Squeeze an Extra Hour out of Each Day with These 10 Quick Tips

If I were to ask how many of our readers have enough time, few would say yes. With that in mind, allow me to offer you a few methods to “gain” an extra hour per day to do with as you wish.

As an unnecessary disclaimer, I understand that promising to offer you 25 hours per day is a tad unachievable. But you will be able to use some of the following ideas to gain at least one more productive hour, every single day.

You don’t need to implement all of the ideas, but the more you adopt, the more time you’ll spend on things that are worthwhile.

To “create” more time for yourself you’ll need to, in the words of Michael Heppell, “fall in love with the bin” and “declutter”, in order to make space for what matters. This is exactly what these following suggestions will help you do.

Adopt The 5 Sentence Rule

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Occasionally, you may see a signature at the bottom of an email stating “Why is this email 5 sentences or less?“. This is part of the growing five.sentenc.es movement which is “a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be five sentences or less”.

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Most office-jobs these days require employees to spend considerable time reading and replying to emails. By adopting the 5-sentence rule for yourself (and if possible, for the entire organisation), you could save an hour per day by cutting down on those lengthy emails, and instead, hammering out quick, and replies that avoid the unnecessary niceties that are too prevalent in emails today.

Time Block Your Tasks

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We’ve written in detail about the secret weapon of time blocking before, where you set aside blocks of time to work exclusively on a specific task or problem, rather than tackling things sporadically throughout the day.

By reducing the number of times you need to shift focus, this single technique of batch-processing tasks can increase your productivity and save plenty of time with little effort.

As a few examples;

  • Make and take calls only during specific hours.
  • Only reply to email for one hour during the day.
  • Set aside time to work on that single task instead of doing it in bits and pieces.
  • Complete all of your chores in one fell swoop each week.

Set Your Alarm 1 Hour Earlier

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A pretty obvious suggestion, granted. It’s also something you’re likely to balk at. “But I’m exhausted as it is”, you may retort. But if you experiment with improving your pre-bedtime routine, (in effect, hacking your sleep) you’ll find that not only are you able to reduce your morning drowsiness, allowing you to start your day more quickly, but you may even be able to reduce the number of hours you spend in bed. This could be through increased energy, or being able to fall asleep faster than you do currently.

In order to help you perfect your own, personal pre-bedtime routine, use an app like Beddit to track your sleep quality, and SleepCycle alarm clock (iOS) to wake you at the optimal time based on the depth of your sleep, to ensure you’re as alert as possible from the get-go.

Do Some Exercise

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Along a similar thread to the above section, research has shown that general exercise increases your productivity (PDF). As Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at California State University-San Marcos, Todd A. Astorino says,

It is clear that those who are active and who exercise are much more productive at work”.

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson also famously credited regular, daily exercise with his ceaseless productivity.

Also, if you’re feeling like you’re in a creative rut, or find yourself completely spent in the middle of the afternoon, doing some gentle exercise can be enough to throw you back into the swing of things.

Rather than calling it a day at 3pm, this is an easy way to turn 20 or 30 minutes of mild physical exertion into at least an hour or few of productive time.

Start Meditating

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The amount of time and energy that stress and anxiety eat up is difficult to overstate. It goes without saying that whatever we can do to lower the stress and anxiety we feel throughout the day is time well spent. Meditation has been shown to have a fantastic impact on productivity and efficiency.

It’s no secret that more and more tech companies like Google are introducing meditation into the workplace, and that’s for a good reason. Less time is wasted, sickness days are reduced, and employee satisfaction rockets.

To get started with meditation, try out a guided meditation app such as Headspace, or one of the many free alternatives. If you’d rather steer away from guided meditation, Naturespace (iOS) is a great app for playing relaxing audio to meditate alongside.

Try for just 5 minutes per day, and gradually build on that. It can be difficult and frustrating to start, but the proposed benefits will surely be worth it.

Outsource Some Tasks

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Your day is likely a mix of tasks you love doing, tasks you don’t mind doing, and tasks you absolutely abhor doing. By using sites such as Elance, TaskRabbit and oDesk to outsource those tasks you hate, you’re able to use that newfound time (I estimate at least an hour per day) to focus on those tasks you love to do.

