The 3 Rs of Time Management: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

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The 3 Rs of Time Management: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
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5 min read
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Over the holidays, my sister and brother-in-law went to the Netherlands, and they were floored by the work-life balance was there. I found that the Netherlands has put considerable thought and worked on this issue, and data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that it’s the best country for work-life balance: “In the Netherlands, full-time workers devote more of their day on average, to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socializing with friends and family, hobbies, games, computer and television use) than the OECD average of 15 hours.”

As you know, work-life balance is a big deal. The more you work, the less time you have to do things that you enjoy. Even worse, putting in too many hours at work can jeopardize your mental and physical well-being. And despite what you may believe, putting in more hours won’t make you any more productive.

Some people might just be workaholics or need extra cash. But, most people just don’t know how to manage their time well enough. Maybe the issues surrounding time management can be explained if you search “time management” on Google. You'll find over five million results. Here’s the problem, though: If you pause to consider each of these 'how-tos," it will be overwhelming. I've come across sophisticated time management techniques that eat up more time to implement than it’s worth.

To avoid being overwhelmed, I’m a big fan of keeping things simple. I don’t think it gets any more straightforward than the three Rs — a definite waste hierarchy that you may have been taught since you were a kid. There was even a catchy Schoolhouse Rock! song about them.

How do the three Rs of the environment apply to time management? Here's how they can solve your time management problems.

1. Reduce

If you stop purchasing what you don’t need, you’ll have less waste. When you do buy something, make sure that it will last instead of going cheap and continually replacing it.

When it comes to managing your time, this concept means eliminating the unnecessary from your life. I’m talking about meetings that don’t have a purpose, toxic people who waste your time and clutter that distracts and stresses you when you're trying to work.

Additionally, you can apply this to reducing your workload and social commitments. Know how to reduce your workload, especially when you need to do so quickly. Understand clearly, how you'll run a tight ship with your time on the average days. For example, go through your to-do-list. What items are indeed a priority? Ideally, only three of them should be considered a priority. Remove the rest from your list.

When it comes to social obligations, master the art of saying “no.” Let’s say that you already RSVPd to a birthday this weekend but received an invite to another party. Instead of trying to attend both, politely decline the invite to the second event.

Related: 5 Ways to Reduce Workplace Distraction Without Treating Employees Like Children

2. Reuse

The possibilities are endless. I had friends who asked for old t-shirts so that they could be used for diapers. My grandfather used to use old jam jars for storing nails and screws.

If you’re moving, old newspapers are perfect for wrapping fragile items. Better yet, stop killing the trees and go digital with all of the information you consume. I feel this way (digital) about reading books too. If you are a paperback reader, donate your books when you're finished with them. I have a group of friends who have their own book exchange program.

I think you get the point. Instead of buying something new, reuse the things that you already possess.

When it comes to time management, if you create something, keep using it again and again. Review past calendars to see what your recurring events are. For instance, if you have a weekly meeting with your team on Tuesdays, or you attend a networking event on Thursdays, set these meetings up as a repeating event in your office calendar.

Another example would be using templates. If you created your own content calendar, you could easily reuse the template instead of building a new one from scratch.

Related: Need a Business Plan Template? Here Is Apple's 1981 Plan for the Mac

3. Recycle

Unfortunately, despite the fact that 87 percent of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs, only 30 percent of our waste is recycled.

Since I don’t want to end on a downer here, let me explain how recycling can be put into use with your time management efforts.

You can start by recycling high-performing or evergreen content. You can convert that into an infographic, slide deck or section of an eBook. You could also update that piece of content if there’s new information or points that should be added.

Also, while some may see this as a stretch, we could use this approach to basking. For those unfamiliar, this is where you group similar tasks together. Let’s say that you met a client for lunch. You added a buffer to your schedule, so you have an extra hour to kill. Instead of doing nothing, recycle that time by running errands while you’re already out and about.

Related: 4 Tools for Automating and Recycling Social Media Posts

If you want to maintain a healthy work-life balance and conserve your time on a larger scale, then start applying the three Rs to your life today.

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