When life gets stressful, there's one quote that I always like to remember: "You have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé."
As true as that saying may be, most of us still come up short in terms of the time and resources we need to cross tasks off our list.
Often times, it's this "so much to do, so little time" mentality that places a barrier between what you're capable of achieving and what you're actually getting done. But the truth is, freeing up time requires you to do more than identify what you can't seem to accomplish. You have to actually focus to move something (anything) forward.
Once we build this momentum, we're all capable of being unstoppable ... but getting started with finding your focus isn't always easy. To combat this, we've put together a list of seven tips to help you get on track to freeing up a ton of time.
7 Tips for Freeing Up Time in Your Day
1) Take Control of Distractions
Is it just us, or does it sometimes feel like your hand and your brain have two separate agendas? It's like your brain is ready to do work, but then your hand hits the mouse and before you know it you're five scrolls down your Facebook News Feed.
Between social media, email notifications, and the place where productivity goes to die (yep, YouTube), staying focused on the task at hand is easier said than done.
Lucky for both of us, I picked up a tool from my college finals days that I've carried along with me into the professional world -- and it works like a charm.
Self Control is a Mac application that allows users to temporarily block internet access to a list of specified websites for a customizable length of time. (Don't worry PC people, you can do the same thing with an app called Freedom.)
Simply add your favorite time-sucking websites to "the blacklist" and they'll remain out of reach for as long as you need.
You'll be amazed by how much time you win back.
2) Work Within a Defined Timeframe
Ever find yourself chained to your desk for hours trying to crank out a project?
While we commend your effort (we've been there), it's important to note that forcing yourself to commit to long periods of uninterrupted work can often have an adverse effect on your productivity. To help you get some of those hours back, you may want to consider the Pomodoro Technique. For the Italians in the audience, you're probably wondering why we're advising a group of marketers to explore a technique named after the Italian word for tomato, but we promise it will all become clear in a second.
According to Lifehacker, the Pomodoro Technique can be best broken down into the following five steps:
This approach -- named after the famous tomato-shaped timer it employs -- is designed to help you leverage bursts of focus by removing distractions and holding yourself to a time limit.
Don't have a tomato timer? Check out Focus Booster. This digital play on the technique is great for digital marketers who want to leverage the approach and keep track of their progress online.
3) Delegate What's On Your Plate
If you really want to free up some time in your day, you need to stop trying to wear ALL of the hats.
When Professor Julian Birkinshaw and productivity expert Jordan Cohen set out to explore productivity in the workplace, they found that an average of 41% of a knowledge worker's time was spent on tasks and activities that could be handled proficiently by others.
Understandingly, letting go of some of your responsibilities can be just as much scary as it is refreshing. You worry that you're going to let someone down or that the person you pass it off to isn't going to get it the way that you did -- but the truth is, all you need to succeed is a plan.
This flexible, interactive project management app provides users with an organized way to keep track of their tasks, while making it easy to collaborate, communicate, and assign projects to different members. You can think of it as "a whiteboard with super powers."
4) Save Nonessential Tasks for Later
As a marketer, it's just as much our job to consume remarkable content as it is to create it. As a result, we're often found consulting our RSS feed, prowling industry blogs, and scrolling through our favorite social platforms to find resources to educate us and inform our strategies.
Unfortunately, the downside to our desire to "always be learning” is that it can often suck up a ton of our time. Rather than nix a good habit for the sake of time, we found Pocket. Pocket is a brilliant, time-saving app that allows users to save web content for later. When you add a piece of content to your "pocket," it automatically saves across all of your devices (computer, phone, and tablet) so you can access it when you have some free time.
The best part? You don't even need an internet connection to use it.
5) Rethink Your Sleeping Habits
Does this tip make us sound too much like your mom? For the sake of your precious time, that's a risk we're willing to take.
It's no secret that most of us spend arguably too much time under the glow of our devices in bed at night. You do it. I do it. We all do it.
However, according to Harvard Health, the blue light emitted by our devices could be seriously deteriorating our sleeping habits.
While it works to boost attention, reaction times, and mood during the day, research has revealed that at night, this light has the power to block the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and throw off your circadian rhythm.
As a result, we suffer from a decrease in sleep quality, and a later (or more groggy) start to our morning. Yikes.
In other words, when it's time for lights out, it's time for blue lights out too. And while it's unrealistic to ask you to pull the plug early every night, we've found an app that will help to ensure that you're up and at 'em for those early morning hours.
F.lux is an app that solves for this very problem by adapting the color of your computer's display in accordance to the time of day. In doing so, you'll strike a balance between blue light during the day to keep you focused, and warm red light at night to help you wind down.
6) Pack Your Lunch With the Right Foods
Okay, now we really sound like your mom, but trust us, this one couldn't be more true.
When hunger strikes at work, this is what the internal conversation looks like for me:
"Hmmm. I'm getting hungry. What am I in the mood for? Salad? No way. I'm starting that diet tomorrow. Maybe. Okay. Uhhhh. A Wrap? That sounds kind of good. Sushi? Strong possibility. Chipotle? Ugh, the line is going to be so long. Pizza? I mean, I'm always in the mood for pizza. Oh, wait, that place I like isn't open on Mondays. Never mind. Do I have a meeting after lunch? I think I have a meeting. Let me check. Yes. Okay, so I have to make this quick. Hmmm."
The fact of the matter is, you have a ton of other decisions to make during the day, so why task yourself with lunch?
To eliminate the indecision that accompanies lunch plans, make note of these brown bag friendly options that are proven to boost concentration:
- Dark chocolate (for dessert ;-) )
Not only will these choices have you feeling good, but think of all the time you'll be saving thanks to their super concentration-boosting powers.
7) Use Keyboard Shortcuts
I used to live down the street from one of my former co-workers. To spice up our morning commutes, we'd meet at the stop sign and take different routes to work in an effort to determine the fastest way to get there.
What our quest to uncover the ultimate shortcut taught me is that while something like two minutes difference may seem trivial, little time savers like this have the ability to add up to something greater.
Combine that shortened commute with a few keyboard shortcuts once you get to work and you'll surely notice a difference.
Not familiar with keyboard shortcuts? These neat little tricks and hacks aim to help you simplify tasks by reducing your dependence on your mouse. To get you started, check out these examples:
Try memorizing a handful of these shortcuts a week and you'll be whizzing through your work in no time.
With all this free time on your hands, you can focus on what really matters -- growing your business. To help you manage this growth, we're giving away the HubSpot CRM for free. Yep, you read that right: It's free.
Originally published Jul 6, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017