Not enough time? Use these 9 tips today to generate *hours* of extra time.
What would you do, if you had 20 to 30 extra hours a week? What would you do if you could save an extra 30 hours this week? Time is often like money. We wish to have a lot of it, but once we do, we don’t know what to do with it, get bored and waste it. We all have, however, a list of dreams that we are not living. Did you always wanted to paint and open your own gallery, get a PhD in cosmology, start a business, or spend more time with your children? 30 extra hours a week can allow you to do exactly that. The below tips will not magically make your week 198 hours long (instead of the real 168), but they will give you an idea how to use the existing time more efficiently — thereby leaving you consistently with more spare time and an empty to-do list.
But remember that tips are only tips. Managing time is one thing while being a lord of it is something totally different. Apart from tips below, I have identified some life philosophies and mind sets that can lead you to truly master this aspect of life. I will publish them in a small e-book later. The below tips are only pointers into the direction. They are not in any particular order.
What’s your tip to save time? Comment below.
1. Wake up early. Time saved: up to 21h / week (without sleeping less).
I got this idea originally when I looked at my friends with children. Somehow they are often able to do everything that a normal person does plus raising their offspring. Their secret? The children force them to wake up and do stuff. Why not learn from them? An important factor is this: What are you normally doing during the three hours before you go to bed?. If you are honest with yourself, on a scale from 1 to 10, how efficient are you between 9pm and 12 midnight? If you are on fire during that time and your answer is 9 or 10, then waking up earlier won’t sky-rocket your productivity. But if your answer is below 4, (you procrastinate watching Netflix or reading Facebook feed), then go to bed instead and wake up 3 hours earlier. The sleeping time is unchanged, but in the morning you will tend to be much more productive. This is a flexible continuum. Instead of 3h, maybe a 1h change is optimal for you.
Tips: In the morning have a strong routine. At best, it is time allocated for yourself. This may include breakfast, meditation, sex, stretching, exercising, shower, brushing teeth. It is good to include things that are both pleasurable and beneficial, so you are motivated to get up.
Note: I know this raises a lot of questions: “What if I am a night owl?”, “Why wouldn’t the three hours of procrastinating just move from 9-12pm to 6-9pm?” and on and on. I discuss all this in detail in my 12-page “Lord of Time” PDF which I’ll give you for free once it’s released (scroll down for more).
“If you don’t have ten minutes a day to meditate, you should meditate three hours a day.” I forgot who said that, but they must be wise. Clearing ten minutes everyday for yourself will teach you that time can be your slave. My goal is to do it every morning before breakfast. In the last year I did it on more days than not. If meditation sounds alien to you, use this time thinking about your goals for the next days, listing things that you are excited about and grateful for in your life right now.
Tips: When I was in the process of learning this skill, I carried my mediation pillow with me when I travelled even though it took up 60% of my luggage space. This made me feel that meditation is truly important.
3. Use travelling time. Time saved: up to 10h / week.
If you live close to your work, a small city with efficient transportation, or you work at home, you might be able to save 2-3 hours a week this way. But if you travel a lot, or live in a big city such as London, Paris or New York, you might find yourself in the “tube” for even more than 10h a week. The time is not saved by magically avoiding the travelling time, but by using it for your benefit. Whether on a bus for 15min, in a taxi for 10min, in an airplane for 5h or walking for 30min, you can use this time efficiently. Once I interviewed a professor of mathematics who wrote an entire book while sitting in airplanes.
Tips: In the transport you can read books, proofread your own texts, read your student’s work, listen to audiobooks, listen to podcasts, practice right hand finger movements for guitar play, optimise your schedule for the day, recite the lyrics for a song you are practising, meditate (yeah!)… You get the idea.}
4. Never “kill” time. Time saved: many hours / week.
Whenever I hear someone talking about “killing time” I flinch. Brrrr! You want to kill the most valuable resource of your life? WHY? Ever calculated how much time you spend waiting? Waiting for a bus, in a bank, for a friend, for your pizza to be done, for a file to download…? This time can be used efficiently too, and greatly reduce your to-do list. It is importnant, however, not to get hectic and unfocused. The rule of thumb is: if you are getting bored and want to pull out your smart phone, you probably can do something useful instead (unless you are doing something useful with your phone of course;)).
Tips: Have always a list of 3-5 things in your mind or on a piece of paper which you can do whenever you have a spare moment. At the time of my math PhD writing it often consisted of small mathematical problems I needed to think about, but it can be anything from calling a dentist to checking the prices of airfare.
