Time is a lot of things. It’s a Pink Floyd song, the fourth dimension (except maybe not), and a finite resource (unlike money, which there are ways to make more of). You are allotted 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for as many years as you’re alive (sorry to be depressing). You can’t buy more time, can’t craft more of it at home, can’t borrow it from someone else. The only way to “make” more time is to better manage the time that you have.
Make an Honest Assessment
You can’t better manage something you aren’t fully aware of. Do you really know where your time is currently going? For one week, keep a detailed track of everything you do 24 hours a day. Include literally everything you do: sleeping, traffic, cooking dinner, mowing the lawn, date night, and the inevitable six-hour marathon of Golden Girls episodes. At the end of the week, you may be shocked with how much “wasted” time there is. It may not take a full week to change your behaviors. Once you know you’re having to keep track, you may find that you’re already making adjustments. However, remember that not every single thing you do has to be “productive.” Productivity includes rest and down time, so playing Mario Kart with your kids, taking a nap, and watching the Texans game aren’t automatically bad things, as long as there’s a healthy balance.
Combine Where You Can
Sometimes, it makes good sense to combine two tasks that go well together. Are you sitting in traffic for an hour each morning? Maybe that’s a good time to listen to an audio book. Do you like watching the nightly news? Maybe that’s a good time to do some at-home exercises as you watch/listen to the news. Don’t combine something if it takes away from others (making a work phone call in the middle of date night is a very, very, very bad idea).
Focus on One Thing at a Time
“But you JUST said…” I know, I know. The last tip was about combining things that can/should be combined. Your ability to listen to NPR isn’t hindered by walking on a treadmill (and vice versa). It’s a way to effectively and efficiently combine tasks that need to be done. For other things, increase your focus by doing one thing at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself unnecessarily. Don’t try to talk on the phone with your boss while answering emails and thinking about the meeting this afternoon. I used to work in roofing, and we hammered each nail one at a time. We didn’t try to hold a hammer in each hand and do two nails at once (that would have ended poorly for everyone). Don’t stretch yourself too thin, or as Bilbo Baggins puts it, “I feel thin, stretched. Like butter over too much bread.”
There are all kinds of tools to help you organize and schedule: Google Calendar, planners, bullet/dot journaling, to-do lists. I’m not going to tell you to do one specific thing, but rather find whichever method/tool helps you the most. The key here is to be organized with your time and tasks. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re not even sure how much you have to do, you just know it’s a lot.
Improving time management doesn’t just benefit you, but also those around you. An obvious benefit is that by freeing up more time, you have more to spend with loved ones. But there’s also this: when you better understand your own time, you gain a better understanding and respect of other people’s time as well. People like it when others respect their time, and take note of considerate people. Unfortunately, this valuable truth is often overlooked by those in the business world, where showing up late to meetings (without so much as a text) is a too-common occurrence.
There are lots of things that you can do to better manage your time, including some we’ve discussed before, like de-cluttering, cultivating personal passions, and avoiding burnout. As long as you’re looking at your time with purpose (and honesty), there are almost always ways to find more time, whether it’s to better spend your workday, find more time with your kids, or trying to figure out (da mystery of) chess boxing.
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