“I don’t have time to do that” is a common excuse we hear from people (including ourselves) when faced with certain tasks or responsibilities. We do it often when we have no interest in doing an activity. In other times though, even if we want to do something we feel like we don’t have time for it. We yearn for extra time in the day as we feel like 24 hours is not enough.
In previous articles we discussed the Consistency Beats Intensity philosophy and of ways where we can improve our lives by doing small things consistently. Perhaps the main argument against these strategies is the (perceived) lack of time. This argument is weak, however, as all people have the same time per day allotted to them. Can you see within your immediate social circle people who are more successful or more productive than you? If yes, then you know that it is possible to also attain the same level of productivity as them since all of us have the same amount of time given daily, weekly, or monthly.
Here are some tips on how to gain additional “free time” in your day:
Determine your most productive period of the day
We normally have a specific time of the day when we feel energized, motivated and ready to do work. In the same vein, we also have a specific time when we feel sleepy or tired. The trick is to determine which part of the day you feel most motivated and then resolve to do your projects during that time.
Studies have shown that motivation is actually a diminishing resource. If we have already exhausted our motivation for the day, the rest of our work are of lower quality and we find it hard to accomplish tasks. Your motivation and energy is at its peak at the start of the day, so you must do your most important tasks while your motivation levels are high.
For example, reading work emails while you are eating your breakfast may cause you to be stressed and annoyed. You already consume your motivation and energy when thinking about the work ahead. This results in having a lower motivation for the rest of the day and so we lack the drive to do things later. Instead of starting your day with stress, when you wake up you should exercise, read books, and do your important personal projects first while you are still energized.
Wake up earlier than usual
This is perhaps the most obvious tip here but is the most overlooked: waking up earlier than usual. Magic happens when you start to wake up earlier than most people. During early mornings you feel like you have the whole world to yourself, and so you will be able to do productive work with much less distractions and noises.
The early morning air is also different from the rest of the day. The air seems fresher while the dew is evaporating from the previous night, and there is less pollution as there are only a few vehicles outside. By waking up early, you also improve your sleep cycle as you will feel tired already when evening comes and so you will be able to sleep earlier and more soundly.
Review what you do before work
Reviewing what you do before you go to work is also a useful way to determine if you are using your time as efficiently as possible. Think of the activities that you do after you wake up in the morning. This may include walking around your neighborhood, eating breakfast, reading a newspaper, browsing your social media feed, and dressing up for work.
For each of those activities, analyze if it is contributing positively to your personal growth and for achieving your goals. Here are some examples on how to approach this:
- walking around your neighborhood – this is a great way to exercise during the day as well as a means of improving social relations by having quick chats with your neighbors.
- eating breakfast – this is a pre-requisite for the rest of the day so you have energy at work. However, think about the time you spend eating breakfast. Do you really need 30 minutes to 1 hour eating or can you reduce the time needed by minimizing distractions while having breakfast?
- reading/watching news – apart from the weather and traffic reports, mainstream news almost always have no impact on your daily life. Ask yourself if you really need to know the latest about politics and celebrities, and whether you can spend those times more constructively.
- browsing your social media feed – “social media is the new smoking“, an article said. Social media apps and websites are specifically designed to hook you in, making you browse their feed for long periods of time without you even noticing it.
- dressing up for work – this depends on the type of work you have. Customer-facing jobs usually require a more strict dress code and make-up and so they will take a longer amount of time. However, if you find yourself taking an hour to dress up, you may want to re-examine the process and see if you can eliminate some steps. It may also help to prepare the night before so you do not waste your morning fetching and organizing your clothes and things you need.
Review what you do after work
Just like reviewing what you do before you go to work, it is also important to review what you do after work. Usually you already feel tired and exhausted due to your job and the commute home, and you just want to relax, eat, and go to sleep. Depending on how you want to relax at the end of the day, you can think of ways on how to make your evenings more productive.
Some examples of common things that people do at the end of the day are:
- watching the evening news – as with what we have described above, there are only a few news items that are significant in our daily lives. As such, it is best to limit the time we spend watching news or replace it with a more productive activity.
- browsing your social media feed – this again is related to the addictive properties of social media apps, and so we should try to limit our “dependency” on continuously checking their feeds.
In this article we discussed the effect of computer and mobile devices’ screens and how it affects your sleep and your eyes. This is another reason why we should not go to bed fixated on our mobile devices.
Here are some suggestions on more productive ways to spend evenings/at the end of your day:
- read books – instead of reading social media feeds or websites designed to hook you in, it may be better to read books instead. Reading a light, relaxing book can also help you fall asleep faster.
- prepare for the next day – reduce the time needed dressing up for work in the morning by preparing your things the night before. Organize the clothes that you are going to wear, iron them in advance, shine your shoes the night before, etc.
- meditate and reflect – an even better way to spend your evenings before going to bed is to meditate. This will also help you relax, go to sleep, as well as improve your condition mentally and spiritually. There are many resources that aid in meditation, but as a starting point you can ask these questions to yourself and reflect on them: “What things did I do today and how could I have done it better?”
I hope these examples give you some ideas on how to get more time out of your day. Doing these things complements well with personal development activities like the ones we discussed in the Consistency Beats Intensity articles. The “additional” hours gained by analyzing how we spend our time are best put to use in improving our lives and the lives of people around us.