Want to know how to have a productive day? Then you’re in the right place. Have you ever wished you had more time to do the things you enjoy or be with the people you care about? Maybe you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish all of your goals? The problem is not the amount of time in a day it is how we use that time.
Out of the 24 hours we are all given, you probably waste a fair amount of it. This guide is not a doctrine on how to neurotically use every single minute of your life to work. It simply is offering tips and suggestions on how to create a little more free time on your day to do what you want to do, not what you have to do.
The main focus of this is how to be more efficient at monotonous tasks that we all must do week in and week out. If we can get through these in as little time as possible, than we can have time for fun or recreational activities. Each section will break down a different part of your week and offer ideas on how to get through the obligations of your week efficiently.
How To Have a Productive Day:
1. In the Bathroom
So you suppressed your thoughts of throwing the alarm out the window and now you are awake. Well, awake is a broad term, if someone who zombie walks down the hall covered in drool with almost no mental capacity to think is awake, then you qualify. This is a key opportunity to spend almost no time and really wake yourself up in just 3-4 minutes, excluding time for bodily functions which are out of our control.
Now for some of you who are used to spending half an hour in the bathroom every morning that may sound insane. Look at young men and women who are waking up at boot camp. There you have 50-90 people sharing a bathroom who all shave, shower, brush their teeth and get dressed for the day in less than 5 minutes. Since you won’t be inconvenienced by angry drill instructors or dozens of people in your bathroom let’s say 4 minutes is reasonable, if you have to shave.
Starting with shaving if you really are only interested in saving time it is quicker to buy a beard trimmer, put it on the lowest setting and simply removed everything but a 5 o’clock shadow. That could take less than a minute. Then you can count on another minute to brush your teeth. That leaves you 2 minutes to shower, slap on deodorant, and give yourself a double-pits to chesty with your axe spray.
Showering can be sped up by using two simple steps. One if you have short hair or no hair you cut out any real amount of time on your head. The second is you give yourself a little motivation to get out of the shower as fast as possible via cold water. Taking a cold shower will not only prevent you from lingering in a relaxing steam box like most people do, but it will also wake your ass up!
Now I am not saying you need to hop in an ice bucket but just cold enough that it is uncomfortable will do the trick. You will be surprised how fast you can wash yourself off when you are trying to get away from that cold water. As an added bonus this could also cut down on your water bill.
So now you hop out of the shower, dry off, and boom, you are basically done. I have been shaving my head for quite a few years and that is the real key to getting ready quickly. After experimenting with different short hair styles the one that works most efficiently for me is buzzing my head with no attachment on the clippers.
Actually shaving your head with a razor blade can be painful and takes a little bit of time. By buzzing my head with clippers I give myself a weekly haircut that takes 2-3 minutes and I do it outside so I don’t have to clean up anything. Now that you are clean and smelling fresh throw on some clothes and you are ready to go out the door.
2. In the Kitchen
Now as a guy I used to dread cooking. It is one of my least favorite activities and that is before clean up. As painful as cooking is for me I have found ways to make it go much faster. If we look at athletes and body builders they spend a fair amount of time talking about meal prepping. This is a way to ensure they eat healthy by pre-cooking and packaging all of their meals for the week.
When I first heard about this I liked the idea because it is also very efficient. I take one day a week and do all my cooking for the next 6 days. Once the food is cooked I put it in Tupperware containers that are a single meal size. Now the rest of the week all I have to do is grab a container, nuke it in the microwave and Boom! instant healthy microwavable meals.
To take this a step further I typically only cook a few types of food for any one particular week. If this week I am eating a lot of rice then I will probably have rice with 6-8 of my meals a week. If I am eating burgers, than I will cook a dozen for the week and eat one or two every day. By cooking things in bulk you can cook 10-14 meals worth of food in only an hour or two.
If you buy a cheap 30 dollar grill it will easily hold 10 burgers and 6 sausages at one time. If you are a chicken fan, bake an entire rack of chicken at once. I typically add a carb portion to the meal such as pasta or potatoes that also are easy and fast to prepare.
