Nine Ways to Improve Your Time Management

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Thomas Edison once said, “Time is really the only capital that any human being has and the thing that he can least afford to waste or lose.”  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.

Question to ponder: Do you really want to be more efficient?

 Assuming you’re ready to get more done in less time, might you want to try one or more of these:

Have a sponge activity at the ready. 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 may save a lot of 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(link is external) or TaskRabbit(link is external) to clean your house or do your garden. Or hire someone from elance.com(link is external), odesk.com(link is external), or 99designs(link is external).com to do your graphic design or other computer work.

Even if you’re financially struggling, 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 your assistant.

Ongoing, ask yourself, “Is this time-effective? Is what you’re doing yielding the most 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 mall, 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 most recipes. That alone could save you at least a half hour a day.

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?

Lollling 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. For example, “The short-term pleasure of procrastinating will be outweighed by the guilt and pain of it not getting done or done poorly.”

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 indeed be determined less by how much fun you’ve had as by how productive you’ve been. 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 reruns of The Simpsons, playing World of Warcraft and trekking to Kalamazoo for that third wedding of your second cousin twice removed.

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?” 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.”

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