5. Cook a lot! Time saved: up to 3h 30min / week.
Yes, that’s right! Cook! Cooking takes time and you can’t avoid doing it unless you are wealthy enough to have someone else always cook for you. So cook a lot at once. Get it out of your way. If you cook, say, your own dinner, you can prepare enough food for the next two or three days at once. If you are afraid of eating the same dinner on two or three consecutive days, get over it. By doubling the amount of food you cook at once you barely increase the time investment. This will save you at least 30 minutes in two days. Simple and healthy food can be fast to cook and delicious at the same time. And don’t worry, you can still spend the whole Saturday cooking your favourite fancy Thai sauce — if you choose to use your time this way. But on week days, I recommend concentrating on efficiency.
Tips: A recipe is efficient if it doesn’t take much time, or if it cooks by itself and allows you to do other things meanwhile. My free 12-page PDF contains examples of turbo efficient recipes of delicious and healthy food, scroll down for more.
6. Get a dishwasher. Time saved: up to 2h 20min / week.
Get a dishwasher, if you don’t already have one. Especially, if you live alone, or otherwise have a small household. It is a common fallacy to think that if you live alone, “there is so little to wash” that you don’t need a dishwasher. The simple truth is that there is more stuff per person to wash, if you are alone versus if there are two of you, and for two it is more than for three etc. For instance, you need only one frying pan and cutting board whether there are one or two of you. Always wait until your dishwasher is completely full before you put it on, even if it takes two days. You will not only save time this way, but also electricity and water. You will save 10-20 minutes a day by purchasing this magic device. “But I like doing the dishes” is a bad excuse.
Tips: Put everything you possibly can into it. The only exceptions are delicate items like very sensitive ceramic knives, thin craft glass items or wooden cutting boards (plastic are OK). Always wait until it’s full before running it to save electricity and water. It won’t stink, if you rinse the plates before setting them in.
7. Learn to say “NO”!
When Arnold Schwarzenegger prepares for a screenplay, he doesn’t do anything except reading the script during the day. And it is not because he hasn’t anything else to do. Not only it is good to have a short to-do list, but also limit the time allocated to the task. So why would you get more done, if you have less time and shorter to-do lists? Because if you have the whole day to do one thing, you might find yourself postponing it until it’s too late (maybe A is not susceptible to that one?), but if you allocate a specific time and stick to it, you will be more efficient. When the resources are scarce, your brain is forced find ways to get the most out of them. On the other hand, if your to-do list for the day is too long, chances are that you get stressed and distracted and end up procrastinating even more.
Tips: Train yourself to notice the unnecessary tasks on the one hand and the distracting but important ones on the other in your to-do list. Throw the unnecessary ones out of the window and combine all the important-distracting ones into one and do them as one block. My forthcoming little e-book explains the right mind set for this.
8. Eliminate unnecessary decisions.
There is a reason why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same T-shirt every day. The reason, according to him, is: “I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible”. A decision is unnecessary for example when making it doesn’t really matter. For example in a grocery store, if you try to decide between two types of bean cans neither of which you have ever tried before, the outcome is independent on your decision, because it’s almost like throwing dice.
Tips: Eat the same breakfast at least on weekdays. Have fixed times in a week allocated to sports and other hobbies; choose them wisely so you are not tempted to rethink them.
9. Find things that you love to do and do them.
This is the most valuable advice on this page. When Peter Jackson hired animators for Lord of the Rings, they had to convince him that this movie will be the most important thing in their life during these three years. These people enjoyed their jobs. People are notoriously more efficient in doing what they love and what they are motivated in than in anything else. You might find it extreme, but I have always refused to do things I don’t like or want to do. The only things that you should do, that are painful and unpleasant, are those that are driven by higher goals which you find excruciatingly important . If you are writing your PhD, because you love science and want to crush it, then you will tolerate (or barely notice) the pain associated with the hardcore work; while if, in your heart, you don’t care about science or scientific career, the pain will be hundred-fold and you will barely progress. As soon as a certain thing becomes an obsession for you, you don’t have to think about saving time for it, you will automatically spend every spare moment on it anyway.
Tip: I hope that reading this post will save you hundred-fold more time than you spent reading it. However, these tips work, only if you take action and incorporate them in your life. I am currently developing a short “Lord of Time” PDF where I talk about the three most important principles and mind sets which are essential in making time your slave. I will give to my subscribers for free.