Some people save time in the kitchen by not preheating the oven. You could also buy some food that is precooked and basically just needs heated up in your oven. These foods are not always a healthy choice but should defiantly cut down on cooking time. To get through the cleaning up process as fast as possible consider using a dishwasher. The dishwasher will take a lot longer to wash dishes than you would by hand, but it frees you up for other tasks.
While most people do not keep their washer and dryer in the kitchen try doing laundry at the same time you are cooking. This way in 2 hours you have all your food for the week prepared and your clothes are clean and ready to go. If you are baking something in the oven, set the timer and do some cleaning up around the house or any other small task that you can get out of the way. Cooking with go faster if you find ways to multitask and that makes it more enjoyable.
3. Around the House
Cleaning up around the house is the next item on the list of things we really don’t want to do and want to be over as quickly as possible. This is made even worse if you have pets that shed hair all over the place. So how do I speed up cleaning up all the dog hair in my house, I let someone else pick it up. And by someone else I am talking about an automated vacuum.
I let my Roomba do most of the dirty work for me and I don’t even have to turn it on. You can set most automated vacuum cleaners on a timer so every morning my Roomba cleans the floor fairly well and all I have to do it empty it once a day. This does not get me out of cleaning completely but the investment saves me from vacuuming for 25 minutes every day.
Moving outside the house the yard is the biggest time consumer. Like buying Roomba purchasing the right lawn mower is also key for saving time. Whether you buy a riding or push mower buy one that is also a mulcher. This will eliminate the need to rake the yard up after you are done or even dispose of large bags of grass. The clippings will be so small and insignificant you won’t notice them.
Also, if you buy a mower with a larger blade radius you will have to make less laps around your yard. You can forget about grabbing that rake in the fall too. Most mulching mowers will do the same thing to leaves that they do to grass. I am not promising you will ever have to rake up leaf clippings depending on how many trees you have I your yard but the number of bags you rake up will be almost insignificant.
Personally the year before I bought a mulching mower I raked up over 50 bags of leaves in my yard. Now with the new mower I rake up less than five. So forget about spending an hour or two a week raking up your yard and save your hands from blisters by putting your mower to work.
4. In the Store
Shopping is something that can be extremely flexible. You could spend hours a week
shopping or have it all done in minutes depending on where you live and how much you need to buy. But while the title of this section is in the store the key is to bring the store to you. Popular websites such as Amazon offer one click shopping and cheap shipping. Now instead of driving to a store, walking around looking for what you need and then waiting in line to check out, you do it all on your phone.
Other than food products and the occasional trip to Home Depot for hardware supplies I do almost all of my shopping online. Normally I can have my shopping for the week done faster than the time it would take me to drive to the local Wal Mart or Target. But when I do venture out into the world to shop I am strategic about how I go about it.
By shopping at a large “one stop shop” store you avoid a lot of wasted time traveling between stores. Why buy items at 5 different stores and waste half a day when you can make one efficient run to a single store. Perhaps these stores tend to be busier than smaller stores but this can be avoided as well. By shopping early in the morning or late in the evening you not only avoid the road traffic but cut out the checkout lines as well.
Speaking of checkout now that more and more places have self-checkout lines I recommend using those. When I was in college I worked as a cashier on the weekend. I can promise that after a few hours behind the register the cashiers are not worried about getting you through the line as fast as possible. You are the only one who cares about your valuable time and so if you checkout yourself; you will most likely get out faster.
5. On the Job
Work is something that often bogs down our lives. They call it a 40 hour work week but how often does that get extended by being forced to stay late and we can’t forget about the commute. These things are most likely unavoidable but is there any way to cut down on the time we spend at work?
What if you worked the same 40 hours a week but you only worked three days a week instead of five? Now you only have three round trip commutes instead of five and you only have to stay late three times a week. This could save you a fair amount of time especially if you have a long drive to work. There are lots of careers that offer long shifts that grant you extra days off in week.
If possible try to find a job reasonably close to you, if your commute is 45 minutes one way that adds an extra hour and a half to every single work day of your life. That 45 minute commute over the course of a year means you spent over 16 entire days of your year just driving to and from work.
If you work for that company for 30 years then you spent a year and a half of your life just driving back and forth from a job. What if you live 10 minutes from you workplace and only work 3 days a week? In that same 30 year career you only spent 65 days of your life driving to work. What an impact it can have on your life if you find a job close to home or move close to your work.
