How to Find More Time for the Things that Mean the Most to You This Year

by Henrik Edberg

“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

There are many important things in life.

Your family and friends. A hobby perhaps. Working out and staying healthy. Reading, learning and growing as person.

But finding the time for what is most important in life is not always easy. It sometimes feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

But even if it may not feel like it, there are often ways to improve how you use your time. In this article I’ll share some of the most effective strategies I have found for doing so and for shaking yourself out of a rut and reconsider how you actually spend your time.

Focus.

With a lack of focus on what is most important in your life it becomes easy to spend too much time and energy on aimless actions or work. On things that aren’t really that important but you do out of old habit or other unhelpful reasons.

To become more focused:

  • Write down your top 4 priorities where you see them every day. To keep your attention in the right place it is essential to remind yourself every day of what is truly most important to you. So think about it and reduce what is important in your life at this moment to the top 4 most important priorities. Write those four things down on two notes and post one in your workspace and one your night table.
  • Reduce distractions. Ask yourself: what are the 3 most common distractions that keep me from doing my work in a focused way? Figure out how you can prevent those things from distracting you. It could be by shutting the door to your office, by putting your phone on silent mode for an hour at a time or by having notifications for email shut off.
  • Find balance. If you just work and work you will quickly become unfocused and the longer the week drags on the more tired you become. To work smarter try using a timer – on your cell phone or use an egg-timer – and set it for 45 minutes. Then put in a drawer or somewhere where you can’t see it.
    During those 45 minutes dive in and immerse yourself in the no-distraction zone and your work until the clock rings. Then set you timer for a 15 minute break where you get away from your work space if possible. Take a walk, go for a snack or have a conversation about something else than work.

Simplify.

One of the smarter ways to simplify your life and to free up time that we explore quite a bit in the 31 Days to a Simpler Life Course is to set limits.

Here are a few key areas that you can set powerful limits for:

  • Your daily input. Reduce the number of blogs, newsletters, magazines, book clubs, podcasts, TV-shows etc. you follow. Just keep the ones you are really getting something out of.
  • Email. Just check and process your email during one chunk of time once per day. Instead of checking it 10 times or more each day.
  • Social activities. Write down a list of the social activities you are involved in after school or work. Maybe you are involved in a club or an activity that it is not as fun or rewarding as it used to be. Maybe you want to rearrange your priorities a bit to focus on something else this year.

Minimize or eliminate.

What else can you eliminate or minimize besides the things listed above? Some meetings at work or in school? Redditing or some online forum you hang out on a lot?

Question and reconsider your own habits regularly instead of moving along in the same old tracks just because it what you usually do. See if you want make changes to make more room for things you would honestly get more out of.

Find unnoticed free time in your day.

One final tip. There is often quite a bit of open travel- or waiting-time during a year. What will you use your such time for this year? Perhaps you would like to read more while riding the train or listen to audio books while waiting for a meeting to start or while you are out driving your car.

Even if you only have 20 minutes of commuting time each day then you still have a many, many hours in a year that you may want to, at least partly, use in a new way.

Image by bogenfreund (license).





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{ 29 comments }

Bob Batesole January 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Henrik: I just found your website and am glad to find someone else who doesn’t have time to waste with negativity. Keep positive, move forward! You mention writing down 4 top priorities each day. I have been using J.D. Meier’s “Getting Results The Agile Way: for the past 6 months, which allows only 3 tasks each day. I created a spreadsheet to use each week. The spreadsheet is up on my website if you want to look it over. The most important thing is FOCUS. I look forward to reading more on your site. Thanks for your great work. -Bob

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:08 am

Welcome and thank you for the kind words and tip, Bob!

Inspiring Citizen Rafi January 21, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Dear Hendrik,

Whenever I go through your articles one thing that amazes me is your deep insight about each topic.

A couple of points really caught my eye balls and I wish each of our readers start finding more time for productive living.

Please continue your outstanding work, Hendrik..

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:10 am

Thank you very much, Rafi!

Jaime January 22, 2013 at 1:42 am

I think these are easy things that can be done each day to reduce unneeded stress, but people fail to see that things this simple can help us. The two things that stand out to me the most is simplify and minimize or eliminate. In this fast paced world that we live in, it is important that we take a step back to slow down. We need to learn to not start our days by checking emails or updating a Facebook status. I think that if we simplify and minimize these things in our lives, we will have the opportunity to breath and focus on what really matters–living life to its fullest potential.

