Maximizing the quality of your time is not only good for productivity, it’s essential to living a happy life. This, most likely, is not news to you. Doing more with less time is a never-ending process we all go through. How to best maximize your time-to-output or time-to-quality-experiences ratio, is a question you should actively explore throughout your life. Far from a definitive guide on the problem, with this article, I hope to give you another tool to help you live your best life.
The method described focuses more on reducing wasted time than improving time spent doing something you value. Translation: I want to help you spend more time doing something meaningful, not help you maximize the meaningful time you already have.
Throughout the day, we spend our time doing the same activities over and over again. Making a list of them is the first step (or just keep them in mind, I won’t judge). How many there are, depends on your level of specificity. I tend to favor broader groups. For example, reading blog posts/articles, for me, is the same as reading books, both classified under ‘Reading’. The thing to keep in mind while making your list is that every item should contain only activities of equal importance. If reading books is more important than reading blog posts, you should separate the two.
Here’s my list, ordered by importance (obvious things like ‘Eating’ omitted):
- Working out
- Being Social
- Working on side projects
- Doing Chores
- Browsing the Internet without a goal (Reddit, Instagram…)
You’ve probably guessed the next step: reduce the time spent on the bottom item. I’ve used this mantra to guide the process: “Reduce, Realize, Repeat, (R)Eliminate”. Let me go through those
- Find a habit that will reduce the number of hours each day you’ll do the activity. For me, limiting something to only a certain number of hours a day has been helpful. For example, when quitting Reddit and Instagram, I forced myself to only use them after 8 p.m.
- After a while, I noticed that on some days, I forgot to check them. This lead to the realization that they weren’t all that important.
- Since there was no need to check them every day, I started limiting myself to only checking the apps on Sundays. After n number of Sundays, I started forgetting to check the latest selfies and click-bait articles, which in turn, made me realize Instagram and Reddit were of no use to me.
- No reason to have unused apps on my phone, so I deleted them. After elimination, it’s important that you use the newfound time on activities that are already on your list. Doing this ensures more time spent on activities of value.
OK, so eliminating social media use is as easy as breaking the habit of checking the apps. But what about the next item on my list, ‘Doing Chores’? First of all, eliminating this activity outright is no good. This is where the repeat step shines. Looping the first two steps might be as easy as this(alternate reduce and realize): reduce overhead by doing all chores on one day, realize you don’t have to do chores every day, reduce the amount of time spent cleaning by getting a romba, realize you don’t have to be the one who does the chores, etc. You’ll never get to the point where you’ve eliminated all chores, but constantly reducing the amount of time spent on them will get you close.
To be honest, social media and chores are the only two activities I’ve applied this method to. However, I’m certain it has broader applicability. This method is just a systematized version of a natural process, but I’ve found deliberately doing it allows for greater results, meaning better quality time.
No matter which aspect of your life you apply the method to, the end result is fewer distinct activities. In turn, those activities will be more meaningful.