We all get the same 24 hours in a day, and yet it feels like some uber-productive people are working with extra hours that you don’t have access to. These time management superstars somehow work full-time, but still exercise every day, take their kids to soccer practice, and have a year-round garden that’s the envy of the neighborhood. What’s their secret?
It turns out you can buy yourself more time each day if you simply treat time management the same way you treat money management. Specifically, the following healthy money habits can help you build some time slack so that you can finally tackle the items that always fall to the bottom of your to-do list.
1. Track your time spent
Tracking where your money goes is an integral part of budgeting, since you can’t trim excess spending if you don’t know about it. Tracking your time-usage can be just as important for cutting unnecessary time wasters. Knowing exactly where your hours are going can help you to reclaim some time for more important tasks than endlessly refreshing Twitter.
There are multiple ways to track how you spend your time, from the simple paper-and-pencil logging of your time, to apps like Toggl and RescueTime that will do the tracking for you. Using any of these options to see how you spend your time can help you to figure out where to reclaim it.
2. Limit unnecessary spending
I have an app that limits my access to social media during the day because I know that I’m not capable of voluntarily limiting it on my own. Facebook and Twitter tend to suck up my time in the same way that bookstores used to suck up my money, so I need make sure I limit my exposure.
Of course, the internet is not the only time suck you might be fighting. While there are plenty of apps and plugins available to keep you from frittering hours away on social media — StayFocused is a good one — don’t overlook the humble timer as a tool to limit unnecessary time spending. You can watch your favorite shows or read a novel over a cup of coffee, just set a timer that will force you to move on to the next task to keep your day from being consumed.
These kinds of time leaks are often the culprit when you feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day. Once you start limiting your unnecessary time spending, you will often find you have much more time than you realized.
3. Invest in your future
You don’t expect to have healthy finances without saving and investing your money, and healthy time management requires the same kinds of investments. What does such time investment look like? It’s a matter of creating morning and evening rituals, and taking the time to go over your calendar and to-do list on a daily basis.
Create daily rituals
Your morning and evening rituals help you to consistently transition from one task to the next. Having a morning ritual means you can give your work tasks your full attention once you have made the transition into work time. On the other end of the day, make sure you create space between work and sleep. How many times have you found yourself answering a work email at 11 p.m. when you were supposed to be in bed already? Having an evening ritual that includes shutting off screens will help you to sleep better and keep work from intruding on your time.
Similarly, taking 15-20 minutes to review your calendar and to-do lists for the following day will help keep plans, meetings, or deadlines from slipping your mind, and allow you to be more efficient when you get to work.
The eternally time-crunched folks may often feel like they have far too much to do to invest in rituals and 20 minutes of to-do list checking each night. However, just as you can’t afford not to put money in an emergency fund, you can’t afford not to plan your time. These investments will save you by preventing panic and forgotten tasks when last-minute emergencies arise.
An important part of gaining control of your finances is prioritizing specific financial goals and following through on them. You know that you only have a finite amount of money, so you recognize your need to focus on one financial goal at a time. Healthy time management requires the same kind of prioritizing, even though it can be harder to recognize that your time is finite.
This is why it’s important to identify the most important tasks you need to accomplish each day. Generally, there should be no more than three such most important tasks on your to-do list. Tackling these priority tasks will help you to move your big projects forward and eliminate the fatigue you feel after a day of frantic business that didn’t seem to accomplish anything. The feeling of making progress can help you to jump back into work the next day, which can help eliminate time-wasting and procrastinating.
5. Plan for fun
Just as being able to treat yourself to a little indulgence while you are trying to save money can keep you motivated to stay on the straight and narrow, having little breaks in your schedule can help you stay on task while you are working. Breaks give your mind a chance to refresh and refocus, and they are an important part of a productive daily routine.
This is also true of planning bigger fun activities. If you know that you’ll be doing a pub-crawl with your friends on the weekend, you’ll be less tempted to contact them via text or Facebook during the week. You can focus your attention on the work at hand, knowing that you have something great to look forward to.
Spend time mindfully
Mindful spending, whether the currency is money or time, is the secret to feeling like you have enough. Using the habits of good financial health can help you to become a mindful time spender — which will help to add extra hours to your day.