Time is the nonrenewable resource desired by all, most often when there isn’t much left. Whether you dream of starting a business, getting in better shape, reconnecting with old friends, or even just relaxing, you will find the scarcity of time to be a leading obstacle in accomplishing your goals. There never seems to be enough hours in the day, days in the week, or weeks in the year to accomplish some of the most important and rewarding things in our lives.
In a world that is more connected than ever, commitments of our time seem to be in endless demand. So how can you combat the pressures of the world and reclaim more of this scarce and highly valuable resource? The following three tips are simple, actionable strategies that can help you maximize the time available to you, as well as recognize the greatest return on that additional time.
Automate or outsource what you can. We all know that many jobs are being taken over by new technologies, but are you fully taking advantage of them in your day-to-day life? There is an increasing number of resources and tools available to help you accomplish or streamline the responsibilities in your life. In The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferris dedicates an entire chapter to outsourcing life. While I do agree with the theory behind the concepts he presents, many people aren’t quite ready to hire a full-time overseas assistant. If you are, then by all means that is a great way to free up more of your time. But if you aren’t, there are countless other incremental ways you can automate menial tasks that suck up your time. Set your bills to autopay. Create recurring calendar reminders so that you don’t have to worry about keeping track of appointments and routine events. Auto-order routine purchases like pet food, medications, and household basics. Invest in a robotic vacuum, a self-cleaning litter-box, or low maintenance appliances. Hire someone to help you with the tasks you especially dread, since they are almost certain to bog you down compared to something that interests you. Take a critical look at how your time is spent during a task and ask yourself if there is a better, faster way to get it done. When you approach tasks or chores from this perspective, you will be surprised at how little changes can affect your productivity in big ways.
Schedule your time. Parkinson’s Law states, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Have you ever noticed how if you set aside two hours to prepare for an upcoming event that 120 minutes barely feels like enough time? But, when suddenly you only have 30 minutes, you somehow find a way to prepare in fast forward. Humans are very adaptable, and we are very good at adapting to the amount of time we allot ourselves for a given task. If you can begin to schedule out a set amount of time to complete the items on your to-do list, rather than leave them open-ended, you will be able to significantly reduce the amount of time you spend. Schedule time for exercising, running errands, projects, personal development, etc. If you are realistic about your scheduling and hold yourself accountable, the return on your time investment will be well worth it.
Get comfortable saying no. How many times have you committed to doing something that you really didn’t want to because you felt like you should or you would disappoint someone if you didn’t? “No” is one of the first words we speak as babies; it’s one of the few words understood across languages; it’s even understood by many animals. Yet, it seems to be one of the hardest words to say in social settings. Human beings are social creatures and, in general, like to please others. We often feel that we are letting others down if we don’t say “Yes.” By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and experience new things, but as with most things, moderation is the key. You must shift your mindset from seeing “No” as a negative and remind yourself that you are saying “No” to the unimportant so that you can say “Yes” to the important matters in your life. Discover your priorities and practice saying “No” to the rest. Whether or not you ultimately choose to say “No” to more things or not, having the skill, and therefore the option, is extremely empowering. It will help you take personal accountability for the choices you make and the lifestyle that you live.
It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and feel constantly behind or overwhelmed. However, think about what you could accomplish with just one extra hour a day. Incorporate these three strategies into your life’s toolbox and discover just how much control you really have over the resource that is time!