How to free up one hour each week

By Kat Knights - writer, tutor and mentor at Professional Academy

Do you want to give yourself back one extra hour each week? Most people can only dream of having more free time. However, the truth is we all have the power to overcome the problem. If you are clear on your goals and focus on making small sustainable changes you too can claw back at least one hour each week.

Identify what’s really important to you

Why do you want to free up extra time?

What do you hope to achieve from it?

Answering the WHY and the WHAT will give you some perspective and direction. Making changes to your week, even small ones, will feel challenging at times. When the going gets tough you need to know that deep down the reason you are making certain decisions is because you have a bigger goal than the task in front of you to achieve.

The power of small changes

Once you are clear about the deeper reason behind why you want to claw back some time, your next thought might be to make a radical change. In reality big changes are often unsustainable. When was the last time you went on an extreme diet or decided to start a new 5am exercise regime, only to give up less than a week into your new habit?

Instead, your strategy should be to focus on the small changes you can make. Small changes can bring a whole bunch of benefits and wealth to you and are far more sustainable. If you can save just 12 minutes per day, you will gain one hour per week and 208 hours (over 8.5 days) per year.

Identify your time wasters

One of the best ways to save time is to identify your time wasters. What are the things that are taking you further away from rather than further towards your goals?

Common time wasters include:

  • Searching for files

  • Arranging and re-arranging calls / meetings

  • Hunting for email attachments

  • Getting distracted

  • Calls and meetings that over-run

Work smarter right now

It’s been reported that people in the UK check their phones every 12 minutes. If you fall into that statistic do one thing right now to help your problem. Turn off your notifications. By doing so you will stop being disturbed by pings, badges and alerts. Most of which are unimportant and not urgent. Instead, limit yourself to periods of time each day when you will check in on your phone e.g. mid-morning, lunch time and after dinner. Try to limit your time for each session so that you don’t end up wasting your valuable time scrolling through bottomless newsfeeds.

Work smarter for life

Here are some tried and tested life hacks you can adopt that will help your day run more efficiently and enable you to free up valuable time for the long term.

  • Block out time in your calendar

If you currently spend your days switching between responding to your email inbox and incoming phone calls then time blocking will help you overcome that reactive behaviour.

Chunk your day into blocks of time where you will work in a certain way e.g. deep (thinking) work, calls, meetings, taking breaks. Colour code each block so that you can see the shape of your day.

Deep work should be dedicated to tasks that are the most important and that require a high level of focus. These tasks should be completed first thing, when your mind is fresh. In order to think deeply you will need to remove all distractions by closing down any unnecessary tabs that are open on your screen, putting your mobile phone out of sight and telling your co-workers that you should not be disturbed.

The less you task switch the more productive you will be.

  • Set time limits

Meetings can over-run, researching and writing tasks can take longer than expected. Get stricter about how much time you will set for a task and then stick to it. Plot the time in your calendar and when your time is up move onto your next task. This might feel uncomfortable at first but it will force you to be more decisive and to keep momentum behind your to do list.

  • Break tasks down into bite sized chunks

Establish what the specific, actionable and measurable steps are that you need to take in order to complete a task. Let’s say you need to write a blog. You could break the task down into research, creating an outline, writing a first draft and proofing. This approach reduces procrastination and time spent pondering how to complete a task.

  • Say ‘no’ to more things

If you’re a people pleaser you’re probably someone who agrees to too many requests for your time. The result being that you finish each week with a to do list that’s unfinished…again. Each time someone asks you to do something take a moment to stop and reflect whether that task is something that is a priority for you and whether you truly have the time to help.

  • Delegate and outsource

Letting other people do some of the jobs that you are currently doing will instantly add time back into your calendar. In the workplace it could mean training someone to publish blog posts for you. In your personal life it could be finding someone to do your laundry. If you value your time over your money then getting comfortable with letting other people do certain tasks for you will be a game changer.

  • Get some sleep

Most people think that the answer to achieving more is to sleep less. In fact the opposite is true. In order to think clearly and be productive you need to prioritise your sleep. When you sleep your brain and body repairs itself. Your mind also sorts and orders what’s happened during the day, consolidating information for long term memory use. All of which means you wake up feeling refreshed and restored.

  • Exercise

If you suffer with mid-afternoon slumps, gentle exercise can help you. Increased blood flow and time away from your screen can re-set your mind to help you through that final hour of the day. Remember; it’s better to have one hour of great work than two hours of mediocre work.