When you think about how much time you have, it’s easy to assume that you don’t have very much time at all. You probably feel busy, running from place to place, trying to get everything done. The truth, though, is that you likely waste more time than you think.
Capture that wasted time, and turn it into productive time.
Define What “Productive” Means to You
One of the first things you need to do is decide what “productive” means to you. We all have different ideas of what it means to be productive. And, in this case, “productive” doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing something that earns you money, or that results in some sort of material gain.
In my mind, productive time also includes the time I spend cleaning the house, enjoying quality time with my son and/or husband, and even the time I spend relaxing or working on self-improvement. The time I spend with a book in the evening, or the time I spend meditating during the day, is considered productive to me, since I am doing something that I enjoy, and it is helping me maintain my sanity.
Figure out what it means to you to be productive. Consider the activities that you consider meaningful, whether you are taking your child to an extracurricular activity, unwinding in front of the TV with your significant other, or working on a side hustle. It’s important to figure out what you consider “good” uses of your time before you start trying to figure out how much time is wasted.
Track Your Time to Identify Waste
Now that you know what constitutes a productive use of your time, it’s time to track your time use. A few years ago, when I was trying to figure out how I used my time, I used a small notebook and a pen to track my time use. It fit in my purse, and I could take it anywhere. Now, there are a number of apps you can use to keep track of your time. You can use a note-taking app, or even use some sort of timer on your favorite mobile device to keep track of where you are spending your time.
After tracking your time use for a couple of weeks, go back through and figure out where the waste might be. Are you spending time doing something that doesn’t enrich your life in some way? Not too long ago, I noticed that sometimes I lost entire half-hours of time just surfing the Internet. I wasn’t doing it for any particular reason; I was just sort of doing it. I also realized that I often checked my email multiple times a day. I don’t like doing those things. Just dipping around on the Internet doesn’t help my career, or bring me much enjoyment, and I can check my email twice a day and catch most things that require my attention.
Look for things that you’re doing that are taking up time, but not providing you with anything you can use to improve your financial situation, relationships, or even yourself. Since I’d rather play the piano or guitar than gaze mindlessly at the computer screen, I’ve started developing the habit of moving to the piano once I realize that I have the urge to check my email, or look at my blog stats one more time.
If you look back through your time diary, chances are that you will find instances where you have spent time doing things that are both unnecessary and unenjoyable. While we sometimes have to do unpleasant things to progress in life, there’s no reason to do something that you don’t like doing if you don’t have to. Instead, replace the unnecessary and unenjoyable things with activities that enhance your life in some fashion.
Once you know how you want to spend your time, and then identify the activities that prevent you from spending your time that way, you can begin to make substantial changes in your lifestyle so that it is closer to the one you want.
So, how do you try to get more out of your time?