A twenty five hour day isn’t coming any time soon. As long as your feet stay planted on the ground here, twenty four is all you’re going to get. However, with a bit of skill you can squeeze out a couple more hours to add to your day. Here’s how:
Step One: Remove Big Chunks
The first step to reclaiming more time from your day is to get hold of the big chunks that aren’t being put to good use. “Good use” is a fairly subjective term here, but it could mean both work that doesn’t get much done or leisure time that isn’t enjoyable. Here are some places to start looking:
- Television – This is a good starting point if you need more time. If you don’t completely eliminate it, cut it down to only the key shows you enjoy viewing or news you need to hear. Otherwise power-off this timewaster.
- Internet – Quickly replacing television as a huge time consumer is the internet. Try going on an internet diet where you halve your net usage for two weeks. The first few days will be hard, but each time I’ve done this my results have been that almost no work was lost in the cutback.
- Games – A friend once told me that World of Warcraft was electronic crack. I’ve seen 14-Day subscription CD’s for dirt cheap, so I can see they’re even using the drug dealer business model. In all seriousness though, cutting back on game playing can give you more time.
- E-mail – It’s easy to get lured into checking your inbox, just one more time. Unfortunately, if you are checking it every hour or two, it can waste more time than it’s worth. In the past I’ve maintained a once per day inbox clearing routine and found it saved a lot of time. Now I’d like to aim for twice per day.
- Work – Cutting time from work isn’t easy. But as Tim Ferriss demonstrated in the 4-Hour Workweek, if you can maintain productivity or increase it, then cutting low-value work is possible. Outsourcing menial tasks to virtual assistants or simply cutting work that isn’t useful can help you reclaim work hours.
- Chores – Beyond just hiring a maid, there are ways you can reduce time from your chores. Cooking meals in advance, keeping things perpetually tidy, maintaining an organizing system to reduce the need for overhauls can all cut down your time usage.
- Schoolwork – For students, the classroom offers a lot of opportunities to save time without ruining your GPA. Most of these involve changing how you try to learn things to reduce wasted time in cram sessions. Read this article for more on how to do that.
Step Two: Reclaim Gap Time
Anywhere from 2-5 hours of your day is probably spent in “gap time.” Gap times are those between meaningful activities but aren’t normally long enough to get more done. Commuting to work, waiting in line, time spent cooking foods, commercial breaks in television programs and small breaks in your schedule all count. Here are seven ways you can fill those gaps:
- Books – Bring a book with you at all times and get a few minutes of reading in.
- Listen – Put some audio books in your iPod and listen while you drive or walk.
- Problems – Solve problems in advance during gap periods so you won’t waste as much time on them later.
- Articles – Print off longer articles and read them while waiting for food to cook or in lines.
- Creativity – I use gap time to come up with new article ideas. You can use it to come up with new ideas for work or life.
- Rehearsal – Use gap minutes to visualize important parts of your day you want to perform well in.
- Engage – Make your gap minutes more enjoyable by focusing on what you are doing. Focus completely on the drive to work or observe everything when waiting in line.
Step Three: Triage
The final step is to use the principle of triage to focus on what’s important and ignore what isn’t. The easiest way to waste hours of your day is to do “work” that isn’t getting much done. Here are some things to think about when using triage:
- E-mail – Consider an autoresponder for common messages. Use concise yes or no answers for questions that don’t need a length explanation.
- Reading – If your purpose for reading is information, learn to change your pace from a knowledge absorbing crawl up to a fast skim over unimportant details. Ignore whole chapters and focus first on the ideas that are crucial to understand.
- Television – If you still watch TV, tape in advance and cut the commercials. You can save fifteen minutes from an hour program by doing this.
- Exercise – Plan workouts in advance so you can get the most exercising done without time spent flipping though fitness magazines or too much rest.
- Meetings – A good management trick is to conduct all meetings standing to speed them up.
- Relationships – I hesitate to say this, since relationships aren’t the normal domain of productivity time-cutting. But there are people in your life who use up much of your time without adding to the relationship. Not entirely caustic, these relationships drain your energy without providing much benefit. Navigate away from those people and focus on friends where the investment is worthwhile.
Final Tip: Prioritize Work
The final question isn’t just of doing things faster, but of doing the right things. Constantly measure and be aware of the actual value each of your work activities brings. Those that don’t add much should be simplified or eliminated entirely to focus on those that do.
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.
More About Working From Home
- 10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home
- 7 Ways To Supercharge Your Productivity When You Work From Home
- 10 Work from Home Desks to Boost Your Productivity