About This Week’s Action
“If you’re lucky, at some point in your life you will reach a tipping point where you have more money than time. But most people have more time than money.” A very wise person once told me this. Compared to his life it probably seemed like I have a ton of time. But I rarely feel this way. And you probably don’t either. Most of us feel we have no free time – be it to relax or work on extra projects. But the reality is that I do have a lot of “wasted” time each day. And you probably do too. So, this week’s action is to find an extra hour each day. (If you’re asking “why an hour and not 30 minutes or 2 hours?” the answer is that 1 hour a day is a significant amount of time with which you can make a difference.)
Note: Normally I personally do each week’s action step ahead of the week. But this week I’m doing it right along with you. So, if you want to find out how my goal of finding an hour more a day this week is going you should 1) sign up for the newsletter (I’ll include a note about it in next week’s action step email) 2) sign up for the email reminders via Eventbrite and 3) follow me on Twitter.
Why Find An Hour Each Day
You’ll Become More Aware
A large part of finding time is time tracking. Tracking your time will increase your awareness and enable you to choose how you spend your time. When you find an additional hour each day, you’ll be better able to decide how to use that hour. Honestly, I don’t care if you spend the hour watching Shark Week or earning $10,000. But at least you’ll know where your time is and be able to consciously decide how to use that hour.
You’ll Be Able to Relax
With an extra hour each day you can decide to relax by taking a bubble bath or by going for a run. But more than by physically relaxing, when you know where your time goes and how you spend it you’ll be able to mentally relax. You won’t be as frazzled. And when you’re not as frazzled you’re happier and more productive. What could be better than that?
You’ll Earn More Money
An hour a day is a significant amount of time. If you find an hour each day and can make $25/hour in a year you’ll be able to generate nearly $10,000 in more income. If you work just 5 extra hours a week you’ve still made $6,500. (Remember to watch for our series on Making More Money in July.)
How Long Does This Action Take?
Finding an extra hour each day is going to be a significant investment of time this week. You’ll need to dedicate at least 1 day to tracking your time and another 30 minutes to an hour analyzing. Plus, if you really want to get serious, you’ll need to experiment with various ways to maximize your efficiency. But remember: putting in the time this week can free up 365 hour this year! (That’s over 15 full days of time.)
How to Find More Time: 1 Hour Per Week
1. Track Your Time
The most important and most difficult piece of this week’s action is to track your time. There are 2 ways to track your time: the old fashioned way with pen and paper or the newfangled way with websites and apps. Personally, I think that paper way helps you to better appreciate where your time is going and is much easier. But, some of the technology may be more likely to keep you honest. So, pick your poison.
But before you skip to that step below decide which day during the upcoming week you’ll track your time. I recommend that you track your time on Thursday or Tuesday. Don’t choose a weekend unless you normally work on weekends. Now, set a reminder on your calendar of phone to remind you to track your time that day.
Track Time with Pen and Paper
Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write these words across the top in 4 columns: (leaving the appropriate amount of space for the type of info in the box. Eg, times take up little space and description of what you did will take up a lot of space):
- Time Start
- Time Stop
- Total Time
- Description of time spent
Ok, that was easy. The hard part is actually writing down what you did with your time. But make sure you write down EVERYTHING. That’s right, WRITE DOWN EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DO. I don’t care if you just “quickly” check your email on your phone. WRITE IT DOWN.
Track Your Time with Time Management Apps
If you prefer computers to paper there are 2 pieces of software that I’d recommend to track your time. If you have a PC use Toggl. There’s a free version and you can download a free app for your phone for when you’re not at the computer. With Toggl, the site will keep track of your time based on various tasks for you – it’s like a stopwatch. Just like if you were using pen and paper – be sure to RECORD EVERYTHING. Even a short Facebook break. Toggl it. (Note that Toggl will be down for website maintenance on Sunday July 1st, if you were thinking of tracking your time then look for another option.)
If you have a Mac sign up for the free trial of TrackTime. TrackTime actually tells you how much time you’re spending in various applications (like the internet or Word) each day.
I’m going to repeat myself here: TRACK EVERYTHING – EVEN THE MINUTIAE. Track for just one day.
2. Analyze Your Time
After you’ve tracked your time for a day it’s time to analyze it. (We’ll spend more time in future action steps exploring productivity and how to use time better. But this week’s action step is about discovering hidden time during the day.)
When looking at your time tracking ask yourself:
- Are there tasks that I do multiple times a day? Can I batch these tasks? For instance, I’m moving towards batching my email by only checking it a few times a day. You also check Facebook multiple times a day? What if you just checked it once a day instead of multiple times throughout the day.
- Do I have time where I’m just waiting? For instance, do you wait for a bus or train or for a presentation or phone call to start?
- Do I multitask? Does this actually make me efficient?
- How much time during the day am I “relaxing” but not actually relaxing? For example, do you channel surf without finding any TV that you actually want to watch?
- Could I get up 15 minutes earlier or 15 minutes later?
- Are their routines (like getting ready in the morning or for bed) that I could shorten by 5-10 minutes?
- If I organize my time by category, how much time do I spend on each thing? For example, categorize how much time you spend eating, sleeping, commuting.
Rewrite Your Day
Now that you’ve analyzed your time, go back and rewrite your day. Literally write out how your day would have looked if you batched tasks together, cut out pointless tasks, and got up a little earlier and later. Were you able to find an hour?
To commit to taking this week’s action, you could simply just tell yourself you’re going to follow the steps in the how to section. But what are the chances you are actually going to find the time to do this, when you have so many other things to do? Instead, you should commit and hold yourself accountable. To hold yourself accountable do 2 things:
- Sign up for the week by registering here. When you “register” for this week’s action on Eventbrite (totally free) it allows us to easily email you twice during the week to help hold you accountable. (If you want to know why you should do this, read this post.) We’ll email you twice during the week to remind you to take action.
- Leave a comment below answering the question: Do you think you can find an extra hour in your day? If so, where do you think it will come from? If not, after you’ve tracked your time post a copy of your day. Let us help you analyze it.
This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.
Elizabeth is an attorney, freelance writer, ice cream lover, and new mom. She is the former co-founder of Go Green Travel Green and writes for Wise Bread.