5 Speedy Strategies to Maximize Your Time
My Hogwart’s acceptance letter must have gotten lost in the mail because I’m sadly incapable of casting spells to make dreams come true.
But my clients still expect me to whip out my magic wand and give them the things they want most: more money and more time.
And despite my lack of wizardy powers, I still have some tricks up my sleeve.
Getting more money is the easy part. Money is a renewable resource because you can always make more money. In fact—the Treasury prints more money every day!
But time is a non-renewable resource. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make more time.
And no white-haired scientist is going to drive up in his Delorean and take you on an adventure into the past.
It’s up to us to maximize the limited time we have. It’s about working smarter, not harder.
Here are 5 speedy strategies to maximize your time.
Batch Your Schedule
I stole this idea from The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. Batching involves grouping like tasks together to save time. That means answering all your emails at once instead of throughout your work day, making all your phone calls one after another, or having your meetings in quick succession.
You’ll save time by not switching your concentration and mental focus between various tasks.
As for me, I batch all my social media interactions at one time because I’ll never get anything done if I’m checking Facebook and Pinterest all day long. Some of my clients batch their household chores together or prepare all their meals for the week on Sundays.
Which similar tasks can you batch together in your schedule?
Use Your Commute
I had a client who was having an awful time getting out the door in the morning to start her 50-minute drive to work. But seriously, would YOU be excited to start a drive like that every morning?
She hated losing those precious morning minutes when she could be doing something more productive. You know, like maybe some self-care. We had to figure out a way to (1) get her to work and (2) give her extra time to do what she wanted to do.
Most people look down on public transportation, but that was the best solution for my client.
She hopped on the bus in the morning, which happened to take the same amount of time as her drive. Since she no longer had to concentrate on the road, she was able to read, look over her to-do list, do a silent meditation with a phone app, or even zone out with some mental dress rehearsing.
How can you rearrange your commute to better use your time? What would you rather be doing in the morning before you start your work day?
Restructure Your Meetings
Ah, meetings. The bane of your existence, right? Most people dread going to meetings because they’re tedious, long, and pointless—how many meetings have you been to where nothing is decided on at the end?
It’s time to give meaning to your meetings.
Here are the essential components of a good meeting:
- Participants who truly belong there. Only invite those people who are intimately involved with the project. Is there a way you can skip a meeting and get the summary later?
- A short and sweet agenda. Use bullet points to organize the items and avoid lengthy descriptions or unnecessary filler.
- A leader. Every good meeting needs someone to reign in the side conversations and keep the meeting moving forward.
- A note-taker. Have someone take notes for the folks who couldn’t make it and so you don’t lose track of any next steps. Speaking of which…
- Next steps. Don’t schedule another follow-up meeting to assign tasks! Stop the meeting 5 minutes early and give clear action steps to the attendees.
What can you do before your next meeting to make sure it won’t waste your time?
Tame Your Emails
You’re probably thinking I’m going to tell you not to check your emails in the morning and instead dive right into your most important work. That’s what a responsible life editor would do, right?
Nuh uh! You MUST check your email in the morning.
Starting your work only to find out later in an email that you didn’t have to do that work is a horrible feeling. I know, it’s happened to me many times. That’s why you have to check emails in the morning…but do it the right way.
First, set a timer for 5 minutes and open your email inbox. When you check your email, you’re doing just that—checking them. You’re not responding to them, organizing them, or acting on them.
Scan your emails for messages that could be important (be honest with yourself). If there’s something that needs an immediate response, such as your boss needing an answer within the next 30 minutes, then respond quickly and be done with it.
Be brutal when assessing an email’s importance.
Many of the emails we think need immediate attention can actually wait a couple hours until you start your work day. If you see an important email, mark it or flag it so you can find it quickly later.
When your 5 minutes are up, close your email and get moving on your next project.
How many minutes will you save every morning by checking your email the right way?
Start Your Morning Tonight
Much of your stress in the morning can easily be avoided by doing some prep work the night before. I know the couch is calling your name, and all you want to do is relax! But spending a few minutes getting organized at night will save you tons of time when you’re rushing out the door.
Try a nightly cleanup, pack your bag at night, prep your breakfast and lunch if you can, and map out your to-do list. Remember to choose your 3 main priorities for the next day so you’re not ruminating about what needs to get done while you’re trying to sleep.
What can you do tonight to save time tomorrow?