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

I agree, simple things are sometimes dismissed because people special tricks of some sort. But actually doing fundamental and simple stuff each day can make a huge difference.

Trevor January 22, 2013 at 2:44 am

I love that quote you begin with. It’s so true. I often feel as though there are not enough hours in the day, but that quote shows me otherwise.

It’s not the hours we have, but the hours we use that count.

Time to start using more of them.

Cheers!

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:15 am

Glad you found the quote inspiring, it has helped me to check my priorities many times.

Anjali January 22, 2013 at 8:39 am

Timing post..!! Thankyou

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:15 am

Happy to hear that!

megha January 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

grt work

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

Thank you! :)

Jordan Ayres January 22, 2013 at 11:42 am

As always, practical and helpful advice! I second the importance of focus; it’s paramount to everything I do.

In regards to your ‘find balance’ point, for those of your readers who have a Mac, I suggest they download the free app Time-Out: it allows you to schedule your breaks/work time. I find I work best in 50 minute increments, and then 10 minutes to stretch and review.

http://www.dejal.com/timeout/

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:17 am

Thank you, Jordan! And good addition to the article, I am sure it will help many Mac users among the readers.

Neneh February 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Jordan,
Thanks for the Mac app suggestion. This is great and so much better than hearing my “nails down a chalkboard” oven timer every 30 minutes.
All the best,
Neneh

Roman Soluk January 22, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Well… distractions and laziness are sometimes the worst things for me. I always try my best to cope with it.

Thanks for your tips Henrik!

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:17 am

You’re very welcome, Roman!

Amaris Jane January 23, 2013 at 11:58 am

I really enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing your insight.

Best,

Amaris Jane

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:18 am

Glad you found it helpful!

Lisa January 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I really like the idea of setting 4 priorities for the day. It’s manageable and realistic. Thanks!

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

Yes, by setting that limit it becomes more likely that you’ll be able to actually focus and work on those priorities. Glad you like that idea and hope it will help you like it has helped me!

Marie January 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Hi, I love your website, and I have a question for you. If possible, could you write an article on how to keep yourself inspired or how to continue coming up with ideas? I’m curious how you keep posting great articles every week, and I’m hoping to find my mojo, but I’m not having too much luck. Your input would be greatly appreciated!

Henrik Edberg January 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

Thank you! Check out this article of mine for some tips on that:

http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2009/02/18/writers-block/

Kalway January 24, 2013 at 6:36 pm

very good article, I always think people should focus on what makes them happy first before they should focus on what they “have to” get done for the day.

Alex January 26, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Hi Henrik,

I agree that daily input needs to be controlled very strictly. Nowadays there is so much information around that you are get unfocused and overwhelmed very easily if you try to follow everything. Sometimes I even think how happy people were in the past when there was no modern means of communication. News were arriving slowly and by small pieces.

DK January 27, 2013 at 4:54 am

Found your blog through Glen Allsop. Yes, Focus is a big thing for me, by big I mean obstacle ;-) . You provide nice pointer on priorities and reduce distractions. Thanks for the article.

wyneatte February 3, 2013 at 10:47 pm

This is a great post! Simplify and focus are the two that get my attention the most. In my own personal life I need to find the time to simplify and focus. These are great tips that are attainable for me and I like that. Thank you for the great insight.
Wyn~

Kim Luu February 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Hi Henrik,

I want to say thank you so much. I am now very depressed. I know what I want, but seems everything I did turns out to be negative. I found that I hardly balance beetween my target and my frustration. When I read your posting, I suddenly found out that even though I got may targets and planned for it, but if I didn’t put down and think carefully about distractions, I might not achieve whatever I want. You tips are so simple, and push me to accept that unless I solve distractions, nothing will come out to me.

I think I have to print your post, and stick on the wall to see it everyday and remind me to simplify and get rid of distractions as well as minimize my “want to do” list in order to accomplish “need to do” list.

Thanks again for everything.
-Kim-

Heidi Rodriguez February 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I was working on an assignment for my college class and I came across this blog. Its good go find out a place where we can get positive and motivational information that can help everyone deal with the not so positive situations that happen in our daily lives.

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