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14 Ways to Find Minutes in Your Busy Day You Never Knew You Had

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Are you harried each day, knowing that you have more to do than fits in 24 hours? Do you find yourself wasting time through the day, constantly distracted and interrupted, wondering what you set out to accomplish in the first place?

One of the best pieces of crowd-sourcing advice by INVISION’s Brain Squad is to take a minute to put that stuff rattling around in your brain in some sort of order. “Create a schedule with strict time cutoffs … and stick to them,” says

Leisa Lauer of Dr. H. Michael Shack in Newport Beach, FL. “It is always more efficient when you balance your inside- and outside-the-office activities. There is really not very much that cannot wait until the next day.”

  • But do get those lists out of your head and onto paper. Dave Allen, the time-management guru and creator of the Getting Things Done system, estimates people keep 100 hours of distracting undone stuff in their heads. Allen advocates creating lists and then coming up with “next actions.” The danger with this is you can become so obsessed creating lists you lose focus on that important thing you wanted to devote all your energy to. Our take? Make focusing on one thing at a time your No. 1 philosophy, and use systems like Allen’s GTD to support you.
  • Also, list your to-don’ts. Jim Collins, author of Good TO Great, wonders whether you have a “stop doing” list. Think of all the harmful, unproductive behaviors you engage in … and put them on your list. Let your “stop doing” list help you focus on the things you need to do.
  • Delegate stuff that’s not mandatory for an owner to do, says Maury Kessler, OD, of Eyecare Plus Scottsdale in Scottsdale, AZ, and Ted McElroy, OD, of Vision Source Tifton in Tifton, GA, who goes so far as to say: “1. Delegate 2. Delegate 3. Repeat.”
  • Treat information consumption like an addiction. Begin by silencing those notifications to allow better productivity, says Tina Smrkovski of Reed Optical in Claremont, NH, and deleting games off your phone like Dr. Erika Tydor of Shoreline Eyecare in Shoreline, WA. Next, block time for communication. You may even consider scheduling email, social media and IM collection during limited periods of the day. If so, you could have “Open for Email” hours listed in your email signature. And try this tip from Dr. Robert M. Easton, Jr, OD, in Oakland Park, FL, to keep on top of social media: “Outside the office, I go to the gym and respond to social media posts in between sets.”
  • Pretend you’re 2, and just say ‘no’. “For the next two days, do as all good 2-year-olds do and say ‘no’ to all requests,” suggests Timothy Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek. “Don’t be selective. Refuse to do all things that won’t get you immediately fired.” In this case, the exercise is designed not only to eliminate things that waste time, but to get comfortable with saying “No.” “Potential questions to decline include the following: Do you have a minute? Want to see a movie tonight? Can you help me with X? ‘No’ should be your default answer to all requests. Don’t make up elaborate lies. A simple answer such as, ‘I really can’t — sorry; I’ve got too much on my plate right now’ will do as a catch-all response.” Jim Williams of Eye to Eye Optometry in Mexico, MO, agrees, “Saying NO is the most important lesson one can learn. Sometimes I feel that I say no too often, but it is a good habit to have.”
  • Force yourself to complete a task: Stress sucks, but it can be motivating, writes Kristin Wong on lifehacker.com. If you’ve ever put off a project, then miraculously finished it in record time, you can probably relate. Contrary to popular belief, stress does not make you perform better, but you can steal something useful from it. Entrepreneur Dan Martell calls this a “forcing function.” He writes: “A forcing function is any task, activity or event that forces you to take action and produce a result. A few times a week, Martell brings his laptop to a co-working space or coffee shop and leaves his power cable at home. This gives him a few hours of battery life to get stuff done. “That’s when I slam through a bunch of emails, get some serious planning done or design some new product features. There’s something magical about a three-hour forced completion work session.”
  • Chunk it. To save you a few minutes a day and take back some control, try “chunking”. This refers to completing similar types of work at the same time. For example, you’ve got calls to return or accounts to chase up: Set aside a block of time to get them all done in one focused hit. It’s a better use of your energy than bouncing randomly from one management task to another.
  • Slow down, says Nichole Montavon of Oskaloosa Vision Center in Oskaloosa, LA. “If I’m going at 150 percent, I make mistakes, then I’m spending more time fixing those mistakes.” Rick Rickgauer of Vision Associates in Girard, PA, subscribes to the same philosophy. “I take a deep breath and realize I don’t have to burn the wick at both ends … which often results in mistakes and more work to get things done.”
  • Don’t manage time, manage tasks and do the important work first. “I don’t manage time, I priority manage. If a task takes an hour, it still takes an hour. I do the tasks in the right order and allow the time to manage itself,” says Adam Ramsey, OD, Socialite Vision, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Susan L. Spencer of Council Eye Care in Williamsville, NY, buys in to this approach too. “I prioritize everything and only focus on what must be done now!”
  • To that end, limit daily goals. From The 4-Hour Workweek, “There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never. It just isn’t necessary if they’re actually high impact. If you are stuck trying to decide between multiple items that all seem crucial, look at each in turn and ask yourself, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”
  • That flies in the face of our belief that multitasking gets more accomplished … But it’s OK to combine simple activities. Like Kim Hilgers of Monson Eyecare Center, Owatonna, MN. “I love organizing frames while the patient is looking for their frame … It looks like I’m trying to find just the perfect frame for them but I’m satisfying my OCD need for organization!”
  • Practice the art of non-finishing from The 4-Hour Workweek. “Starting something doesn’t automatically justify finishing it. If you are reading an article that sucks, put it down and don’t pick it back up. If you go to a movie and it’s worse than The Men In Black reboot, get the hell out of there before more neurons die. More is not better, and stopping something is often 10 times better than finishing it.” Ivy Elaine Frederick, OD of New Castle, PA, is a fan of this approach. “Don’t feel like it all has to get done today, just do a little bit at a time and you will catch up.”
  • Cut to the chase. After hanging up, have you ever looked at the “duration of call” display and thought, “10 minutes! I really can’t afford to waste that kind of time…” If so, consider these tips from business consultant Jo Soard to improve your phone efficiency: Get to the point. If you’re the caller, say: “Paul — hi, I need two questions answered and I know you are the only person who can help me.” If you’re receiving the call, cut to the chase with the reliable: “Hi Lynn. Nice to hear from you. What can I do for you today?” And to avoid never-ending phone tag: Leave short instructive voicemails, telling the person you’re chasing the purpose of your call and what you need. That will equip them with the information they need to respond promptly.
  • When all else fails … hide. “I hide in my office and pretend I’m ‘on a call,’ shares Cynthia Sayers, OD, of EyeShop Optical Center in Lewis Center, OH.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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