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Time Management

Nine Ways to Improve Your Time Management

We all seem to need to do more in less time. These tips can help.

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Thomas Edison once said, "Time is really the only capital that any human being has and the thing that s/he can least afford to waste."

Here are nine suggestions to help you make the most of your time.

Of course, if your life feels unalterably lousy, you may not care enough to make the most of your time. If that sounds like you, perhaps you want to defer reading the rest of this article. Instead, ask yourself what could improve your life: a new job? A new relationship? Addressing a mental or physical problem? Try to make progress until you see reason for hope.

If you do want to be more efficient, consider trying one or more of these:

Have a sponge activity at the ready. That's an activity to sponge up bits of available time. For example, most of us have reading to do for work. I often keep that professional reading with me wherever I go, perhaps downloaded to my phone, for use when waiting for a bus, in the supermarket line or doctor's office, etc..While I’m on my daily hike with my doggie Einstein, I spend part of the time thinking about a problem I’m facing and may jot down notes on a memo pad I keep with me.

Telecommute? If you can telecommute even one day a week, you'll probably save considerable time---assuming you can work effectively at home. If you have to commute, consider bringing a sponge activity.

Offload tasks. Might you be able to get an intern to lighten your workload? Or hire someone, perhaps from Craigslist or TaskRabbit to clean your house or do your garden. Or hire someone from, or to do your computer or graphic design work?

Even if you're far from wealthy, hiring someone to work a few hours a week to do your laundry, get the oil changed, and wait for the cable technician frees you up to do tasks that yield you far more than the cost of an assistant.

Ongoing, ask yourself, "Is this time-effective? Is what you’re doing yielding enough value per hour?" For example, when doing professional reading, I usually only skim an article until I get to something important. If it’s a book, I rarely read it cover to cover. Typically, I look at the table of contents and turn to the chapter I’m most interested in. I skim its headings and read only what seems worth the time.

If you think there might be a more time-effective way to tackle a task but don't know what it is, is there someone you could ask for advice?

Cut down on big time-sucks. You can find hours each week by reducing your TV watching, video game playing, phone or text chatting, sports-playing, browsing the Net, or discretionary trips like to your second cousin's third wedding in Kalamazoo.

Another example: Might you want to replace complicated dinners with simpler ones, for example, a dinner consisting of a salad, broiled meat and steamed veggies seasoned to taste? Meals like that are tasty, healthy, and much faster than are most recipes. That alone could save you a lot of time every day—except of course on those days you called a restaurant to have dinner delivered.

Might you want to take a moment now to list non-essentials you spend lots of time on: TV, sports, cooking, cleaning, shopping, chatting, whatever, and then ask yourself whether you want to spend less time on any of them?

Lolling too long? If you already get the seven or eight hours of sleep you need, are you lolling in bed longer than you want to?

Verbalize it. You may think that one or more of these time-management tips are worth trying but if you struggle in managing time, you may need to take an extra step to keep you motivated. One technique that has worked for many of my clients is to write and then say aloud with expression, the reasons you should do a task. You might even paraphrase it aloud three times a day. That can keep your motivators top-of-mind.

Do paraphrase rather than recite. Otherwise it won’t penetrate your brain any more than when you’ve recited the Pledge of Allegiance 10,000 times. So for example, let's say your reason to do the task is because the short-term gain of procrastinating is dwarfed by the long-term guilt and pain. The next time, you might say: “Short term gain is tiny versus long-term pain.”

The 15-minute timer. But what if you’re not sure how to be more a better time manager? Consider having a pocket timer go off every 15 minutes and each time, write on a note-taking app or memo pad what you’ve been doing for that 15 minutes. Do that for a few days and you’ll get a sense of whether there are activities on which you want to devote less or more time.

Be watched. Here’s another approach to figuring out where you can improve your time management: Have an efficient person watch you for at least an hour. You’ll likely get suggestions you wouldn’t have thought of.

The Big Picture

Ultimately, your life's meaning may be determined more by how productive you've been than how much fun you've had. Theodore Roosevelt said, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

After all, you could have a fun life letting someone support you as you pursue a life of watching Seinfeld reruns, playing World of Warcraft, and trekking to Topeka for a Trekkie convention.

You don't want to be one of those people who's always asking, "Where did the day go?" or worse, "Where did the years go?" At the risk of sounding like your mother, you want to be one of those people who feel, "I'm making good use of my time on this earth. I'm living a life well-led."

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.

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