How to Get More Time Back in Your Day

Have you ever wondered “What can I do to be more effective?” Well, what if I told you being effective isn’t enough. Keep reading or check out the video below to find out how to get more time back in your day and how to make everyday productive with my 5 tips to be crazy efficient. Stay tuned to the end where I have a free bonus download for you!

So, what’s the difference between being effective and efficient and should we focus on one over the other? The word effective focuses on whether or not something is accomplished. It doesn’t focus on how something is done, but it’s more about it getting done at all.

And then being efficient, well that focuses on how something is done. If you’re efficient, you do things quickly and with as little effort as possible.

So, if you’re effective, then you accomplished your task. Way to go!

how to be effective

And if you’re efficient, it means you accomplished your task with the added bonus of accomplishing that task with little wasted time and effort. 

how to be efficient

So, the ultimate goal should be gaining efficiency because then not only are you accomplishing all your tasks, but you’re also accomplishing them in a super awesome way.

You don’t have to be a machine to be efficient. I want to share 5 tips that can help you be crazy efficient in your life, whether it be at work or at home.

// tip #1: get the hardest tasks done early in the day

I have been praised on my efficiency and although I take pride in that I don’t make myself crazy over trying to be efficient on every single project I work on. I am selective on where I put my efficiency efforts. And to be efficient means to not procrastinate. And what do most of us procrastinate about? The things that are the hardest and take the most effort to complete. The best way to get past this is to conquer those difficult tasks first thing in your day. This has the benefit of using that morning focus time to check that huge task off your list for the day and then all that other stuff on the list seems simple compared to that big one. 

Action item 1: When you plan your day, make a list first thing in the morning and then prioritize in the order of most difficult to least difficult and check those hard ones off your list first.

// tip #2: Prioritize EVEN harder

Ok, so that first tip is great if you have one big project and lots of other little tasks to accomplish for the day. But what if you have 3, 4 or even 5 or more big projects that you feel “or were told” need to get done today? 

The Eisenhower Matrix, was used by Dwight Eisenhower to make decisions during his time as a general, and this method was mentioned in Stephen Covey’s book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you take a look at this when you have multiple top priority projects you are trying to get done, this will help you organize your to-dos based on their importance and urgency. 

Look at the bottom right quadrant. If you’re spending time on things that aren’t important or urgent? Ignore those things.

Now look at the bottom left quadrant. If you’re spending your day doing things that are urgent but not important? You can be more efficient by looking for ways to delegate, automate, or eliminate those tasks. 

Look at the top right quadrant. Are you making time to work on things that are important, but not urgent? These are the items that can come later in the day after you have finished your most important and urgent tasks that are in the upper left quadrant.

eisenhower matrix

In a Vanity Fair interview while he was President, Barack Obama said that he never makes a decision about what to wear:

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits, I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Picking out his clothes and food were not urgent and not important, so he made it as simple as possible by removing the time spent on making those choices. 

Just taking the time to prioritize and plan before conquering your day with these methods can really help your day be more productive and can help you finish things quicker, leaving more time at the end of the day.

Action item 2: Follow the Eisenhower Matrix for tasks that seem of equal importance.

// tip #3: use sprints to get stuff done

So, the first two tips were all about the beginning of your day and how to plan and make the day as efficient as possible. Now we are on to the work.

Have you ever heard of a sprint? It is something I learned about in agile training, which is a way to be really efficient in getting large projects done in a team setting. But you can do a sprint all on your own. We all know procrastinating and distractions are a thing, but how can we effectively get past these obstacles? Sprints are a form of time blocking. You set yourself up to work for a short period of time and then give yourself frequent breaks. The benefit of these sprints is that it’s easy to give yourself a push to get started when you know there’s a clear stopping and starting point.

When you complete a sprint, you can take a quick break, get a snack, step away from your desk and recharge. And then start a second sprint. You keep going until you are done with your project. This will set you up for success because it is so easy for the mind to wander when we are doing something and even more tempting to let it wander when it is a complicated task. It’s kind of like a marathon, but those breaks will not leaving you completely passed out by the end of the marathon, so that you actually have the energy to move on to those smaller tasks once you are done. I recommend using a timer to get through these sprints. 

