We’ve all wished for more than 24 hours in a day, but short of developing the powers to bend the laws of space and time, that’s not going to happen. But one thing we can do is bend the ways we use the hours at our disposal. If you look hard enough, you can discover time you didn’t know you had.
Shift Your Day
When I decided I needed to find dedicated time to work on a writing project, I started setting my alarm 45 minutes earlier. Of course, I also have my bedroom clock set to run a half hour ahead. So, 7 a.m. became 6:15 a.m. … which is actually 5:45 a.m. I allow myself until 6:30 a.m. for breakfast and Internet browsing, but then it’s work time. I love working in the early morning: it’s a quiet, thoughtful time of day. Not a morning person? I think it would be harder to shift on the evening side, since evenings often fall prey to social plans, errands or exhaustion. But if you can, more power to you.
Save Time, Save The Planet
Commuting by public transit provides a great opportunity to both get where you’re going and get things done, sparing the environment your automobile emissions in the process. Increasingly, cellular networks are available on below-ground public transit, and wi-fi is available on some commuter trains. No Internet access? Work offline or just bring a book or legal pad. If it’s a particularly long commute, try convincing your boss that the work you get done in transit should merit a shorter in-office workday.
If you need to read a book that would help you do your job better, find the audio version and listen to it while commuting to work, exercising or walking the dog. Same goes for podcasts. Need to plan for a meeting or a project? Grab an audio recorder and dictate your thoughts for an intern or assistant to transcribe later. Or if you have an Evernote account that you can share access to, record your thoughts to Evernote and text your assistant when you’re done. You can have an outline on your desk by the time you arrive at the office.
Block Your Meetings
You could write a book about how to make meetings more efficient, but let’s just look at scheduling for now. I find that when meetings are spread sporadically across the week, particularly at block-slicing times like 10 a.m. or 2 p.m., it’s hard for me to get important things done. If possible, try blocking your meetings together. If you know Monday afternoons, Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings are dedicated to meetings, you can block and structure the remaining time during your workweek to get projects done. Aim for at least two full, free days per week.
Break Free from TV
Watching a favorite television show is a great way to relax, but tethering yourself to an 8 p.m. program on Wednesday nights might kill any chances of productivity by slicing up your evening block of time. DVR your favorite shows and have them queued up for when you’ve set aside a block of time to unwind. Don’t have DVR? Wait for them to come out on Netflix, so you can order or stream them at your leisure.
We get so caught up in the day-to-day of our established routines that we often don’t think about everything that we’re doing. We’re simply doing it because we always have. Take a typical week and log every activity and how much time you spend doing each. Then sit down and evaluate. Are you surprised how much time you spend doing things like shopping, cleaning or maybe nothing at all? If your time is valuable to you, are you will to invest in a shopping or cleaning service? Can you better structure your open time so you can fit in both relaxation and productive tasks? When it comes to evaluating how you use your time on the computer, a service like Rescue Time can help.
Turn Waiting into Doing
If you know you’ll be someplace where you will likely have to endure a wait, such as the doctor’s office or the RMV, bring along a couple of portable tasks. It could be an article to read, a notepad to jot down some thoughts or a calendar to plan the week ahead. Waiting can eat up nuggets of time that if you don’t plan ahead can go idle and wasted, but with a little planning they can be recovered and maximized.
Having More = Getting More
These are just a few of the ways you can take control of the clock – as opposed to the clock controlling you. This great blog post by entrepreneur Jun Loayza details more time-recovering habits worth cultivating.
Remember, the sooner you get started on finding more hours in your day just to get things accomplished, the sooner you’ll find you have more hours in your day that you can have just to enjoy.