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14 ways to find more time in your day

14 ways to find more time in your day

2019 – a new year and a fresh start. While you probably aren’t itching to add another item to your to-do list, there is one thing that will help you keep your resolutions and improve your life in the process: time management. Simple in theory, but harder to put into practice, learning to organize your day and make time for the essentials can help you lead a more fulfilling life. Susan Perry, a learning and development specialist at Piedmont, shares 14 ways for finding more time in your 24 hours. 

1. Examine your attitude

Just like goal-setting, successful time management happens when you understand you have control over your daily activities.

“If you believe you have no control over your time, you don’t,” she says.

Once you take ownership of your schedule, you can start making improvements. What could you accomplish if you managed your time and had an extra hour to spare at night?

2. Analyze how you’re spending your time

One of the biggest keys to successful time management is analyzing how you spend your day. A time log can make you aware of any time you’re wasting (like constantly refreshing your Instagram feed). Record your daily activities and how long they take in a spreadsheet or notebook. You may find, for example, you’re spending an hour picking up takeout for dinner when it would only take 30 minutes to cook a meal at home. 

“Maybe there are tasks you can combine, reorder or delegate,” says Perry. 

3. Use the time management quadrant

If the sight of a long to-do list gives you a headache, divide your tasks into one of four categories to help you prioritize: 

  • Quadrant one: important, urgent (e.g., paying your bills or getting to work on time.)

  • Quadrant two: important, non-urgent (e.g., spending time with family and friends.)

  • Quadrant three: not important, urgent (e.g., answering the phone when it rings.)

  • Quadrant four: not important, non-urgent (e.g., watching television or checking Facebook.)

4. Plan your day the night before

Make a to-do list before you leave work in the evening so you can hit the ground running the next day. Start your morning by completing one big project first. Crossing a big task off your list can give you a sense of accomplishment, motivating you to power through the rest of your responsibilities. 

5. Manage interruptions

If you’re working on a time-sensitive project, limit interruptions by silencing your phone, posting a sign on your door or cubicle that you’re on deadline, and logging out of your email. Distractions can cause a project to take much longer than necessary. 

6. Follow the two-minute rule

“If something will take less than two minutes to do, go ahead and do it if you have time,” says Perry. “If you have project that will take three hours and email that takes two minutes, write the email first.” 

7. Avoid procrastination

“We procrastinate on things we don’t want to do, but it's motivating to get something out of the way and do it first,” Perry says. “We build things up in our mind and make them bigger than they are. Often, it won’t take the amount of time you think it will.” 

8. Get the biggest bang for your buck

When organizing your to-do list, look for tasks that are high-value. An example Perry uses: Make your bed. While it’s not a time-consuming chore, it has biggest impact on your room's appearance. Some tasks take only a few minutes, yet have the stress-reducing impact of finishing a big project. 

9. Be realistic

“If a project is going to take a long time, divide it up,” she says. “Be realistic. Most people put way too much on their plate and don’t account for time between meetings or projects. If you don’t plan any margins between activities, you’re going to get stressed out. Something will always come up.” 

10. Arrive 15 minutes early

“I plan on arriving places 15 minutes early. Especially with traffic, it’s important to always have a buffer. That’s the biggest mistake people make – trying to schedule too much.”   

11. Plan ahead

Do as much as you can in advance. If your resolution is to eat better and work out daily, pack your gym bag and lunch the night before. Mornings are often hectic and can derail an otherwise productive schedule, so do those little tasks ahead of time. 

12. Know when to multitask

“Women naturally tend to be better at multitasking,” says Perry. While grouping things together can be helpful in some cases, other projects require more focus. This is a good reason to keep that daily time log. You can see if interruptions are causing a task to take longer than it should.   

13. Know what works for you

“Know yourself and when you’re most productive,” says Perry. “Find the time of day that works best for you. Some people are more productive first thing in morning, others in the evening.” 

Schedule more difficult or important activities during your most productive hours.

Also, use the right tools to help you meet your goals. If you prefer to keep things digital, set up your smartphone calendar to send reminders when something is due. If you’re more visual, write out your schedule on a desk calendar.

“Find what works for you – you’re more likely to stick with it,” she says. 

14. Leave some things unfinished

Finally, Perry reminds us everything doesn’t have to happen right now. Let one of her favorite quotes inspire you:

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” – Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

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