It should come as no surprise that my most downloaded free worksheet is a time log. I’m all about helping you find your lost minutes. They’re hiding right in front of you, and a little sleuthing can help you use them to your advantage.
Find your lost minutes with my Where Does My Time Go? worksheet. Enter your name and email below to download the free worksheet. Part of the Editor’s Toolkit.
First, record your activities in half-hour increments for an entire day. Later, determine whether each activity is urgent + important, not urgent + important, urgent + not important, or not urgent + not important.
Once you’ve categorized all your activities, take an honest look at where you spend your time and make plans to spend more of your time tomorrow on activities that are truly important to you.
Your homework: Choose the speedy strategy that will help you maximize your time the most and implement it this week.
How do you maximize your time?
This post focuses on Step 4 of the Life Editing Process, Rearrange Everything Into a Perfect Flow. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.
The Editor’s Toolkit
- Free Workshop: 3 Simple Steps to Become a Productivity Superstar
- 25+ Printable Worksheets
- 6 Life Editing Ebooks
- My Favorite Books and Resources
I wrote about this very thing on my blog. I will have to update my post and add a link to your page. I think it was your log page that I pulled off the internet that gave me three hours every day to work. If I had not used your budget I would still be misspending them and feeling stuck Thank you. Now I am building a blog and working on a book while homeschooling 10 kids. Time is there. You just aren’t using the right tool to find it.
I love that you said check email in the morning! I’ve totally almost had that happen to me when I did something I didn’t need to. I might have to download that worksheet! Although…. maybe I don’t want to know where all my time is going, IF you know what I mean 😉
Really great post full of useful tips. Productivity is an area I need to work on. I’m an exceptional procrastinator 😉
I think most of us are procrastinators. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Holly!
Great post! Batch scheduling has changed my life + made me so much more efficient! I still have trouble with email though – people tend to think you are always available + I find this incredibly stressful. Thanks for sharing all of these tips!
Awesome! Batch scheduling totally makes sense, and it’s easier to do all those tedious tasks at once instead of constantly needing to go back to them. Thanks for commenting, Rachel!
This is such a great idea! I’ve been feeling stressed with trying to get so many things done. I’m actually looking for a job closer to home which would mean an extra 45 minutes a day! I love your idea of prioritizing tasks!
Thanks, Laura! An extra 45 minutes a day is significant. That’s almost an extra 4 hours a week to do what you want to do. Good luck with your job search! 🙂
Using your commute is such a good strategy! My husband is studying a language right now, but having a hard time making time to study, so although he also likes to sit down with his books, he does keep the cd set that we have in the car so he can listen to the cds and learn on the way to work and back!
That’s a great idea–use your commute for learning! I like listening to audiobooks and podcasts during commutes too.
When I lived in London I *loved* using the Tube so I could catch up on reading, writing, or listening to podcasts. Living in NW Arkansas I see so much wasted time driving around when a good train ride could be so productive. More places in America really need to get on the public transportation band wagon. 🙂
Hi Sarah! I agree, more people should take advantage of public transportation. I’m always more relaxed and focused after a calming ride on the bus or train than when I have to drive myself. Thanks for commenting!
Sage, I have been trying to edit my life for a while now and have subscribed to a dozen “coaching” newsletters, but nobody has clicked with me the way you have! Thank you so much, you are awesome!
Hi Richelle! Oh my gosh, you just made my day! I was wonderful connecting with you during April’s workshop last weekend. Thanks for commenting! 🙂
This Is exactly what I needed to read. I feel like I never have time to get anything done but I also realize I need to do things differently in order to be more productive. Thanks for sharing these great tips! I found them much more detailed than other time saving tips I’ve read.
Hi Cole! I’m glad you liked this blog post. I re-evaluate my schedule about once a quarter to make sure I’m using my time wisely. Sometimes just a few tweaks is all we need to become super productive.
This is such a great post Sage! My responsibilities at work just changed… basically me doing two people’s work in fewer hours so these time management tips will help tremendously! Once again you are in my head 😉
Eek! That doesn’t sound so good. I hope you’re getting paid more if you’re doing the work of 2 people. What other things to you do (or not do) when you need to get more done in a shorter amount of time?
No more pay, in fact, my hours have been cut and I think he wants to cut more. Not good. The editing has been suffering because of all of the other office and album work that I have to do now. I have no time to get it done. It is really frustrating but it is what it is for the moment.