Top 12 ways to maximise your time
Essential time-saving tips
Maximising your time is about focusing on the right things. Don’t just make yourself busy, but be busy doing the things that matter. Too many of us use our time to complete unimportant tasks rather than doing the things that really need sorting out.
Identify how you spend your time
Spending a short while working out what you normally do with your time will help you in the long-run. Identifying those areas where time is being wasted and where it is being well spent will help you to prioritise. What counts is not the amount of time that you put in overall, but the amount of time that you spend working on important, worthwhile tasks.
It’s all well and good being efficient with your time, but to what end if you really don’t know how you want to spend it? Many people spend precious time and energy trying to be more efficient without setting goals — in other words, they don’t focus on the things that are most important to them. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you will know exactly where to concentrate your efforts. Having set goals can also be a good motivator.
Keep a ‘to do’ list
You can keep a list in your head of things that need doing, but it’s far better to free your mind of this by writing or typing a list, which you can then refer to throughout the day. Your list could be written on a piece of paper, typed and saved on your computer, or held in a Filofax system — it’s really up to you. Ticking off jobs as you do them can give a real sense of satisfaction and spur you on to complete the rest — plus, of course, using the list will reduce the amount of time you take up thinking about what you need to do.
It’s no good compiling a list if you put everything in the wrong order! There’s always a temptation to do the things that you want to do first, rather than the things that you need to do. Sort out your priorities and deal with the important things first. Whatever is left incomplete at the end of the day probably didn’t need doing immediately anyway, and can be dealt with on another occasion.
Do it right first time
If you try to complete a task half-heartedly when you’re not really in the mood for it, then it’s likely that you’re not going to complete it properly. Make sure you take the time to do things ‘right’ or to the best of your ability on the first occasion, so that the fewer mistakes you make, the less time you will waste going back and having to do it all over again. Doing the important things first — when you’re most ‘switched on’ and alert — means you’ll be more likely to do them correctly.
Stop putting things off
Most people have a tendency to procrastinate and look for ways out of doing what they should actually be doing. It’s especially easy to do this if you’re surrounded by lots of distractions that give you an excuse to put something off. So, try controlling your environment by removing most of those distractions. It is often best to do the thing you’d least like to do first, as all your avoidance tactics will often be aimed at putting off this one task. Just thinking of the reasons why that task should be done should be enough to make you do it.
Being disorganized only wastes time. Think about the time you spend each day trying to locate something in the workplace or at home. You may need to declutter your living and working environment in order to operate more efficiently. Put things that you don’t need well out of the way — or get rid of them! — and give things that you frequently use a regular home, so you will know where to find them in the future.
It seems obvious, but you can free more time up for yourself by getting others to do jobs for you! The idea is to hand over any tasks that someone else can do — particularly if they can do them faster or just as well as you. This can be applied in both your work and home environments. Why not hand over the washing up to the kids in return for the lift you’re going to give them later? In the workplace, consider delegating to a colleague: you never know, they may even welcome being given that particular task — especially if they are good at it!
It is possible to do a few things at the same time to get the most out of the time available. We’re not talking about a massive overload — just combining your tasks well. For example, while you are out on a run you could listen to that ‘learn a foreign language’ tape that you’ve always wanted to listen to. Or if you’re traveling on the train, you might be able to catch up on a good book, or even do a bit of work on your laptop. Planning to do a ‘fun’ activity alongside a routine task will allow you to make the most of whatever it is that you’re doing.
Learn to say ‘no’
Learning not to put all the pressure on yourself by saying ‘no’ can be one of the best things to do to free up some time as well as help you to avoid burnout. If someone asks you to do something, ask yourself questions such as ‘Is it my responsibility?’ or ‘Am I the best person for the job?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then don’t take on that particular task. We’re not suggesting that you look for reasons to get out of everything, of course, and you shouldn’t always say ‘no’ when asked to help out — but not being the dumping ground for everyone else’s problems can definitely help to maximise the time you have available.
Keeping your focus on the job in hand can help to get it done in next to no time. The only way you can keep your focus is to avoid distractions — whether these are from people or other external influences. Being properly organised helps you to initially focus, but only by avoiding disruptions will you be able to maintain that focus throughout your tasks and activities. If you really need to get on with something, lock yourself away and switch off your phone until you’ve completed a particular task. You’ll have plenty of time later to reply to any messages or missed calls!
Look after yourself
Nobody can be on the go all the time — if you were, you’d soon suffer from burnout! Taking time out and looking after yourself is important, because you will then be able to reach your peak physical and mental levels when necessary. Maintaining a healthy balance in your life should ensure that you respond in the right way and in an efficient manner to problems and tasks — so that whatever needs doing doesn’t take any longer than it should do!