Many of us spend more time at work then at home while dreaming of the opposite. Regardless of this, we rarely leave for the day, our mind at ease, thinking we have accomplished everything that needed to be done. Here are five time-saving habits to start putting into practice now:

  1. Start today - yesterday
  2. Have you ever started a new day by reviewing the items on the previous day’s list that you didn’t have time to finish? Did you then rewrite these items onto a new list and attempt to decide which one(s) to attack first? Though seemingly harmless, this ritual can be quite time-consuming. The following is a great alternative to try: Block off ten minutes at the end of your day. Clean up your work space and put your files away. Write up a plan of action for the next morning, including tasks to be completed by priority, as well as the amount of time you will allocate to each one. As mundane as this may seem, this exercise has tremendous power – not only will it get you ready to start tomorrow off on the right foot, but it will also free your mind up to enjoy your evening, putting an end (a mental one at least!) to your day.
  3. Learn to say no Once your work plan has been established, decline – politely, of course – any request which does not fit into your day. Quote your day’s plan as an explanation.
  4. Double your estimates This suggestion comes from Elaine St.James, author of Simplify your work life. In her book, Ms. St.James recommends that whenever you embark on a new task or project, you must first take some time – anywhere from an hour to a day – to figure out precisely how long it will take to complete. She then suggests breaking the project down into all of its steps and determining the time required to complete each step, while keeping in mind other tasks and projects you are currently working on also. Add up the time required - and double it! This will allow you to offer a more realistic time for getting the job done!
  5. Follow the rule of 80-20 All time management experts agree that we spend too much time on non-essential tasks, and not enough on those that really count. They go on to suggest that we should follow the 80-20 rule – a famous law introduced over a century ago by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, which stipulates that, in general, 80% of our outcomes are the result of 20% of our efforts. Ernie Zelinski, author of The lazy person's guide to success, takes this one step further by recommending we maximize our most productive activities, and get rid of the non-productive ones. This, of course will require some reflection and decision-making. Though it may be difficult to abandon certain activities, do not spend time on them unnecessarily if they are non-essential.
  6. Give up on perfection Helen Keller said that perfection was as fleeting as a butterfly and that happiness is much easier to attain when you give up on the idea of perfection. Along the same lines, author Ernie Zelinski reminds us that beyond a certain point what is best, i.e. perfect, almost always goes against what is good or right for us. Perfection is not of this world. By abandoning the pursuit of it, not only will your spirit be freer – so will your time!