I was going to start this blog with a quote about how precious time is, but after a quick Google search for “time quotes” that seemed kind of unnecessary. Just about every majorly quotable person has said something about time and how we use it (or don’t use it) and it seems pretty clear that we’re all on the same page: Time is the most valuable, fleeting commodity we have and, much like Bill Murray movies, there never seems to be quite enough of it. We all marvel at that select group of high-functioning individuals who seem to be able to achieve so much with the exact same 24 hours afforded to us every day. Perhaps my favourite response to “I don’t have time” comes from Gary Vaynerchuck. There’s some language that’s a little NSFW, but the sentiment is real: Everyone has time, stop watching f***ing Lost.
Now, does this mean you should live your life like a non-stop automaton, never allowing yourself a second for personal growth or relaxation? No. But it does highlight the importance of taking real stock of how much of your time is spent inefficiently, probably without you even knowing it. Now I’ve never been a big fan of the “self help” mentality, but over the past few weeks I have challenged myself to follow three things to make better use of my time and so far I gotta tell you, they’re helping a lot.
1. Stop Procrastinating
As an avid, life-long procrastinator I know full well that this is easier said than done, but completing tasks immediately as opposed to letting them pile up can take a mountain of stress off your shoulders and save you time in the long run. Things always seem to take longer when you leave them until the last possible minutes. Start with small things. Wash a dish right after you use it. Make a phone call you need to make when you think of it, not a few hours later. You’d be amazed at how these small behavioral patterns will eventually form broader habits that will save you time.
2. Identify your “Peak Times”
I have never been, and will likely never be, a morning person. Between the hours of 9 and 10:30 am I might get a half hour of real work done on a good day. My most productive hours fall between about 7 and 9:30 pm after I’ve worked out and had a few hours to wipe my brain clean from the rest of the day. This is when I get the most work done, so this is when I work the most. It seems logical, but I’m sure you’ve felt it. The restless dread that comes from knowing you have the motivation to do something but convincing yourself that outside of your nine to five isn’t “work time”. Figure out at what point during the day you’re likely to achieve the most and DO IT. You’ll find yourself getting three hours of work done in one simply because of your mental state.
3. Make a Checklist
Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and actually writing out exactly what you need to get done in a given week is just what the disorganized monkey in your brain (don’t kid yourself, we all have one) needs to find a track and stay on it. The more detailed and step-by-step the list, the quicker you will accomplish the task at hand. Imagine you’re putting together Ikea furniture if that helps. With a few vague illustrations and a general idea of what the thing is suppose to look like, you’ll probably be able to put something resembling a dresser in a few days. Throw in some actual detailed instructions and you’ll have that puppy done in an hour.
Write yourself better Ikea instructions.
Well there you have it, my three ways of skinning the cat that is the average work week. I can’t imagine a point in the foreseeable future when any one of us will get more that our allotted 86,400 seconds in a day, but what we do get is to choose how we manage those seconds in order to get the most out of our day and ultimately, our lives. Time is precious and, much like change in the couch cushions, we typically have more of it than we think. It’s just a matter of believing that and knowing where to look when the pizza guy arrives.
Read more from Conrad Hewitt.