Time Management

Recapture a Few Precious Minutes Each Day With These 4 Tips

Recapture a Few Precious Minutes Each Day With These 4 Tips
Image credit: Ales Krivec | StockSnap.io
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What would you do if you had a few extra minutes each day?

The reality is that most of us could probably identify 10 minutes each day that is wasted on unproductive activities (albeit entertaining, watching a 6-foot man in a 6-foot water balloon is not the most productive use of your time). Over the course of a month, that is five hours of your life that you can never get back.

Related: 5 Practices to Gain More Time and Master Productivity

The secret to getting this time back is not necessarily in avoiding YouTube -- it would be easier to reverse the rotation of the Earth. Instead, try these tips to recapture precious hours each day by better managing the time you do have.

1. Compile your daily task list every night.

Many people like to plan their day in the mornings, but it is all too easy to get distracted as you try to knock off simple tasks as you plan, such as sending a short email or running a quick errand. Before you know it, you are tackling fires and creating all new tasks before you even have a chance to consider the old ones.

Instead, consider taking a few minutes in the evening to quickly review the day’s accomplishments and prepare for the following day’s tasks. Not only will this free you up for a meaningful morning routine, it will help you sleep better knowing you have all the important tasks already planned.

You must be disciplined, however, and resist the urge to complete a task you feel could be done quickly. Simply write down your tasks and move on.

2. Go to bed and wake up earlier -- incrementally.  

Although there is plenty of evidence to show that starting off your morning early is better for your productivity and your health, rolling out of bed in the morning can be a real challenge for some. Making the transition to a morning person requires time and a great deal of discipline, enough to make many give up before even trying.

One method I have found effective is not attempting to make the transition over one night. Instead, go to bed a few minutes earlier every night, and wake up a few minutes earlier every morning. Consider increments of five minutes each night until you have reached your desired wake-up time.

Related: The Do's and Don'ts for Restful Sleep

3. Partially block your time.

In the extreme, blocking your time means scheduling your entire day with blocks of time (30 minutes for instance) that are dedicated to specific tasks. The jury is out on whether blocking time really works, and for me, my days vary too much to be able to block out every hour of my day.

I have found, however, that blocking out shorter strategic times has been an effective way to help maintain focus.

For instance, blocking out my mornings for exercise and meditation provides me with a goal -- albeit mental -- and encourages me to get out of bed. Also, because reading email or checking social media can become time-consuming, I often block out 30 to 60 minutes during my busy days to check in, allowing me to stay focused on important and immediate tasks and responsibilities.

4. Complete your tasks in intervals.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. The technique encourages people to break down their activities into 25-minute intervals using a kitchen timer (Cirillo originally called it “pomodoro,” or tomato in Italian, after the popular tomato kitchen timer).

The goal of the Pomodoro Technique is to get you to concentrate on a task for 25 solid and uninterrupted minutes, followed by a three- to five-minute break to engage in other activities, such as checking email or social media. A timer keeps you on track, sounding when it is time to move on to the next interval.

I have found this method useful for completing large, challenging and time-consuming tasks that I would have ordinarily become distracted or bored doing. Completing them in smaller "chunks" makes the larger task seem more manageable.

Managing your time with methods such as these will help you gain valuable time back in your day that can be applied to productive and meaningful tasks. And, if not productive and meaningful, at least you will not feel so guilty spending 10 minutes watching Vine fails.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these time management suggestions yourself? Include your tips to better manage time in the comments section below.

Related: Give Yourself Permission to Think on Schedule