11 Ways to Make the Most of the Time You HaveBy Samantha Boardman, M.D.
Modern conveniences like vacuum cleaners, super turbo hairdryers and electronic juicers make life so much easier. Yet those are old-fashioned compared to the new ultramodern tools designed to enhance efficiency, streamline productivity and save time. Fresh Direct delivers groceries to the door, Gifts N’ Ideas can remember, select, and send a gift to your mother-in-law on her birthday at the touch of a button, and concierge services like Zirtual do everything from planning vacations to arranging dry-cleaning pick ups and delivery. By definition and design, these modern luxuries are intended to be timesaving.
The irony is that everyone feels pressed for time. Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., describes this current epidemic as “time famine.”
The following recommendations are not going to add more hours to your day but they may alter how you think about—and value—your time.
Rethink Your Priorities
Consider your goals and values and evaluate whether you are spending your time accordingly. Many people say they wish they could spend more time with their family but end up on their smartphones whenever they’re with them. Quality face time is golden and a vital element of well-being. 80% of people surveyed for a research report said that checking their smartphone is the first thing they do in the morning. That’s before going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth, kissing their partner or hugging their kids. Don’t be one of them. It’s up to you to prioritize your real priorities.
Build De-Stressing Moments Into Your Day
Why wait for weekends and vacations to recharge? In fact, contrary to what most people think, working through lunch isn’t the most effective strategy. A growing body of research suggests that naps and taking breaks throughout the day will actually make you more productive.
Minimize “Empty Calories”
As neuroscientist Susan Greenfield writes:
“We live in the information age, in an answer-rich, question-poor environment. We are constantly bombarded with information.”
A lot of that information is the emotional equivalent to empty calories in junk food. In the name of staying connected we allow email, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to capture our attention, but at what cost? Those empty calories gobble up our precious time.
Get More Shut-Eye
When we are sleep deprived, we accomplish less. As written in the Power of Full Engagement:
“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”
If you really want to get more done and have more quality time, sleep more.
According to author and scientist Tom Rath, exercise provides a boost in energy and mood—two vital ingredients of quality time.
Remember: All Hours Are Not Created Equal
Face time isn’t everything. As Faisal Hoque writes:
“Orienting our work lives around the hours we put in is a way of avoiding the responsibility of using our consciousness and our energy in the best possible way.”
In other words, don’t privilege hours over results.
Align Your Strengths With How You Structure Your Day
Different tasks require different types of work. What time of the day are you most productive and efficient? Use those golden hours to focus on important work. Don’t waste it responding to emails or on mundane matters.
Say “No, but Thank You for Thinking of Me"
Guard your time wisely. Say no to things that don’t align with your values or interests or that you know will bring more stress than reward.
By slowing down, paying attention and noticing the world around us, time slows. As explained in the New Yorker:
“‘This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,’ Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing.’ The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.”
Wise decisions require mindfulness, reflection and yes, time.
Stop Chasing Your Tail
Numerous studies show the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness and mediation. It’s about turning off autopilot and simply being in the moment.
Give Time Away
A counterintuitive way to feel less pressed for time is to give it away. Research shows that volunteering and doing things for others, rather than focusing on ourselves, expands our sense of time. It also boosts our sense of competence and efficiency.
As Albert Einstein said:
"Time is an illusion."
Samantha Boardman MD, a clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Public Health and Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill-Cornell Medical College, is the founder of PositivePrescription.com, a website that shares insights and explores the way that psychiatry, psychology, culture and science intersect. She cares more about what is right with people then what is wrong, and is always looking for the tweaks and changes that make a difference.
This post originally appeared on The Positive Prescription.
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