Revealing my go-to weekly habits to save some precious hours and stay productive.
Before writing this article, I thought this topic could be a helpful self-improvement guide.
I googled ‘self-improvement’ and got 4,530,000,000 search results. More than 4.5 billion articles exist on self-improvement.
Next, I went for ‘self-improvement books.’ The result was equally overwhelming.
Most articles list 100 or more self-help books every adult should read.
But will you ever manage to read 100 self-help books?
I’ve always been keen on self-improvement. But when so much information exists, it’s hard to choose what to consume. I’ve hesitated to read self-help books because they mostly offer generic suggestions.
Not feeling productive? Take a 60-second cold shower every day.
Unable to manage time? Wake up at 5 AM daily.
What if I live in a hot, humid region where I take cold showers daily?
How can I wake up at 5 AM if my job allows me to sleep at 2 AM?
Self-help books aren’t personalized guides. They make blanket statements, and their tips are sometimes hard to follow.
When self-help books couldn’t help me, I started building my own habits to save time and be more productive.
Based on my experiments, here are five habits you can easily include in your daily routine. Each will take just 2 minutes, but their effects compound over time. These habits can help you save 20+ hours weekly.
1. Let the night show the day
Before winding up your work for the day, glance through all the tasks scheduled for tomorrow.
Make a strategic to-do list with all items arranged in descending order of priority. Keep the most essential tasks on top, followed by repetitive, mundane activities.
This simple practice eliminates the decision fatigue most of us face in the morning.
You wake up with a clear mind, aware that your day is planned to be productive.
Once you become a pro at scheduling, take it a notch higher by automating some repetitive tasks. While this is not mandatory, your priority-based to-do list can tell you which activities don’t require much attention.
See if you can leverage AI tools to automate these tasks and further simplify your to-do list.
2. The key is not to overwhelm yourself
Every day, think of the three most important tasks you have to do. These should be activities that have the biggest impact on your life. Ideally, you should identify these tasks the night before while making your to-do list.
Right after waking up, tackle these tasks first while you’re highest on energy.
Research shows that most morning people achieve 90% cognitive functioning by 9 AM, and it reduces to 81% by 1 PM. Thereafter, cognitive functioning continues to decline throughout the evening.
If you’re a morning person like me, you’ll be stress-free after waking up. Your mind won’t be jumbled with overwhelming thoughts. Seize this opportunity and finish the most crucial tasks first to spend a lighter day ahead.
This is more of a mindset shift than a habit, but its regular practice has immensely changed my life. Try it for yourself.
3. Know when you’ll be doing what
When you sit to plan the next day, don’t just create a to-do list to refer to. Right from 12 AM to 11:59 PM, time-block to the last minute on how you plan to spend your day.
It may sound excessive while starting, but trust me on this one. Mark each little detail, be it your bathing time, TV break, or an outing with friends.
Out on vacation? Use your itinerary to time-block your day.
Once you get into this practice, you’ll nail the art of time management.
Time-blocking eliminates the chances of having free time when you’re tempted to “quickly check” your phone and fall into the abyss of doom scrolling.
This habit prevents time wastage on redundant things and distractions.
The onus of sticking to your decided time is on you. Don’t start by challenging yourself and allowing less time to do a task.
If you need 30 minutes to respond to all the emails, allocate 45 minutes to have a breather.
When you consciously make your schedule easier to follow, you’ll stick to it better.
4. Use the weekends well
This one is especially true for all my readers who live alone. You’re doing your job as well as household chores. Throughout the day, you wonder what to eat next and despise unexpected grocery runs.
Require an easy out? Utilize the weekends to plan your weekly meals.
Make a digital or handwritten timetable with meal plans for the entire week. Use this meal plan to list the groceries and shop for the week in advance.
Meal prepping will reduce unnecessary mental exercise and save time by eliminating multiple grocery trips.
If you’re particularly free on the weekends, consider batch-cooking meals or chopping vegetables and making sauces to expedite the cooking process. Although this will take longer than 2 minutes, you’ll surely thank me later.
Another unexpected benefit of meal prep is the reduction of unhealthy meals. When you spend too much time wondering what to eat, and it gets too late to cook, you order food online.
Meal prepping avoids such situations and ensures you don’t succumb to junk food cravings when your refrigerator is empty.
5. Do nothing outside
This 2-minute practice is the simplest of the lot but heavily effective.
After waking up, keep 2 minutes aside to soak in the sun. If your room doesn’t have ample sunlight, go out on the balcony or a terrace to breathe in the fresh air.
Do absolutely nothing at this time.
Consciously shake away all thoughts and try to keep your mind as a blank slate.
This practice might sound insignificant, but this short time will give you the strength to gather yourself and get on with the day.
Fresh air will also uplift your mood and keep your spirits high for the next few hours.
This habit can set the tone of your day when done right.
Final words: Reclaim lost time
Give yourself a month and follow these five habits diligently. In my practice, I’ve saved 20+ hours each week with these simple changes in my routine.
That’s 80+ hours in a month.
This is enough time to watch 30–35 movies. I can dedicate these hours to learning a new skill or indulging in a hobby. I can utilize it to build another income stream.
The opportunities are endless when you reclaim your lost time with mindset shifts and healthy habits like:
- Create a to-do list for the next day beforehand.
- Identify your top 3 priorities for the day and tackle those tasks first.
- Time-block your entire day to the last minute, even on breaks.
- Plan your weekly meals and shop for groceries.
- Take 2 minutes out to do nothing and soak in natural energy.
These practices can help you reconnect with yourself and build a routine you’d love to follow. After all, you are the architect of your life. If you want to make changes, right now is the best time.
"It's how we spend our time here and now, that really matters. If you are fed up with the way you have come to interact with time, change it." -Marcia Wieder
If you enjoyed this story, here are a few more that might interest you-