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How To Have More Time

4 MIN READ • 16th May 2022
Health and Wellbeing by Health and Wellbeing

Not enough hours in the day? Here we show you how doing less could actually help you get more done…

1. Monotask not multitask

You’re cooking dinner with your daughter while talking through homework with your son, and simultaneously making a call to the plumber about that leak. Sound familiar? You’re the mother of multitasking!

But, while this kind of juggling might give the illusion of getting-lots-of-things-done, you’re actually just fire fighting. Far from saving you time, multitasking can result in mistakes (which take time to rectify later) as it puts your brain into a constant state of stress, and studies show significant amounts of time are in fact lost when we constantly switch between tasks.

“Multitasking doesn’t exist,” says Clare Evans, time management and productivity coach, and author of Time Management For Dummies (clareevans.co.uk). “The brain can only work on one thing effectively at a time so, instead, slow down and set a time limit on tasks, then move onto the next one. Twenty-five minutes of work and five minutes of rest (or a lower energy task) have been shown to be the optimum time for productivity.”

2. Plan ahead

We might feel we don’t have time to plan, but a detailed schedule can keep us focused and get the job done more quickly. “Keep to just three main tasks per day and refer to this plan throughout that day to keep on track and stop you being reactive,” says Evans. “Know what you want to achieve that day – whether it’s a meeting or getting the washing done – and make sure it is do-able so you can leave the day feeling satisfied.”

3. Create a power hour

Studies have shown certain parts of the day are more productive than others – with 11am on Mondays said to be the best. But these power hours can vary from person to person (and depend on whether you’re a morning person or night owl), so take time out to do what needs to be done when you’re at your most efficient. Once you’ve found your golden hours, schedule in your most important tasks into this period.

4. Take a breath

You’ve scheduled a meeting straight after the last one and rather than get more done; you’ve now got less time to fit more in! As a society we often equate being ‘busy’ with being successful, valued and important, but research shows it actually makes us less effective in the long term – and, thanks to the release of addictive neurotransmitter dopamine, it can become a vicious cycle.

Life coach Dr Sally Ann Law (sallyannlaw-lifecoach.co.uk) suggests adding breathers into your schedule. “Under-scheduling rather than over scheduling allows you to create ‘buffer zones’ in your calendar, so that you don’t immediately feel stressed and out of control. This means if something unexpected happens, or one or more things end up taking a bit more time than you thought, you’ve got the space to tackle them.”

5. Take a mini-break

Regular breaks (particularly lunch hours) are also essential to productivity. These ‘waking rests’ help to motivate, improve creativity and learning, consolidate memories and prevent decision fatigue – so take time out to make more time. “As well as work or home/family tasks, we should put things into our daily plan that includes things we like to do and are good for us, such as exercise or a glass of wine with a friend,” says Dr Law. “It helps us regain focus and avoids depleting our energy.”

6. Ignore those emails!

There’s nothing that derails a morning more than an inbox full of emails, or a mobile phone flashing notifications from your friends. But before you launch into a replying frenzy, take a pause. “It’s common to try and fit this part of our job or daily lives in and around other things, but it’s much better to treat it as a separate piece of work. Schedule time for your email and messages like you would with any other task,” suggests Evans. “Don’t answer them all straight away, scan them for anything important, then set aside two to three chunks of time throughout the day to tackle them. And switch your alerts off! This makes you in control of your time, so you’re not at the beck and call of your emails.”

7. Learn to say no

It’s said the one trait that all successful people share is the ability to say ‘no’. This gives you back the control and allows you to focus on the stuff that’s really important. “Learn some good phrases to stop others taking time from you that you can’t afford to give,” says Dr Law. “For example, ‘I’m so sorry I can’t help you with that right now, but I’ll get back to you when I have the first chance’.

8. Listen more

In hectic offices, and even busier homes, it’s easy to end up talking over one another – but this rapidfire communication can cause misunderstandings that take more time to resolve. An effective exchange is all about the pauses. Talk slowly and listen more and you’re less likely to misinterpret a situation or project, and you can both get straight to the point without wasting time.

9. Have a personal debrief

“At the end of your day, take some time to make a note of how it all went, especially the things that derailed you and took you away from your plan,” says Dr Law. “That way you can learn to avoid them or deal with them better next time.”

10. Stop being little miss perfect!

Doing a task well is admirable, but if you find you’re going over old ground again and again in effort to make it 100 percent perfect, you could be wasting valuable time. “Apply the 80/20 rule,” says Evans. “Eighty percent is probably good enough and you don’t always need to strive for 100 percent all of the time. If you feel you have to do things perfectly every time, it will also make you more likely to put off doing them.”

11. Live in the now

Living in the present isn’t has hippy as it sounds (and doesn’t require sitting crosslegged). In fact, neuroscientists have discovered that if we pay more attention to things we can effectively slow down time. This is because the brain’s perception of time is rubbery and can be altered. Hence why, when you’re busy: time flies, but when you’re waiting for a bus, it seems to drag. Exert control by looking around and noticing more, such as the weather as you step out of the car, the way the light falls on your desk, or the first warm sips of coffee. If we appreciate things more, the days can feel less of a blur.

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