10 Tips for Freeing Up More Time for Yourself

by Henrik Edberg

Image by gadl.“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.”
Charles Richards

One of the big difficulties in life and with self-improvement is to find time.

Of course, the time is the same for everyone. Everyone gets 24 hours a day.

People just use their time in different ways.

Here are just a few tips on how you can find more time in your day to do what you actually want to do.

1. Investigate how you actually spend your days.

Use a pen, paper – or your computer – and a watch. Find out how you actually spend your days. Not how you might think you are spending them. You may be surprised at how much time you use for different things (especially things you don’t really find that interesting or valuable). For more on this have a look at Where Is Your Time Really Going?

2. Realise that you don’t have to do everything you do.

And that the sky might not fall if you do/don’t do something. This one’s a biggie. One thing that’s stopping people from improving themselves or just finding time for themselves is all the things they ”have” to do. You don’t really have to do anything.

Try to look at it as you choosing what to do instead.

Of course, if you choose to do or not to do something there will be consequences. Sometimes big, sometimes small. Sometimes bad, sometimes good. Sometimes one thing disguised as the opposite. :)

But the point is to take control of your life and feel like you choose. Instead of having your world choosing and controlling your life. This makes it easier to find out what isn’t really that important and eliminate or reduce to free up time for more interesting things.

3. Use Parkinson’s Law.

You can do things quicker than you think. This law says that a task will expand in time and seeming complexity depending on the time you set aside for it. For instance, if you say to yourself that you’ll come up with a solution within a week then the problem will seem to grow more difficult and you’ll spend more and more time trying to come up with a solution.

So focus your time on finding solutions. Then just give yourself an hour (instead of the whole day) or the day (instead of the whole week) to solve the problem. This will force your mind to focus on solutions and action.

4. Reduce your information intake.

This is pretty crucial. To find time to develop yourself you will probably need to cut out some TV, news, magazines, and papers from your life. Especially if you consume a lot of one or more of those things. This can free up loads of time. Still, you may want to watch your favourite shows or read the paper. On to the next tip for a solution…

5. Combine for more than one benefit.

If you want to watch your favourite TV-shows, watch them while doing some exercise on for example a Stairmaster. Or you can meet a couple of your friends and enjoy their company while having a friendly badminton-match (for some exercise) or while shopping (for some great new pants or DVDs).

You can also consume different kinds of information during small time gaps in your normal day. Listen to an audiobook while on the bus or in the car instead of doing it at home. Watch a new episode of your favourite show on your Ipod or cell phone while spending time in some boring waiting room.

6. Ask yourself throughout the day: Is this useful?

A lot of the time we just keep busy and don’t even realise it. Question what you are doing throughout the day and you might realise that you could do something better with your time (no matter if it’s at work or at home). To remember to actually ask yourself useful questions your can use external reminders such as notes, screensavers and accessories.

7. Show up.

Instead of procrastinating, instead of thinking, instead of hoping someone else will do it or take an initiative, instead of rationalising and inventing excuses for not doing something establish the habit of just doing it.

Just show up and do what you need to do. Most of the time you need to do it anyway sometime in the future and until you are more or less forced you’ll just waste a lot of time procrastinating and thinking – and feeling bad – about having to do whatever you need to do. And if you wait for someone else to do something about it can take a lot of time before someone does. Establishing this habit can be a bit difficult if you are used to thinking – or over-thinking – a lot.

One useful way that I’ve found to start to develop this habit is simply to not identify so much with my thoughts and emotions and realize that I can control them instead of the other way around. I still think you should think a bit. But after that it’s most often just better to go and do whatever you want to do. You can read more about this in Just Do It!

8. Single-task.

Maybe multitasking is working out great for you. It didn’t for me. So I try to single-task when I have something to do that requires a lot of focus and brainpower. It might seem like you could do things faster by doing a few things at the same time. But in my experience that leads to confusion, stress and things taking longer to do than if you just single-tasked them one at a time.

9. Work in a cone of silence.

Arrange your working environment so it’s free from existing or possible distractions. And remove what may tempt you to procrastinate. Close the door, remove the internet cable, unplug your phone and clean up visual clutter in your workspace. Then just single-task away. You can read more about this in Use the Cone of Silence to Improve Your Focus.

10. Exercise and eat healthy.

The time you can actively use largely depends upon your energy levels. If you’re wiped out when you get home from work or school then you’ll probably just spend the evening stretched out on the sofa.

