“Get more done by doing this!” “Do this and be more productive!” Just two of the common headlines in the productivity space.
The rebel in me usually feels like she needs to do the opposite when I see everyone doing something. That’s not always a smart thing to do.
But when it comes to career, business, or productivity, it usually pays off if you do what’s counterintuitive. So while everybody’s focused on doing more—what about doing the opposite? What if you start doing less? What if instead of adding more to your list, you remove things from it?
I started this when I was getting increasingly busy in my corporate job. As I’m learning to work around my adult ADHD and run my business from home while writing for others and learning to drive a car, I came back to it. By removing all those inconsequential things to make space for things that actually matter.
There are essentially 4 things I found one can remove from their life to gain approximately 20 extra hours each week. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?
4 Things to eliminate from your day to save time
Unnecessary screen time
Do you also fall into the trap of endless scrolling and mindless browsing? We often forget how much time we spend on our screens. And that’s aside from the time we spend in front of a screen at the office. So what can you do to minimize screen time, even if your work is mostly screen-based?
- Set a specific time for checking social media or emails, etc, and stick to these times. I have an app on my phone that blocks any other app if I’m using them over my self-imposed daily limit.
- Keep your phone away when you’re working. Or at least put it on DND, so the notifications can not distract you.
- Don’t bring your phone to bed with you. Not only will it help you to get up easier, without snoozing because it will be out of reach but your sleep will be undisturbed as well, which will result in better productivity the next day.
Uncertain morning hours
Talking about sleep and waking up, how you spend your morning is important. If you don’t plan your day before and do not ground and center yourself before starting your day, you most likely will end up stressed, anxious or overwhelmed because you end up in reactive mode. When I spend my first waking hours “right,” which is usually between 6 and 9 in the morning, I feel that I have more energy and focus throughout the day. But you don’t have to be an early bird to benefit from a good morning routine. Even if you get up at 2 p.m., the right tasks can help you tremendously. When you wake up not knowing what you’ll do, you’re more likely to procrastinate or stay in bed for too long or browse your phone.
I also love to plan my day in the morning. Nothing serious, just a few minutes thinking about the main things I want to or have to get done that day, so I know how to orient myself. That leads me to the next point.
Your to-do list
Sounds crazy, right? Everyone keeps a list of things to get done, so they don’t forget them and I just told you to plan your day ahead… But a cluttered to-do list leads to decision fatigue, which gets you stressed. When you’re faced with too many things to do, you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed. How often do you have tasks on your list that shouldn’t even be there? The point is to not to become a robot who just can’t function without lists. Be intentional when writing such lists and only focus on tasks that are really important and make a significant impact on your day/life. Like this you’ll spare more time by ditching unimportant tasks, writing and obsessing about lists. I found I could accomplish more in less time this way. Instead of going through lists I dedicate one hour for each important task when I only focus on that one thing. Usually, one hour is even more than what I need to get them done.
There are so many things we have to do every day. For me it’s mostly writing emails. Often I end up writing a very similar email to many people and I spend so much time typing the same sentences. This is something I took advantage of while I was working in an office or at the service desk. I just made templates for myself and copy+pasted it every time I needed it. It only took few seconds and I saved minutes by not having to type it again. Softwares and AI are becoming better at automating repetitive tasks. AI assistants can remind you of tasks, take notes during meetings, make recommendations for restaurants, manage your calendar, and even create expense reports. (Think: no more looking up “Mother’s Day brunch” restaurants the night before Mother’s Day.) So far, many of these tools are inexpensive or free. You can use them as well, if you agree with their existence.
There are tasks that don’t have to be done personally by me. I love to outsource them or swap tasks with others. Taking the mail to the post can be done by someone who will walk by it on their way home. What we also loved to do in the office was sharing tasks during lunch break. Someone prepared dishes, someone else heated up the food, another washed them. This requires a bit of logistics and teamwork and willingness to share your lunch, but in the long run it saved time and it can be applied to other things as well.
Imagine what could you do with your extra hours daily, weekly or even in the whole month? You gain better focus on the creative aspects of your career, be with loved ones more, pick up a new hobby, or simply relax and recharge yourself. As I was writing this article I calculated that I spare about 20 hours a week with these tricks, and they do not cost anything but a bit of focus. There are two things in our life that is hard to gain back when they’re lost: our health and our time. So be wise and take care of both. Spend time with the things that really matter and add to your life.
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Photo: Jess Bailey via Unsplash