Time management: Daily habits that will help you save time
Around 40% of the decisions we make every day are made out of habit. This is actually not that surprising, but it also means that you can “train” yourself to develop new habits by constant and persistent repetition.
Time is one of the most valuable resources you have, it’s also a very limited resource. Having good time management skills will help you live a healthy and productive life. The first step is learning to value your time.
We often waste our time on such small, insignificant things, we procrastinate, we put things off. Sometimes it’s other people that waste your time- but that doesn’t usually happen unless you allow it.
So how do you develop habits that will help you save time? By constant and persistent repetition.
What are some of the most important time-managing habits to work on? This depends on our individual schedules, responsibilities, and priorities. These are some of those time-managing habits that helped me the most.
TIME MANAGEMENT: DAILY HABITS THAT WILL HELP YOU SAVE TIME
1. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MORNINGS + EVENINGS
Spend a few minutes in the evening planning for the next day. Prep as much as you can- in terms of lunch, dinner plans, outfits, packing your gym bag, etc. Planning ahead and preparing will allow you to eliminate a lot of decision making the next morning (like “what do I wear today” or “I need to figure out what’s for dinner so that I can make that shopping list“).
The way you start your day has a huge impact on how the rest of your day will go. If you wake up too late and run out the door in a rush, you’re most likely to forget something. Then, you get stuck in traffic and the next thing you know you’re running late and are already feeling stressed and wish the day would end. Give yourself enough time, change your schedule if you see that something just isn’t working out. Add one small self-care activity to your morning routine that will help you clear your focus: journaling, meditation, yoga, going for a run, gratitude practice. Find what works best for you and give yourself a few minutes each morning to set your mind on things that are most important to you that day.
2. CUT AWAY THE UNIMPORTANT…
Clean up both the mental and physical “junk” around you. Make your workspace clean and minimal to avoid distractions. If your “to-do” list is too long, you’re already jeopardizing your productivity. If a task takes less than 2 minutes, don’t waste your time writing it down on your list- get up and do it now. Cut away the unimportant and insignificant and prioritize your to-do list.
I learned to cut away a lot of the “unimportant” and time-wasting habits when it comes to managing my email inbox. If I keep getting the same pitch over and over again after previously declining, I don’t waste my time explaining why I am not interested or responding to those 3 other follow-up emails. Some people even ask me to “jump on a call” just so they can discuss my lack of interest and the reasoning behind it. There is nothing in it for me- paying attention to those things and trying to be nice and polite when you’ve already said “no thank you, not interested” is a complete waste of time. Your time is too valuable and you shouldn’t have to waste it explaining yourself to anyone. Period.
… AND THE DISTRACTING
If, when working on your computer, for example, you find it difficult to resist the temptation to check your email or social media, there’s a simple solution: log out. Make this a habit each time you sit down to do some work. Most of the time when we distract ourselves with things like social media, we do it on autopilot. Not necessarily realizing as we do it. The moment you have to actually log into your Facebook account and enter your password is enough for you to realize that you’re trying to distract yourself from the current task. Taking out the things that make the “autopilot distraction” easy out of the equation, is one way to help yourself avoid distractions.
3. STOP MICROMANAGING
If you have control-freak tendencies as I do, then you probably know that an upside to micromanaging your life is that things not only get done, but they get done the way you like. On the other hand, micromanaging can also be exhausting and it can end up causing a lot of tension and stress in your life. It’s also one of those habits that are more difficult to let go of, as it’s usually a life-long habit.
This is what it looked like for me.
Let’s say it’s Saturday. I have a free afternoon and decide to do some work in my home office. My husband tells me to do what I have to do while he gives Blu, our Amstaff, a bath and washes the outdoor grill. Instead of focusing on work, I’ll walk into the bathroom and say “you’re not scrubbing his coat hard enough!” or “you’re not using enough shampoo!” “you’re going to get water in his ears!” all because he doesn’t bathe the dog the exact same way I do. The same thing will go for washing the grill- I’d rather just do it myself because I just know I’ll do it better. Of course, I will end up wasting time, not getting any work done, but at least my inner control freak will be content.
That is no way to get things done and that is no way to live; micromanaging everything and everyone around you is not healthy. It’s unhealthy for your relationships and it wastes both your time and energy. The key to changing your ways is learning to let go of the need to control- the process is very similar to letting of perfectionism. Despite what you might believe, you can’t always do it all. As much as you want to try to control every single aspect of your life, you can’t. And that is okay. This realization paired up with your willingness to surrender and let go will help you overcome your need to micromanage.
If you find yourself being easily distracted or you struggle with multitasking, time-blocking can help you change that. This can help you overcome your chronic multitasking and it is one of the most practical habits that will help you save time.
Think of your calendar as a time budget and manage it, just as you’d manage your money. Your schedule will act as your time budget. This is based on the Pomodoro Technique– an idea that when working on a large, involved task, breaking it down into short, timed intervals that are spaced out with short breaks will help you be more productive. Think of it as scheduling time around your priorities.
Pictured above is a sample time-block schedule- this schedule isn’t extremely detailed. To really implement the Pomodoro Technique, you’d split up your schedule into much smaller blocks of time and assign each slot a certain task while also implementing short breaks between.
You can make your schedule in blocks of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour- it all depends on how detailed you need it to be. Your schedule might look completely different from mine and the truth is that sticking to it isn’t always possible. However, having everything scheduled in this manner will equip you with tools and ability to get back on track quickly, whenever something unpredictable happens.
TIME BLOCKING: PRIORITIZING
What is the most important thing that you need to work on? Identify that task and schedule a block of time to work on it. Whether it’d be 15, 30 or 45 minutes- decide what works best for you and set up a timer. Give your task your undivided attention and focus during that time. I find that having a tool like this one makes it a lot easier to really stick to the schedule and make sure that you spend no less and no more time working on your tasks than you planned to. Scheduling mandatory breaks (unless you find yourself being “in the zone”) can also help you minimize chances of you getting distracted.
Once in a while you will hear someone criticize someone else, using the “we all have the same 24 hours to work with” argument. While true, those 24 hours do not look the same to all of us. Some spend 12 of those hours working, plus additional 2 hours commuting, while others get to work from home; some of us can count on the help of others, and some of us are on our own, raising children, working and running a household.
Regardless of the circumstances, in managing your time you can either keep working harder (getting less and less sleep trying to accomplish everything from your to-do list) or, you can work on becoming more efficient and smart about the way you manage your time. There are a lot of habits that will help you save time, but one of the most important ones is to actually value your time and other people’s time.
PS. If you want to learn more about changing your habits, I highly recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
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