It’s 2019 and I’m turning 35 years old this year. When I was a young 8-year-old kid in primary school, I had teachers who were 20-30 years old. I remember thinking to myself that they were really old. Now, I’m looking on as my 40th birthday approaches in 5 years’ time, and it’s a stark reminder of how fast time flies by.
I’ve read a lot and heard a lot from people about how time is finite, and how it’s our most valuable resource. However, it all doesn’t sink in until you really pause and embrace the reality yourself. The biggest amount of time that I’ve spent on something is probably my career and my business. Because of that, I’ve had some form of financial successs that I’m extremely thankful about. It took 17 years of my life, but it’s something that I don’t regret doing. Even if I was given the choice, I would not change anything in my past.
What I have been more aware of though, is what it truly means when we “spend time” on something. I am a lot more cognizant of the fact that time is a resource that once used, is gone forever. That has since made me significantly more aware and careful of what I spend my time on.
Something that I have found useful is doing an audit on my use of time. This not only allowed me to identify what I’m spending time on, but also allowed me to optimise my time usage, and even get time back. In fact, there are 12 main ideas that I found that helped me get more time back.
1. Have a personal master plan for yourself
“If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”
When I was running my business, it was a necessity to have a roadmap of where we’d like to see the business in 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years. This clarity of your goals is something that everyone can benefit from having in their personal lives as well, and is something that you should have in your personal master plan.
Once you have this master plan, you’d be able to instantly gauge whether or not an upcoming activity is going to be helpful in terms of moving you towards your goals. As a
2. Develop a daily routine
Besides having a personal masterplan, I found that having a daily routine really helps me create the time to work on the tasks that were important to me. More often than not, the ability to achieve a long-term goal is not decided by a single activity, but the cumulation of many repeated activities over time. Having a daily routine really helps you create and dedicate the time needed for these activities. Learn how to start a daily routine today.
3. List and prioritise your tasks the night before
Ever come to a point in the day where you’re suddenly at a loss about what to do? This typically happens if we don’t have a plan on what tasks to work on. When this happens, we scramble and start spending time thinking about what to do. The worst thing that can happen is if we end up spending that time on something not ideal, such as a convenient time-filling activity such as consuming social media, watching TV or playing video games.
4. Identify what makes you happy
There are many activities that we can do to fill up our lives. The problem is that we don’t have the luxury of having the time to do all of them. Identifying what truly makes you happy can give you the clarity to value certain activities over others. For instance, socialising is important, but perhaps you prefer group outings over individual catch-ups, or vice versa. Knowing your preference can allow you to choose activities selectively.
5. Stop mindless entertainment
This includes activities such as watching TV, playing video games, or consuming social media, but it doesn’t mean stopping them completely (see next point). It just means that we shouldn’t use these convenient activities as time-fillers. These forms of activities are so convenient that if we don’t become more mindful of them, we can
6. Start having planned breaks and enjoy them mindfully
Breaks are necessary and welcome. When we take planned breaks, they become periods in which we can use to recharge and recuperate. The danger is taking breaks too often or too carefreely. Then they become excessive and consume too much of our time that we could have used for other activities.
7. Batch activities together
One of the worst things that we can do in terms of productivity is to have a fragmented workday or even work week. To switch between tasks back and forth, we have to restart from where we left off, and makes the entire process very inefficient. To really see improvements in productivity, try batching activities together.
Batching means grouping activities so that you spend an entire block of time just on one type of activity, such as checking and replying emails, or doing accounting for your business, or working on a marketing campaign.
For instance, you could spend two hours in the afternoon checking your emails and replying to any that need a response. Outside of that time, you don’t check your emails at all.
8. Turn off notifications
Unlike its intent, notifications that our mobile phones and computers send us don’t serve us very well in terms of productivity. The only times that we should be alerted is if something absolutely critical happens. Otherwise, we get trapped into a habit of constantly checking our phones and desktops for new notifications.
It actually isn’t necessary for us to immediately reply to any messages or emails that come in. Focus on your tasks instead, and schedule times to check for anything important. If it’s an emergency, someone will call you.
9. Stop multi-tasking
It seems counter-intuitive, but the less we are juggling at any one time, the better it is for our productivity. Focusing on a single task at a time improves efficiency, because switching back and forth between tasks incurs lapses of concentration. We also need to switch our frame of mind back to the task at hand. These micro-instances of time add up, and it becomes better for us to simply just work on one thing at a time.
10. Start saying “No” more often
There are many things that we feel obliged to do because of either our status or of societal norms. If there is something that you need to do, prioritise it above these obligations, and ensure that it gets done before you commit your time to others.
Too often do we agree to people and demands on our time. It could be because we want to be nice, or it could from a sense of duty, but the thing is, saying “no” might be the better option. Agreeing to take on a task might seem like we are helping someone, but just like how the airlines tell us to “help ourselves before we help others” whenever we take a flight, it’s the more responsible thing to do to ensure that we give ourselves the time that we need before we go and give others our time.
11. Delegate or automate
A lot of the things that we experience in our daily lives can be delegated, automated, or even better — completely eliminated. The idea is to question the intent and be clear on whether or not something is done in the most efficient manner, or even needs to be done in the first place. Look to do only things that either make you happier or better.
12. Stop being a perfectionist
Being perfect is idealistic, and unfortunately, isn’t good for productivity nor is it good for personal growth. What we should aim for instead, is a level of “good enough” where you look at getting the most tasks done, instead of getting the most out of a single task.
Start taking back time today
Not all of these ideas can be adopted and used immediately. You most probably will need to ease into these ideas gradually, but when you do, you’ll find that it’ll help you regain so much more time. Do you have any personal experiences, or are there any other methods that you use that aren’t covered? Leave a comment below!