By exercising – and eating healthy – your can improve your energy levels. And so you’ll simply have the energy to do more. More in the sense that you’ll get things done quicker since your ability to concentrate goes up with your level of physical fitness. And more in the sense that you’ll have the energy to do something after work.

Plus, by exercising and eating healthy you may be able to avoid quite a bit of time spent being sick. And perhaps even add time to your lifespan.

Image by gadl (license).

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{ 15 comments }

Mike Pedersen Golf November 28, 2007 at 2:05 am

Great tips! Got the exercise down, but maybe need to work on 6 and 8 :)

Kevin November 28, 2007 at 4:22 am

Great article.

I think number one is probably the most important. It’s hard to find extra time until you’ve really sat down and taken a look at what you currently do with all your time.

I’d also like to add to number two. A lot of people spend their time doing things for other people that they’ve been sucked into doing or because they are “yes” people and never say no. The ability to learn to say no is crucial–trying to please everyone will only harm you.

John November 28, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Thanks for the post.

8 and 10 resonated for me. If what works for most doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to try something else. Taking care of the “hardware” also has more benefit than most people think.

Phil W November 28, 2007 at 10:13 pm

Great article!

Recently I changed my sleeping hours from 23-7 to 20-4. This worked out very very well for me! I get a lot more done and do not procrastinate as much. Why?

Because in the evening I was usually too tired (from school day, work, training) to get anything done, and if I tried to do homework I would just fall asleep or get distracted by the television or my family running around.

In the early morning my energy level and concentration is way higher and I feel like I produce a lot more in a shorter period of time. And all the distractions are gone, since there is no good television and I have everything to myself.

And the stress level at morning is now way lower. Instead of waking up 7:45 and stressing around to reach school at 8, I now have 4 hours to prepare :)

Albert | UrbanMonk.Net November 29, 2007 at 6:44 am

Nice post! I think if you dig deeper underneath all the tips, you’ll find that it all boils down to have a purpose and a MAJOR passion. Once you have everything else will begin to fall into place.

Cheers,
Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

Henrik Edberg November 29, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Thanks you all for your encouraging and insightful comments.

Phil: Thanks for sharing your experience with getting out of bed early. Although becoming an early riser isn’t on my todo list for habits I’d like to establish – at the moment at least – I’m still pretty fascinated by the idea.

gamermk November 29, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Excellent post.
Sphunn: http://sphinn.com/story/16188

christine November 30, 2007 at 12:55 pm

For some folks, transitioning from one activity to the next, even when the next activity holds no challenge or displeasure, is not easy. Some folks recognize this in themselves, but some don’t though everyone around them can see it. Some self-searching is in order. You need to be a little brutal to take yourself on.
In addition to the question, Is this useful? , I would also ask, Is this harmful, or holding me back?. Again, it works better if you’re ruthless with yourself. Cut short interaction with people who drag you down. Get rid of TV; not only does it force-feed us negativity in the form of artificially emotional and inflammatory content, but it also takes our dazed mind down the path of practicing that negativity for ourselves. The mind travels down these paths more easily with each practice, so choose your paths with care.
I also try to make decisions based on what my 70 yr old self would say. Will she say “Oh, Christine, why did you spend all that time writing when you could have had a cleaner house?”. I think not.

marcus vinicius December 2, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Great post, like usual.

Our age seems like a age of overload.

There are to much pointless and wasted information in our lives, if we simple don’t get 95% of all information that come to us, we would lost almost nothing anyway.

hugs from brazil.

marcus vinicius
http://www.metaexecutiva.com

Tezza December 5, 2007 at 4:40 am

marcus, you are right. Most information we take in each day is really just noise. News, Tv shows, magazine etc. If we stopped to realise how much of our lives has been spent in the accumulation of this “wasted information” we’d take action on more important things in life.

Jeff - Roadmap to Riches December 17, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Who does not want more time for themselves? This is great advice!

Nathan Ketsdever December 31, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Great advice. If i was to put add a little advice from Tim Ferriss, I would say to have an e-mail autoresponder and to batch tasks.

sir jorge March 2, 2008 at 6:41 am

those tips are true, i like them.

G.Davis March 2, 2008 at 11:26 am

Wow, I absolutely love the Parkinson’s Law. I have found that to be so true with my writing. If I decide that I will spend many hours on something, the task somehow finds a way to meet the time standards that I have set for it. I didn’t know that concept had a name. Thanks for that.

shabbarsuterwala May 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm

cooool.. simple yet powerful tips that keep reminding you that time is money..!!!

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