A quick piece of advice?
Recalibrate your day.
Sure, you’ll still have the same 24 hours at your disposal, just like the rest of us. But if you hack your day and figure out the shortcuts, you’ll feel that you will have much more time on your hands.
Try out any of these 7 hacks to get the most out of your day.
Hack #1. Find out how your brain works.
There is a way to work smarter (which will take you less time) rather than harder (which usually takes longer): optimize your brain performance. For one week, keep a log of all mental activities you perform in the morning, midday, afternoon and evening. You will notice a pattern in how your brain works at a certain time of day. Then, adjust your schedule to accommodate the activities depending on what’s right for your brain and when. For example:
- Mornings can be great for doing deep work, i.e. work that requires a lot of your concentration. Some scientists call this the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly 2-4 hours after we wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10 a.m. Block this time off for your analytical brain to perform the most complex tasks that require a lot of focus.
- Early afternoons are great for collaborating. This covers the 12-4 p.m. time range, when you take a lunch break and the few hours after, when you are more likely to socialize. It’s a good time of day to schedule meetings, brainstorm ideas with others, work together on projects, or just hang out and catch up.
- Evenings, usually after 6 p.m., can be scheduled for strategic thinking. This is when the brain eases into a different tempo when it can be more creative. If you’re focused on your goals and strategizing where you want to be in 6 months or even a year with your personal development or career, this is when you can outline your next steps. It’s a great time for contemplating the big picture.
Hack #2. Train your brain to focus on what’s relevant.
When you have something specific you want to achieve, you are less likely to waste time on things that are not related to that thing. And it gets even better: everything you do starts feeling like it has purpose. To help you focus better on what’s relevant to you, try this technique:
- Start each day by asking yourself this question: What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today? It forces you to prioritize, boosts your critical thinking skills, helps your brain focus better, and also streamlines the work you need to do on that particular day, so that you don’t feel stressed and overwhelmed with having to make too many choices.
Hack #3. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get everything ready for whatever you need on any given day. When you prep things in advance, you won’t waste time looking for them or run out of time to get everything ready before you leave home.
- Gather all materials the night before so that you don’t waste time in the morning looking for them. This applies to whatever you need to get work done: your laptop, notebook, reference materials, a checklist of tasks you need to complete, etc.
- Pick out whatever you’ll be wearing so you don’t have to rush in the morning.
- Don’t forget to bring some food with you, maybe a breakfast-to-go or a packed lunch, along with a bottle of water and an energy snack.
Hack #4. Start using a timer.
Why would you waste hours at your desk working but not really being as productive as you could be? A timer can give your workday a total makeover.
- If you need to study or focus on a project at work, use a timer to divide up your hours into manageable increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. You can set the timer to 30 or 60 minute increments to maximize concentration.
- If you want to train your brain to focus in even shorter increments, try the which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks. When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5-minute walk or make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.
Hack #5. Maximize your commute.
Whether you’re walking, taking the bus or train, or driving to school or work every day, all that time adds up. Why not plan ahead to make the most of your commute to learn new things and get strategic about achieving goals that are important to you? An excellent option is to listen to podcasts. They help to feed your brain, keep you alert and focused, and boost your curiosity. Try some of these podcast ideas:
. This podcast feels like getting an education in how to live smarter. It’s about gaining more wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. Brian condenses big ideas from the best books on optimal living and micro classes on how to apply these ideas.
- Episode ideas: Look for The Power of WOOP, based on brain training research by Gabriele Oettingen, PhD; Create Zen Habits with Leo Babauta; and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. Then check out his micro classes on a variety of topics, from overcoming procrastination to how to train to be a hero.
. Shawn is an author, nutritionist, and coach and he hosts a fantastic educational show on many interesting topics related to health, fitness, and personal growth. He does a ton of research to prepare for each episode.
- Episode ideas: Look for tips on how to learn faster and increase focus with memory expert Jim Kwik (#197), how to embrace change and become emotionally agile with Dr. Susan David (#185), how to exercise your “NO” muscle with Michael Hyatt (#206), and how to stop the stress cycle with Dr. Pedram Shojai (#142).
. You probably know him for his book The 4-Hour Workweek, but this entrepreneur powerhouse is the author of many more—my favorite is . His podcast is full of interviews with smart people, useful tips on living a high quality life, and excellent advice on everything from important life lessons we can learn from Warren Buffett and Bobby Fischer, to deconstructing concepts such as meditation, mastery, and mindset.
- Episode ideas: Look for Testing the Impossible: 17 Questions that Saved My Life (#206), How to Design a Life – interview with Debbie Millman (#214), Seth Godin on How to Think Small to Go Big (#177), the Canvas Strategy (#165), and On Zero-to-Hero Transformations (#155).
Hack #6. Ignore distractions like a real pro.
Distractions can easily make you slip from the work you are focusing on, and can waste your time without you even noticing. A great example is reading email and constantly checking your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feed. Not only does this multitasking prevent you from focusing, it also can make you feel overwhelmed. Make a conscious effort to avoid distractions as much as possible.
- Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus without any disturbances.
- Set expectations with others by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours, so they don’t interrupt you.
- Try checking email and social media 2–3 times a day (around lunchtime, later in the afternoon, and evening).
- Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news; leave these activities for later after you’ve completed what you set out to do.
Hack #7. Get smart about your entertainment.
Watching a TV show you like to follow is one thing. But often that hour goes by, and you find yourself channel surfing, finding another show, then another, then maybe a movie. Next thing you know, it’s four hours later and you realize you should have been in bed fast asleep by now. Instead of doing the same thing every single evening, try a different source of entertainment.
- It’s a documentary about the professor and writer of mythology, Joseph Campbell, and the concept of the hero’s journey: why the myth of the hero is still important to us, how we can discover what excites us and gives us greater purpose, and what we can do to apply these ideas to the personal journeys in our lives.
- YouTube channel. It is a channel dedicated to fighting mediocrity through big ideas, using self-improvement books and animated important concepts that are in short video format.
- BBC documentary series British historian Bettany Hughes shares her passion for ancient societies and talks about everyday life in ancient Alexandria, Rome, and Athens. She gives an in-depth look into the way society was organized among Minoans, Spartans, and the Moors.
- BBC travelogue in 3 parts . This show is about a 14th Century scholar who covered 75,000 miles, 40 countries and three continents in a 30-year odyssey.
- Books. Reading them is the equivalent of living multiple lives; it can stimulate your imagination, utilize your critical thinking skills, and ultimately, it will give you food for thought. The books you select can be fiction or non-fiction, but that time you spend reading will take you on a journey to learn about other people and their lifestyles, delve deeper into the human psyche, reveal details on topics you may find fascinating, and best of all—it will help you grow as a human being. And nothing beats that!