Everyone could benefit from having a little more time in their day. Whether you work full-time, are a parent or student, work a side hustle, or all of the above, time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted.
While we often feel overwhelmed by the lack of time, most of us can admit that we find ourselves still wasting time in one way or another. How can we optimize our time and prevent wasting it? Here are 20 tips to minimize wasting time.
1) Make a List of Everything You Need to Accomplish
It can be challenging to prioritize or even know where to start without a list of everything that must be accomplished.
Taking the time to make a list can seem counteractive, but in the long run, having a written out list saves time and ensures no task is missed.
If your list seems overwhelming, try splitting it up into categories. For example, I have a blogging, freelance writing, chores, and personal goal to-do list. This helps me move fluidly from one task to another, and splits up my day by task.
2) Start Your Day Earlier
The quiet hours of the morning are the perfect opportunity to focus on items on your to-do list. There are few distractions at this time of day, and you’ll be fresh and focused.
Further, waking up a few minutes earlier will allow you to be more focused, energized, and organized during the day, resulting in less wasted time.
3) Schedule Time for Interruptions
Interruptions not only take time away from your priorities, but unexpected interruptions make it hard to get back on track to accomplish your original tasks.
You can plan for interruptions by scheduling time for them, and planning to accomplish less during the day. If your coworkers constantly pop by your desk, plan a few minutes to stop by their office to chat during a time that works for you. If your schedule is somewhat dependent on your superior’s, schedule out a few hours every day dedicated to tasks that they assign throughout the day.
4) Declutter Your Space
Clutter can really slow you down because you waste time sorting through it. Clutter is also very distracting and can be a time waster.
By taking time to declutter your work space, you’ll not only have fewer distractions, but you will increase your focus.
5) Organize Your Files
When you are in a hurry, it is tempting to save a document to your desktop, or throw all of your paper files into a pile. But this makes it incredibly hard to find anything. All the time you spend looking for specific files accumulates, making this disorganization a huge time waster.
Try to file everything systematically right when you are finished with it. If you are really in a hurry, set it aside, but spend a few minutes every evening before you leave to file it away. Your future self will thank you for this small act of organization.
6) Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
If you work in any sort of team, or have employees directly under you, delegating can save you hours upon hours of time. It isn’t always easy for many of us to delegate, but the willingness to give up control and let someone else take the reins on a project means one more task completely off our plate.
In a professional setting, delegating is particularly important. For someone high up in a company, it can be a waste of time and the company’s money for them to think they can do it all.
7) Turn Off Your Notifications
How many times a day do you get distracted and off track because an email popped up or someone called you?
Turning off notifications prevents distractions and makes it easier to complete one task at a time. Plus, disconnecting helps reduce stress.
8) Hide Your Phone
Perhaps the biggest time wasters of all, personal smartphones offer thousands of distractions, all within an arm’s reach.
One way to prevent wasting time on your smartphone is to only allow yourself to check your email and social media accounts at certain times of the day, like in the morning or on your lunch break. Social media in particular can be a difficult habit to break, but once you do, you’ll be amazed at how much more time you gain.
9) Track Your Time
All of us have time that somehow escapes us. By using a time tracker, you’ll be able to take an honest look about where your time is being spent and where you can improve.
You can use online time trackers like Asana or a spreadsheet like this one to see how you spend your time.
10) Schedule Out Your Day
It can be tempting to waste time that isn’t scheduled. If you find schedules to be restricting, then plan out a general timeline of events for the day and when you plan to finish your tasks. And don’t forget to schedule in time to relax!
11) Fill Your Schedule
One way to prevent wasting time is to give yourself less time to waste. It might seem counter intuitive, studies show that busier people accomplish more in less time.
While filling your schedule is one tactic to prevent wasted time, take caution to not overfill your schedule. We all have limits, and it’s about finding what works for you.
12) Rethink Meetings
Meetings are often scheduled frequently, but don’t always accomplish much. With so many people, opinions, and side discussions, meetings can be a time waster.
If you are able, consider other options for meetings, such as virtually calling in instead of attending, shortening meetings, or canceling them all together. If you must hold group meetings, make sure everyone is prepared and read through a detailed agenda beforehand, and avoid straying from the plan.
13) Stay Healthy
Think of the days where you are tired, sick, or not feeling 100%. Isn’t it difficult to accomplish much on those days?
By making the effort to stay healthy, you can be at the top of your game every day, and can actually accomplish more in less time. Adequate sleep, eating wholesome foods, and taking a few minutes a day to exercise all help you save time, and have a ton of other long-term benefits.
14) Learn to Say No
By saying yes to everyone else, you are having to put someone else’s priority as one of yours. While saying yes can open up a lot of doors, it can be a time waster if it isn’t something you value. It’s okay to say no to someone, an event, or a project that isn’t valuable to you.
15) Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking, when done effectively, can be a significant time saver. The problem is that it is difficult to multitask effectively.
If you are trying to juggle two tasks of equal importance, one will not get the attention it requires if you are multitasking. Instead of falling into the multitasking trap, practice focusing on one task at a time and fluidly move to the next.
16) Automate Your Life
Are there things you spend time on that could be done automatically? Things like paying bills and budgeting, organizing your emails, or posting to social media for your side hustle can all be done automatically through Hootsuite.
17) Improve Your Focus
One way to check tasks off a list even faster is to work on improving your focus. Focus is different for everyone. For example, I feel most focused when I am listening to music but in a public place, like a coffee shop.
Experiment and figure out how you best focus and implement it every time you need to accomplish tasks quickly and effectively.
18) Streamline Your Week
Have you ever considered how you could streamline your week to save time? If you look ahead at your week, what tasks could you do back to back to waste less time?
For example, maybe you could spend Saturday morning running all of your errands instead of running one errand every night after work. Or you could keep a list of groceries and household items you need, so you only have to make one trip to the store during the week. Thinking ahead and streamlining your tasks eliminates the time spent transitioning from one task to another, making it a big time saver.
19) Adjust Your System
To make the most of the time you have, you might have to take an in depth look at your current systems and routines. Are there anyways you can better optimize your time? Any time wasters you didn’t realize you even had?
Breaking habits isn’t always easy, but we often waste a lot of time on these habits. Adjust your system and habits and you might be surprised how much more time you have.
20) Schedule Time for Yourself
Perhaps most important of all, scheduling time to yourself during the day is vital. Without scheduling in free time, burnout is inevitable and productivity slows drastically.
Schedule time daily for yourself to do something you truly enjoy and that refreshes you. Knowing you have free time scheduled for yourself makes distractions less tempting, and it won’t leave you feeling suppressed by by your schedule.
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How do you eliminate wasting time? Where could you improve your time management skills? Or do you have any other tips you would add?