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How To Do More, With Less Time

by Jonathan on January 10, 2011 · 8 comments

Do More With Less TimeSince starting this blog, I’ve began experimenting with ways that I can get more done with less and less amounts of time. Working a 40 hour work week, and spending an average of 10 hours during the week and 3-5 hours on weekends, on this blog, really cuts down on the amount of things you can get done outside of “work”. Believe it or not, though, I’ve actually gotten more done each day, than I was a year ago at this time, mainly because running this blog, and working full-time has made me rethink how to manage my time. While I’m still learning, and will probably refine this information down the road, the foundation I’ve started to discover has worked wonders so far. Something you’ll notice, is that most of the points that I make, tie into each other, and build on each other. Each is dependent on the other, so it’s important to realize the value of each, and how they relate to one another.

Create Lists

I tried this a few weeks ago, and couldn’t believe how much more I got down after doing it. There were things I wrote down, that I had been meaning to do for up to a month, that I did almost instantly after writing it down. It was really strange. But think of it this way – giving yourself a task list, can be equated to your boss giving you something to do. You are essentially becoming your own boss. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing a task list, telling me to do something, makes me spring into action. Aside from this boost in motivation, the biggest benefit of creating a task list, is that there is no ambiguity in what you need to do. It allows you to focus on specific items, one at a time.

1. Use Pencil and Paper
Instead of using some fancy phone app, use a good old fashioned pencil and paper. Trust me when I tell you, this is the best way to create a task list. Using an electronic task list will end up being distracting. Humans have a tendency that, once we start messing with something electronic, we drift around to other electronic items as well. Check your task list, and pretty soon you may be tempted to check the news or weather as well, and boom! you aren’t focused anymore.

2. Keep Them Manageable
Don’t write a novel! I’ve found that giving yourself a list of about 6-10 items works the best. For weekends, maybe bump that number up by 2-3, since you’ll have more time. Trying to do too much is an easy way to get distracted, and not get anything done.

Remove The Clutter From Your Life

There is a LOT of information in the world for people to digest. I really mean it, a LOT. Take for instance, Youtube. I heard a report a few months ago, that there is enough video on Youtube, to be watched for over 600 years! There is absolutely no way anyone could do that obviously, and so it becomes critical, that people filter out what they don’t need to watch. This is true for the entire web, as well. There are hundreds of millions of webpages out there, with near infinite amounts of information. It is SO easy to get lost in this world, if you don’t reign yourself in.

The same thing applies to the physical world as well. The more stuff you have around your house, the more maintenance is required, whether through cleaning, repairing, or just moving around. Getting rid of stuff that you don’t use, or need, is critical to getting more out of the things that matter. You only have two hands…don’t act like you have ten. :) De-cluttering is something I’m beginning to embrace, although, I really don’t own a whole lot the way it is. Most of the stuff I can get rid of comes in the form of old computer parts and cables. Why do I need them? Maybe parallel ATA is coming back…? Probably not. ;)

1. Ask Yourself, “Is This Relevant to What I Need To Accomplish?”
This is where you can link back to the second point I made. If what you are doing, doesn’t fall into your task list, it’s probably going to take up time that you don’t have. Does the task you’re doing, bring value to what you want to accomplish? If your goal is to mow the lawn, but you are playing a video game, I’d have to say no!

2. Don’t Try To Do Everything
You need to realize that you aren’t a supercomputer! You can’t do everything there is to do in life. This is a problem that I continually struggle with, but get better at controlling as time goes on. There are a lot of projects that I’d like to start/complete. There are a lot of books I’d like to read. But if I try to do everything at the same time, I won’t get anything done. Give yourself a few key areas, and make them your first priority. Again, make sure these areas, are things that bring value to what you want to accomplish in life. I’d like to build this blog into a great repository of DIY information and financial advice, from a personal point of view. I won’t get this accomplished, if I focus my time on politics or video games. It just won’t work.

3. Focus!
As in point number two, focus is key. Rather than drifting off into a world of not really realizing what’s going on, make sure you are aware of what you are doing, and how much time you spend on something. If you aren’t getting done, what you’d like to get done, move on to something else.

Keep Work Environments Separate

Many people work full-time, and many in an office setting where they spend time by themselves in their office. With the recent onslaught of economic woes we have been experiencing, its not surprising that a lot of people are beginning to take to trying to create a second source of income for themselves. If you don’t have much to do at “traditional” work, then you may be tempted to try working on your personal project while on the clock. Here’s why that won’t work.

You’ll Get Distracted
Even if you don’t have too much work to do, you’ll still have people coming by asking questions, asking how your day was, asking if you want to go to lunch, etc… Point being, you’ll constantly be interrupted, even if it’s just by the person walking by your office. You need full concentration, in order to get things done efficiently.

You’ll Feel Guilty
I tried this, and felt immediate guilt, so I stopped. Being at work, means you are supposed to be working for the company that hired you. A friend of mine equated working on your own personal work, while at work, to outright theft of their time and money. Trust me when I say, that feelings of knowing you shouldn’t be working on personal work, will distract you enough to where you won’t get anything done on either front.

How do you get more done, with less time?



Photo by Dawn Huczek

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About the author

Jonathan wrote 103 articles on this blog.

Jonathan is the founder and primary writer at CentsToShare. He enjoys reading above all else, but also gardening, building, eating healthy food and being self-reliant. Living a happy, stress-free life is possible, but it must be sought after, and not taken for granted. If you like the site, please let me know in the comments or through email - centstoshare@gmail.com. Thanks!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mr. The Shoe Ninja January 10, 2011 at 9:22 am

Very well put Jonathan… Especially the part about using pencil and paper. This is more true then you may even believe… Research has shown that the physical act of writing versus typing actually creates a stronger bond to the information in our memory, making it harder to forget. This is true for everything from notes in class to TODO (Had to throw the coding pun in, sorry) lists.

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Jonathan January 10, 2011 at 11:03 am

I’d believe it’s true, it’s exponential how much better I remember things when I write them down.

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Peter January 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Not to mention the act of checking off/crossing out is much more rewarding then pressing delete…

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Jonathan January 14, 2011 at 7:29 am

Gotta agree with that statement. That ties in with what Shoe Ninja shared.

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Gabriel January 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm

great article! Thx

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Zaftig Diva August 3, 2011 at 10:19 am

I am excited to find your blog and to share and support your goal to quit you job for something more meaningful in your life. This being my goal as well, I plan to follow and contribute to the process.

I’ve been making list for years. I keep list in a notebook, on bits of paper, on my desktop screen, computer calendar, phone app, and posted on the desk. I find that making list helps me organize both my ideas, goals, dreams and tasks. Especially as I plan to leave my place of employment I find there are so many things to consider, I might want to write them down.

Growing into a fuller expression of who we are takes commitment. Enjoy the process and remember to look within.

Reply

Jonathan August 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Hey Zaftig,
I’m glad you found my blog and can follow along. It’s different when thinking about quitting your job…most of my thoughts come from fear, but when you have a goal, and you take small, consistent steps toward it, I think it’s possible to accomplish almost anything you want.

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