Making time

It’s easy to feel like you never have enough time in the workday. Here’s how to buy yourself a little extra.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

One of my favorite science fiction tropes is time travel. I keep a copy of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel by Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch on my desk at all times. You know, just in case I ever encounter a future version of myself and need some quick answers to dealing with all the paradoxes such a meeting will create.

I’m only partially kidding.

Of course, time travel is a fool’s errand. However, what if you could exist outside of time? By that I mean you could function free of the confines of time, doing and creating for as little or as long as you want, and then step back into time having accumulated all of that knowledge but not having aged a day.

How great would it be if you had all the time in the world, and then still more, to accomplish everything you ever wanted?

Unfortunately, not having enough time in the day to even accomplish the simplest of tasks is a far more common problem for many of us.

While we can’t create more time for ourselves, there are some clever ways we can save time in the course of our daily routine. Try one or more of these the next time you want to buy yourself some more time:

1.Take a deep breath. It’s the most simple, yet effective, way of calming yourself down when you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed by everything on your plate. We all have a lot to get done in the course of a workday; oftentimes you can’t do it all. Take a calming breath, accept that fact, and move forward without any guilt.

2. Make a list of everything you have to do so you can see what you really have on your plate. Now, remove the lowest priority item(s) from the list completely. This allows you to focus entirely on what needs to get done now, rather than getting distracted by the things that can wait until tomorrow.

3. Shorten your meetings. Believe me, everyone will thank you for this. A lot of workers feel like they get trapped in meetings all day, preventing them from getting other, more important work done. Often, these meetings run long, too. Instead of blocking off 60 minutes for a meeting, which invariably means you’ll use the entire 60 minutes or more, schedule the meeting for 30 minutes and stick to the clock. You will remain more focused on the task at hand and be less prone to time-sucking tangents.

4. Try the Pomodoro technique. Based on the idea that frequent breaks in focus can improve mental agility, it works like this: work diligently for 25 minutes, then take a three to five minute break. Repeat this cycle four times and then take a longer, 15- to 30-minute break. By keeping your mental acuity sharp, you’ll avoid focus fatigue and be much more productive during those working periods.

5. Give your time away. A Wharton study shows spending time helping others actually leaves people feeling as if they have more time, not less. “Objectively they have less time,” says Wharton business professor Cassie Mogilner. “But they feel more effective, and that enhances their productivity.” Instead of hoarding your scarce time, do something for someone else with it. For once, you might actually be doing more with less.

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