While we know that time is precious and a scarce resource, at that, how often do we find ourselves wasting what little time we do have? Frittering away hours at the computer, playing video games, watching endless hours of TV, and any number of other voracious time-wasting activities can leave you feeling edgy, restless and incomplete.
For good reason, since nothing good comes from deliberate squandering of time.
This isn’t the same as when you make a conscious choice to engage in a hobby or pastime or recreational or leisure activity. Everyone needs time to play, to rest and recharge, and to gain a new perspective on life. Play time helps lower stress levels, eases tension, and provides the opportunity to see things clearer and without distraction. Solutions come easier after taking the time to play.
But the time that you waste, that’s just gone for good. The question becomes, how do you use time wisely?
What tricks or tips can help to maximize your time? Here are a few to consider:
Jot it down.
Go through your day in your mind and jot down everything you did, noting when you did it, how long it took, and what the result was. This exercise helps to identify time wasted.
Analyze wasted time.
Next, analyze those times you wasted. What was it you were doing immediately before or after? Try to determine if you needed a break from something strenuous, complex or time-consuming or if you were avoiding the next thing on your to-do list. This analysis helps to narrow down instances where you choose wasting time over taking constructive action.
List must-do items or tasks.
Make a separate list of things that are must-do items. This list can be for today or things you must do daily. This may include getting up and going to work, preparing dinner for the family, taking medications or vitamins, walking the dog, taking out the trash and so on. Are there things you do that you could streamline or make easier? Could you combine some so that you’re not repeating ground? For example, set the medications or vitamins alongside your breakfast so that you take them right after (or before) you eat. Take out the trash when it’s time to walk the dog.
Prioritize what must get done.
Staring at a list of must-do items won’t get them done. Put them in order of importance. This helps in rearranging your schedule to accommodate what must be done. For example, that big project that’s due at work should take priority, or the boss needs an update every morning at a certain time. Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of taking care of high-priority items.
Schedule a break.
Build in some slack time. This can be a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon to go for a quick walk or grab a coffee or chat with your neighbor or co-worker. Getting up to stretch your legs puts a period at the end of what you were doing and is a nice transition from one activity to another.
Vary your schedule. If you find that your biggest time wasters are because a lot of what you’re doing every day is boring or repetitive, jazz it up by allocating different days for different tasks. When you know you’ve got an hour on Wednesday to go bowling or have lunch with a friend, other items on your task list won’t seem so challenging. Variety also adds spice to life.
Be in the moment. Instead of always thinking you don’t have enough time, savor the present moment. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a task or something you enjoy, really be there. This adds to the appreciation of time, that precious commodity.
Learn to manage your time.
It can’t be stressed enough that lack of time and trying to crowd too may obligations and tasks into a 24-hour day will quickly overwhelm almost anyone.
- Instead of fighting the clock, trying to cram in that last item on today’s to-do list, put some space between duties and eliminate some from the list altogether.
- Time management isn’t only for business people. It works for busy moms, students, artists, inventors, scientists and, well, everyone.
Keep a list of what worked well before.
Making incremental improvements in your effectiveness is the best way to gradually become more successful in whatever you do.
- One way to do this is to keep track of what you did before that resulted in a favorable outcome. Maybe there’s something about that technique that you can utilize in a similar or even different project, task or endeavor.
- When you have a reserve of effective approaches (as in, they worked before), you’re never going to be at a loss for ideas.
Ask for suggestions from others you trust.
Just because you generally accomplish what you set out to do doesn’t mean you’re as effective in your approach as you could be.
- Make use of your network of trusted friends, co-workers, loved ones and family members and ask them for suggestions on how you might improve your rate of effectiveness. Their comments may prove helpful in identifying gaps in your method or highlighting areas of strength and expertise you haven’t yet tapped into.
Take time to reflect on your accomplishments.
Once you do succeed at a goal and before you rush into the next thing on your list, take the time to reflect on your accomplishments. This can be viewed as a small self-congratulation, but it’s actually much more than that.
- Away from the whirlwind of activity, your mind can calmly assess the various aspects of the now-completed job or task and come up with inventive approaches and ideas you may be able to use the next time.
Aim for continuous improvement.
If a job or task seems too much of an obstacle, but you still want or need to tackle it, instead of fixating only on complete success the first time around, it might be better to aim for continuous improvement.
- Do the best that you can on whatever portion of the project you’re on.
- Learn from what you do. Strive to put that knowledge to use when you pick up the project again and move on to the next phase of it. This will help you increase your overall effectiveness.