Do you ever wonder where all your time goes every day?
We hear so many people say that they wish they just had more hours in the day to get everything done. But if we can’t add more hours to the day, is there a way we can use the hours we have more effectively?
And it doesn’t even involve sacrificing sleep or your favorite activities in order to do it. Today we are going to show you how to unlock secret chunks of time that you have in your schedule every single day, that you don’t even know about (yet).
It is easier than you think to make more time. Here’s how.
Do you know what to do with a spare 15 minutes?
The secret to time management is knowing how to fill in the many 5-15 minute gaps that happen throughout our days.
They happen all the time; in fact, they are such a normal part of our day that we hardly even notice them. And that is the problem.
These are times like:
- Waiting for a meeting to start
- Settling in at your desk in the morning
- Waiting for a lunch/coffee order to be ready
- Taking a break between daily tasks
When these gaps in productive time come up, most of us fall back on something easy and satisfying to do: social media, online shopping, chatting with friends, playing a game…
We figure, “I’ll just be waiting a couple of minutes, so I’ll just do something else really quick.”
And that is where your time goes during the day. That is why tasks pile up at the end of every day, because we lose time in small, constant drips that add up to hours. Every moment where you choose to do something that “kills time” and that doesn’t move the needle forward is a moment you’ll be wishing for later on.
Be deliberate — not reactive — with your time
There’s a reason so many people spend hours of their day on social media, checking comments on blog posts, texting, etc. These activities give our brains a little chemical reward without us having to do anything at all.
We get to feel great without expending any effort, in no time at all. No wonder we are hooked!
But seeking out these tiny rewards throughout the day undercuts our ability to enjoy the far more satisfying rewards of actually making an impact and accomplishing something great.
When you choose activities passively — like absentmindedly online shopping or reading a random article while you’re waiting in line — you are literally wasting that time.
Why not choose a better way?
Try eliminating your distraction for one month — and do this instead
What is the thing you turn to when you have a spare moment, but that doesn’t move you forward in your day?
For a lot of us, it is social media or other apps for things like news, forums, games, etc. If this is your thing, try deleting the app(s) from your phone and/or tablet so that you can only log in when you’re physically at the computer.
In very little time, you’ll discover that when you can’t passively log onto these networks — when you have to deliberately choose to spend time browsing there — you’ll often choose not to log in at all. Writer David Cain tried this experiment and his results were life-changing.
And when you choose not to passively waste time this way, you’ll have no choice but to be more deliberate with your 15-minute gaps in the day.
Of course, one of the best ways to make sure you do something smart and productive with your small gaps of free time is to have a plan for how you’ll spend them when they come up. Flying by the seat of your pants is a sure way to end up with more bad habits, because it’s hard to think critically on the fly (while waiting for a coffee).
When you plan your week every week, spend part of that planning session creating a list of things you need to get done that can either be done in a few minutes, or that you can make real progress on in a few minutes.
That way, when you realize you’re waiting 10 minutes for your next meeting to start, all you have to do is consult your list of to-do’s and choose one to get done.
To help you brainstorm your list, here are a 12 ideas for 10-minute tasks that actually move the needle forward:
- Type up hand-written meeting notes
- Research one aspect of a project
- Make or return a phone call (brainstorm a project, get advice, finalize plans, etc)
- Read over a contract or report
- Process emails for inbox zero
- Read an article relevant to your work (it helps to create a personal reading list document with relevant links, so all you have to do is pull up the list and click one!)
- Brainstorm ideas for a project, blog post, etc.
- Outline a meeting agenda
- Edit a document
- Update your weekly schedule or to-do list with new information
- Organize your workspace, document file, etc.
- Write your weekly status email to your manager
How much time will you gain this week?
Think about it this way: if you wait 15 minutes for something, not being productive, just 4 times a day, that is an hour of your day wasted.
But what if you used those 4 seemingly unimportant chunks of time to make a little bit of progress on the things you want to do? Suddenly you have just gained an hour in your day.
Spend less time catching up, spend more time getting the things you want done. All without having to wake up earlier, stay up later, or change your schedule. Just be a little more present in the little moments in your day, and you will be amazed at what you can do!