t socialize or be rude. I’m recommending that you don’t allow conversations or meetings to completely disrupt your day. Allot yourself time. For “water cooler” talks, give yourself 5 minutes and keep them infrequent. For meetings, estimate how much time you’ll need to address the needs of those involved, come prepared, and if there isn’t already an agenda, propose talking points to squeeze more value out of the meeting.
- Call, Don’t Text. Text messaging is supposed to be quick and to the point…not long, drawn out conversations. For anything beyond a quick yes or no question, call. For example, call for emergencies and all of those “how are you?” and “what ‘cha doin’?” questions. If it goes to voicemail, don’t worry. Most people have access to visual voicemail anyway, so it will be like a text. Either way, trust that they will get the message.
- Turn Aimless Browsing Into Growth Opportunities. Create an ongoing list of questions, curiosities, or things you’ve always wanted to find out more about. When you sit down to browse the internet, start looking for answers. You might surprise yourself with what you find.
- Do Your Errands at the Same Time. Schedule time to do errands and plan a route ahead of time to ensure you’re not wasting time bouncing back and forth across town.
- Filter Your Email. How much time do you waste in your inbox? Filter your email:
♦ Create rules for recurring emails that don’t require an action to be archived in a particular folder.
♦ Set rigorous anti-spam settings to block unwanted email from reaching your inbox.
♦ Form a habit of touching an email once: If you open it, you have to address it (e.g., respond and file).
- Automate Responses. If you find yourself replying with the same or nearly identical responses for clients keep a template to quickly copy/paste the response and tweak it as necessary to personalize the message.
- Automate Bill Payments. For any recurring bills that you have: AUTOMATE. Not only will this save you time, it may even save you money and raise your credit score if you’re the forgetful type.
- Sort the Mail in Your Hand. When you get your mail, don’t let it sit in a pile. Sort out the junk right away and then prioritize other items respectively (see weekly calendar). If possible, go green by electing not to receive the hard copy.
- Avoid Rush Hour. Do you commute to work? Negotiate a work schedule to travel during non-traffic delayed times. You can easily turn a 60-minute, traffic-jammed commute into 25 minutes by getting ahead of the traffic or waiting it out. Online apps, like Waze, do a good job informing of traffic problems so you can adjust accordingly.
- Keep a Running Shopping List. Create a policy that for whoever squeezes the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, kills the mustard bottle, etc., they are responsible to write it down on the shopping list. In doing so, this will save time from taking inventory as well as keep your shopping trip quick – get into the store, grab what you need, and go (rather than meandering down aisles).
- Cook for Tomorrow. Double the amount of what your cooking and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers. It may take you a small amount of time to double what you’re already making, but it will save you much more time making your next meal by not having to start from scratch.
- Learn While You Workout. When on a treadmill, elliptical machine etc., listen to news, pod casts, and audiobooks rather than music to keep up with trends in your niche, current events, books, and learning at large.
- Exercise More Effectively. Exchange moderation for higher intensity. You can have a more effective and efficient workout by putting more effort into a 30-minute high-intensity workout than 90 minutes of low-to-medium effort.