Ideas of tasks to outsource include: picking up your shopping, organising your calendar, struggling with that WordPress site, cleaning the house, research tasks, graphic design, or even cooking your meals. The options are infinite.

Turn Off Notifications

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We check our phones a ridiculous number of times. According to one study, young people check their phones an average of 150 times per day. If we could reduce this number to something a little less sociopathic, we’ll able to keep our focus on what we’re working on, keep RSI at bay, and save ourselves some time and anxiety along the way.

Pull out your phone now, head to the notifications page, and turn off anything that isn’t really necessary (you don’t need those Facebook notifications, you know).

Ban Yourself From Time-Sucking Sites

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Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, HackerNews, Google+, YouTube. These are just a few among the many time-sucking sites that pull for our attention. One or two of these are likely to be your own go-to procrastination method, guilty for sapping hours upon hours of your rapidly depleting time.

By using a tool such as StayFocusd (Chrome) or LeechBlock (Firefox) among other site-blocking tools, you can choose to limit your access to these sites to only a certain number of minutes per day (i.e. 30 minutes). You can also access these sites only during certain hours each day (i.e. only after 5pm).

When you realise that you can’t access these sites, your urges will start to dissolve, and you’ll find yourself spending your time more minfdully. I suspect this could definitely help a hearty dose of MakeUseOf readers.

Learn to Speed Read

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Four years ago, my reading speed was measured at 350 words per minute (WPM). After following a few simple instructions and a couple of hours of sporadic practice, I managed to increase that to over 650 WPM with a retention rate high enough to make this speed fine for most online reading. For pieces that require a slower reading speed, I can now still manage over 500 WPM. To help with this, there are plenty of online speed-reading tools.

Bear in mind that just because you can read this fast, you don’t have to speed-read all the time. Speed reading is perfect for when you’re pressed for time before a meeting, casual reading, or quickly working through a dull chapter in a book. If you’re an avid reader, therefore, increasing your reading speed by 30-65% or more could save you huge amounts of time over not just a week, but over your entire lifetime.

Set Limits on Meetings and Calls

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Thanks to Sod’s Law, a meeting or a call with no boundaries will swell to take up far more time than is really needed. If you think a meeting needs 45 minutes, set a time limit of 20 minutes. If a call with a colleague or client usually lasts an hour, let them know that “I’ve only got 25 minutes, but I’m sure we can get through everything if we stay focused”.

Any fly on the wall in a meeting, or during a call, knows that a lot of what’s said really isn’t focused on the topic at hand (there are meeting rules to help with that). The more people that are present, the more time that’s wasted. Keep things lean and focused, and you’ll be more than surprised at how quickly the “real” work can get done.

If you’re looking for some software to help those meetings to go more smoothly try an app such as MinuteTaker or Meetings (iPad), or follow some of our more specific advice on online meetings.

How Do You “Save” Time?

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There are many little ways we can save time each day. With the distractions that plague us each day, so many minutes are wasted on the entirely superfluous, or on running after perfection when efficiency can suffice.

By adopting a few simple habits that help us to shed ourselves of some of those inefficient ways of doing things we can, in effect, increase our reservoir of time and spend more of it doing the things that really matter.

Which of these tips can you apply today? What strategy would you recommend to extract another hour from a busy day?

Image Credits: A Public Clock via Oatsy (Via Flickr)Self Portrait- Ticking Away by MattysFlicks (via Flickr), Exercise with Gloria by Kevin Dooley (via Flickr),  Yoga by Hernán Piñera (Via Flickr), Pills 1 by e-Magazine art (via Flickr), Working From Home by Chez Mummy (via Flickr), Notifications by Jaysin Trevino (via Flickr), Social Media by Sean MacEntree (vis Flickr), Beach Reading by Anne Adrian (via Flickr), Stopwatch by William Warby (via Flickr), Relax Mode by Kevin Dooley (via Flickr)

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