Time is a precious resource that even the richest CEOs in the world can’t buy.
So if we can’t buy ourselves more time, then how can we maximize our time so that we can live a full and productive life, without feeling like we’re missing out, or worse, burning out?
One way of making the most of our time is to get clear on our priorities. You can try to implement all the life hacks and productivity tips you want, but they won't mean a thing if you’re unsure what to spend time on. It’s only after clarifying your priorities, that you can start putting organizational structures and systems in place. (And of course, we have a tool for that! Check out the Ink+Volt Priority Pad here, and learn more about how to prioritize your to-do list here.)
Here are some simple and actionable ways that you can identify your priorities, as well as practical things you can do to save more time in 2020.
1. Make a “capture list”
It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you want to save time, you need to devote some time upfront to identifying your tasks. You can’t create an accurate to-do list unless you define all the things that require your attention and action. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, calls this a “capture list.” So break out your favorite notepad and try to capture everything that requires your attention —this should be everything from errands to work assignments to family responsibilities.
Your list might look something like this: pick up kids from school, create powerpoint for work, pick up laundry, find hotel for vacation.
2. Write a to-do list with actual things to do
Now take that same list and define all the steps you need to take in order to complete each task. If you need to find a hotel for your vacation, your next steps might look something like this: look up best hotels in the area on Trip Advisor; ask for recommendations on social media; search for rates.
If you have a more complex task like “create a powerpoint for work” you can simplify it into smaller actions: collect data for presentation, pick a design for slides, ask for feedback.
3. Schedule your to-dos
The best way to ensure that you’ll complete your to-do list is to put it on your calendar or a weekly deskpad. I like to write my to-dos using the weekly pages in my Ink+Volt Planner. Not only does the visual reminder help me stay on top of my deadlines, but the actual act of writing it in my planner keeps me accountable. I’m more likely to commit to an action if I write it down and see it on paper. It also helps if the paper or planner has a pretty design that I can show off on my desk. :)
Sometimes it helps to get really granular with your to-dos and *actually* schedule the time it's going to take to accomplish them. I like to use the Ink+Volt Today Organizer Pad to do that — it has hourly time blocks so I can visualize my entire day at once, a task list, and a section for things you need to put on tomorrow's to-do list.
Now that we have a better grasp of what to do with our time, let’s look at some productivity tips to help us manage our schedules and save time.
4. Go on airplane mode
Ever notice how a two hour flight seems so much longer than two hours on the ground? For the times you really need to buckle down and finish an assignment, try to put your phone and devices on airplane mode. You can even use your favorite pen and notebook to keep you focused on your work, instead of succumbing to distractions on your computer. You might even have so much time left over that you can treat yourself to a magazine or a movie after!
5. Turn off spell check
If you’re anything like me, then you’re easily annoyed by those red squiggly lines under misspelled words and can’t help but fix every little typo as you go along. But this dedication to perfect spelling is only distracting you from the real task at hand. Turn off spell check so you can focus on the work and stop wasting time correcting sentences that you’re only going to delete or edit later anyway. Just make sure to turn it on again before you hand in your work!
6. Take advantage of your commute
If you’re looking to learn a new language or read more books in the new year, then you can buy yourself some more time by maximizing your commutes. Download audio books or podcasts and listen to them while you drive (for once, you won't mind all the traffic!). If you travel by train or subway, you can download language apps and do them on your ride. Or you can finally catch up on a book or magazine article you’ve been meaning to read.
7. Have a frozen food night
In a perfect world, I would whip up a hearty, nutritious meal that I’ve bookmarked from a lifestyle blog, but in reality, I have no energy to spend on hours of cooking and washing dishes. There’s no shame in eating frozen dinners once in a while and you can even add some simple, nutritious elements to make it more wholesome.
Pick up frozen pizzas from Trader Joe’s and add some fresh arugula on top and a side of steamed veggies. You can also pick up a variety of the TJ’s frozen Indian food dishes and create an entire dinner that’s just as good as take out, but for half the price. Now use the time you saved from doing dishes to read your favorite book or get cozy with loved ones.
8. Keep a basket by the door
Place dry cleaning, gym shoes, or any other essential items so that you can easily grab them as you head out, instead of running around your home looking for them. Not only will this life hack save you time in the long run, it will also *keep* you on time. No more saying, "So sorry I'm late!"
9. Five minute rule
What are some simple tasks that you can complete in 5 minutes? Maybe it’s wipe down your desk, throw out the trash, send a quick response to an email, replace the toilet paper, tidy up your office, recycle your junk mail, do the dishes, or drop off the mail. Try completing them after reading this article and eliminate tasks off your to-do list!
10. Only clean what people can see
Do you spend hours frantically cleaning your place before guests come over? Don’t waste time trying to create a spotless home. Just focus on one or two areas that guests will see or visit. Take 15 minutes to do a quick tidy of your bathroom and living area. Close the doors to your bedrooms and stash the junk mail into a drawer. Light some fragrant candles and voilà — you’ve got a place that’s ready to welcome guests.
11. Have a work deadline? Make social plans
If you have a work assignment that’s due at 5 p.m., chances are you’re going to wait until 5 p.m. to turn it in. Instead of wasting precious hours, trick your brain into finishing your assignment earlier by scheduling a fun activity in the middle of the day. You’ll be more psyched to finish your assignment by 12 p.m. if you have a fun lunch outing with friends or co-workers to look forward to.