Do you also feel like your days need to be 30 hours to be able to do everything you need to do? Our days are filled with obligations. We have our job, chores at home, friends and family, exercise, and so on. It can be difficult to cram all of this into the limited hours of a day. The pressure to do so much in so little time gives plenty of people anxiety, and can be one of the causes of burnout. We need sound strategies for dealing with this challenge. In this post you will learn 3 great ways to use your time more effectively, so you don’t need a 30 hour day anymore.
Table of Contents
Strategy 1: Plan
This really is step one to use your time more effectively. If you don’t have a calendar, either digital or on paper, get one now. Stop reading, and run to the store, or open an account on one of the many digital calendars that are available. I personally use Google Calendar, as I like its ease of use. A paper planner is a great option if you like to write things down.
Now that you have a calendar or planner, I highly recommend using time blocking as a method of planning. Time blocking requires you to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to a specific task or event. This gives you a concrete schedule that lays out what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. With a digital calendar, you can easily automate your time blocks, so they recur every day or every week, for example.
The key to time blocking is planning in advance. It’s often best to plan the entire week before the start of that week, through a weekly review. Make a list of what is coming up for the week ahead and plan your time blocks for each day accordingly. At the end of every day, review your schedule and make adjustments if needed. Your schedule is not made of concrete, so keep it flexible. If something suddenly disrupts your time blocks – and that will happen – simply take a bit of time to reschedule and continue your day.
Not only does this give you a great guideline for your days, it also gives you insight in where you spend your time on. The first step to change is awareness, so use your calendar to become aware of where you spend your time on. This greatly helps when you implement the other two steps to use your time more effectively.
Strategy 2: Focus
Many of us have plenty of obligations. We say yes to many things, filling every hour in our calendars. One of the best ways to use your time more effectively is by focusing on the things that are truly important and cutting out the rest. This way, you gain the maximum amount of value within your day.
So look at your calendar and with every item ask yourself ‘what value does this bring to my life?’ Perhaps you have taken on too much on your shoulders, so you need to make tough choices. It can be hard to say no, but it may be necessary. By looking at the value of each of your obligations, it is clear which items must stay, and which items may be cut out of your schedule. This opens up more time within your days, and creates a better focus within your life.
Say you have a full-time job during the work week and do volunteer work in the weekends, but you don’t find the volunteer work fulfilling. This drains your energy during the weekends, making it harder to complete your work at your full-time job during the work week. In such a case it could be a good choice to cut out the volunteer work and focus on your full-time job, perhaps finding a good replacement for your volunteer work later down the road.
Strategy 3: Bundle
A third way to use your time more effectively is by bundling. This means creating bundles of obligations or events that are similar and planning these in sequence. Cal Newport’s book Deep Work dives deep (no pun intended) into the world of focused attention. By bundling similar tasks, you prevent yourself from bouncing from one thing to the next. Bundling greatly increases your effectiveness and efficiency, which means that you’ll get more done in less time.
Say you have three obligations tomorrow: you need to write a small article, analyze a set of data, and write a letter to a friend. It is recommended to bundle writing the article and the letter, and plan these directly next to each other. When you’re done writing the article, you’re already into the flow of writing, making the task of writing a letter much easier than when you’d first go analyze data. It is also advisable to first finish a task before getting started with the next task.
This has everything to do with a concept called attention residue. Every time you switch between tasks, a portion of your brains is still processing the previous task, especially if that task hasn’t been finished yet. It takes a bit of time for your brains to really get into the new task. If you switch a lot between tasks, this residue can add up, impairing your ability to focus and to get things done. So by bundling similar items, you reduce the effect attention residue has on you, creating a more effective use of your valuable time.
Conclusion: How Do I Use My Time More Effectively?
We often feel like we have too many things to do in too little time, creating stress and anxiety. Through the 3 strategies of planning, focusing and bundling, you can overcome this challenge and use your time more effectively. Planning allows you to time block in advance, giving you both structure and insight. By focusing you give yourself the opportunity to cut what isn’t valuable. And finally, by bundling you make sure that what you need or want to do is done efficiently.