The human body operates on 120-minute biological intervals throughout the day called ultradian rhythms. During the first 90 minutes of the interval, your mental energy peaks, and after that, your mental energy drops for 30 minutes. They say to maximize speed and productivity, you should work in 90 minute sprints when your naturally energized, followed by a 30 minute rest period when your body is naturally tired. Then you can take full advantage of your body’s natural energy.

ultradian rhythm

It sounds like an interesting method to try, but I usually just do my own estimates and use my Forest app to help me keep track. I mentioned this app in my “How to be Crazy Productive” post, but it is the best one I have found. In the Forest app, it is a game where you grow trees for each time you time block. Then you kill trees when you pick up your phone. So, if your phone is your main distraction from being efficient, and you like the idea of building a little virtual forest, this is the app for you. What is really cool is that Forest partners with a real-tree-planting organization, Trees for the Future, to plant real trees on the earth. When you spend virtual coins earned in the app for staying focused, the Forest team donates money, so that real trees can be planted.

forest app

Action item 3: set a timer for sprints during your day.

// tip #4: Get your space right

If you’re going to be awesome and get all this stuff done, do you really see this happening in a noisy coffee shop with coffee drips all over the papers scattered on the tiny table and not to mention the sketchy wifi connection? No. You need a quiet, clean, reliable and organized environment to help make you as efficient in your tasks as possible.

Plan ahead and have order in your workspace. Clear the clutter from your work area because this can prevent you from finding what you need. Not knowing what you have buried in the piles of junk can hinder your productivity becauase you're constantly struggling to find specific tools or documents in all the clutter and that means your precious time is being wasted. You will also want to put away anything that might distract you, like your phone, or games.

What you DO want on your desk are all the supplies and tools you need to do your job. This means preparing ahead and immediately adding it to your shopping list if you run out of something. That way you will never have to cut into your sprints because you don’t have the proper supplies.

One other thing I do to get my space right, is I sometimes listen to music or white noise and have found that I work a little faster that way. The key to this is to pick music that doesn’t have lyrics. So classical, instrumental, spa type music or other chill type music works well.

There have been studies on ambient noises (like ocean or nature type sounds) that say those are the best types to work to. This music can work well for getting through a sprint. But this will be different for everyone and also depends on the type of project you are working on, so try different sound levels and types of music and see what works best for you. White noise and those other types of music I mentioned work because it’s constant. It sounds the same, so your brain gets used to it. This boosts your focus on the current task, which allows you to work faster.

Action item 4: clean and tidy your workspace and find some ambient music.

// tip #5: Get comfortable being uncomfortable

What I mean by this is that if you are following the other tips, you’re going to have to change the way you do things to be more efficient. 

You will have to form new habits, set time aside in the morning to plan, clean up your work space and conquer difficult tasks head on. 

That is a lot of work and hard work makes us feel uncomfortable. So, the first thing to do is get comfortable with the idea of change. We all procrastinate when it comes to challenges in life and things don’t just happen overnight. They take practice and hard work. So if you try these tips for a day and they don’t work out, don’t just say, “Oh, being efficient just isn’t for me.” Try again another day, maybe you just weren’t having a good day and didn’t have the right mindset. It’s ok. I have days where I’m not efficient too and I don’t beat myself up about that. It’s ok, we just move on and try again.

Action item 5: Download the free reminder sheet!

So, here’s that bonus I mentioned at the beginning of the video that will help you stay on track with making your life as crazy efficient as possible. I created a free printable that you can download and set on your clean and tidy desk to remind you of these 5 tips to be more efficient. I think having a reminder sitting there will help you out. If you try these tips out, I would love to know how they worked for you in the comments section below, or follow me on Instagram @artsycupcake1.

If you have any topics you would like to see me cover in this work/life balance series, make sure to share them with me in the comments section below. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have a very happy day! 

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