While we are talking about your commute there are a few ways to make it better. If you are driving to work for 30 minutes that sounds like a waste of time. Is reading a book a waste of time? With the rise of audio books you can now read or listen on your way to work.
If you aren’t into books try finding a podcast that tickles your fancy. You can also listen to college lectures while you are driving. Rather than hear the same top 15 radio songs repeat week after week try and enrich your life and maximize the your time in the car.
The ultimate way to cut down on a commute would be to work from home. Doing this could save you a great deal of time as you may be able to multitask and accomplish some chores while you are “on the clock”. Most of us are unable to work from home so we will be spending our clock time away from home but we can still reduce the impact work has on our lives.
If you punch a time clock at your job there is no point in showing up too early as you are allowing work to take up even more of your life for no reason at all. Showing up 5-10 minutes early is plenty enough to demonstrate you are a responsible employee. We all have to find ways to pay our bills but don’t let your 40 hour work week take up 55 hours of your life.
6. In the Bedroom
No, this section is not about how to have intercourse as quickly as possible; here we are talking about sleep. While you could argue sleeping less would be more efficient that would negatively affect your health. And, if you are sleep deprived you will move slower the rest of the day. Instead focus on actually sleeping when you are supposed to. How many of us are lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling unable to sleep. This could waste a lot of time and adds nothing but restlessness and stress to our lives. Many times the reason we cannot sleep is due to the decisions we make in the last few hours of our day.
If you are going to bed at 11 o’clock at night then you need to start winding down around 8-9pm. The first thing you should try and do is avoid taking any stimulants. It is not a great idea to be pounding coffee or soda an hour before you hit the sack. Even if you are able to fall asleep at the desired time you will most likely wake up frequently throughout the night.
The next thing you should avoid is exercise. While exercise and fitness are very important to a healthy lifestyle it is not a good idea to hit the gym right before bedtime. Regardless of how exhausted you feel after you finish your workout, your body is actually wide awake.
Your Central Nervous System has been firing like a mad man through your workout and your heart is pumping much faster than normal. Naturally your body will want several hours to unwind after this before it is ready to shut down for the day.
It is human nature to be up when it is daylight outside and to be asleep when it is dark. Being in artificial bright light right up until the moment your head hits the pillow may impair your ability to sleep. Instead of turning on every light in your house try candle light, which has a more calming effect on the body.
If the lights in your house have a dimmer switch you could also turn them down a notch to simulate the sun setting. And, just as the sun sets at a similar time every day your body wants to have a sleep routine. If you go to bed and wake up around the same time everyday your body will adapt to that pattern. While this is not always possible trying to keep to a certain bedtime can help you fall asleep and wake up easier.
7. Planning vs Procrastinating
Almost every task you undertake will have multiple ways of accomplishing it. If you step back for a minute and think of a way to complete it more efficiently, you can save yourself a lot more time than if you blindly rush into action. Obviously, you are not going to spend 40 minutes of your morning contemplating the perfect strategy for brushing your teeth faster.
But, you might take 40 seconds before you leave the house to decide which route would be fastest at this time of day, to get to the grocery store. Taking a few moments to plan out certain events of your day could save you an hour or more.
If during your short planning session you start day dreaming and pull out your phone to surf pinterest you have entered the procrastination zone. Now you are no longer planning you are just wasting time. Some people may not be able to plan for very long without crossing over.
For people who have a tendency to procrastinate then it might be best to just skip planning all together. Rather than procrastinate it is better to simply dive in to your current endeavor. Even if you are not going about something the smartest way at least you will have started and are ultimately making progress. I have often suffered from procrastination and what starts out as a 2 minute break turns into an hour and a half of youtube videos and flash games.
One tip to avoid procrastinating is to stay on your feet. Once you sit down and get comfortable, you are more likely to stay there and start wasting time. Standing up and moving around keeps you vibrant and more alert. Another tool I like to use is making short lists.
The act of writing thoughts down on paper is not only keeping me focused on the task at hand, it may jog my memory on something I have forgotten. Now you are fully prepared to maximize your time management in some aspects of your life so you can spend more of your day doing the truly important stuff.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about how to have a productive day. I sincerely hope its contents have been a good help to you.