10 Ways To Squeeze More Time Out Of Your Day

It sucks when it feels like you're losing control of your life. Don't buckle from the stress. Instead, whip your chaotic schedule into submission.

There’s no arguing that we’re all swamped these days. Hey, that’s not necessarily bad: A new study from the University of Chicago found that we’re actually happier when we’re busy. Problem is, experts say we stink at managing our time and end up feeling stressed as a result. That’s why we called in the pros to teach us the best tips for feeling on top of things. From cool sites that keep you focused to scheduling tricks, our gurus share the secrets to taking back your time.

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1. Tweak Your TV Time

We’ve all done it: You start watching an old episode of CSI: New York and, hours later, you’re sucked into a marathon. It’s fine to zone out once in a while, but if the TV is keeping you from getting things done, time-management guru Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, suggests watching only DVDs for a week and limiting yourself to one per day. It’ll force you to be honest about your television habits.

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2. Ignore The Beep

Being a slave to your work inbox’s new-message alert is a productivity killer, says Ferriss, so try to set brackets during your day when you ignore it. You can find out which times are best to check it using Xobni, a free downloadable tool that also brings up previous emails you’ve had with a person when they drop you a line, so you can be instantly up-to-date. If you need to stay on top of your email more often, Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, recommends turning off your desktop email alert and setting a calendar reminder for every half hour to check it, so you don’t have to keep track of time while you tackle your work in 30-minute segments.

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3. Use The New Browsing Police

The biggest time suck for women today? Mindlessly surfing the Internet, says Ferriss. Most of us will go online to check one thing at work or home and end up browsing for an additional 10 or 15 minutes. Obviously, you can’t go totally off-line, but to keep yourself in check, he recommends signing up for the free browsing monitor at rescuetime.com. It checks how much time you spend on certain sites, gives you a heads-up when you’ve been on a site for too long, and even blocks  “distracting” pages.

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4. Give Yourself A Quitting Time

A lot of us with office jobs tend to stay late simply because we don’t set a deadline to wrap things up, says productivity consultant David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. Knowing that you have to leave at a designated hour forces you to be more strategic with how you spend your day. Try this trick for enforcing it…and fitting in a workout: Make a pact with your work BFF that you’ll go to a class at the gym together after work a few days a week. If you don’t go, you have to pay your coworker, say, P50. The set time, peer pressure, and cash penalty force you to be efficient.

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5. Speed Up Your Beauty Regimen

A minute here, 30 seconds there­—it all adds up. To save time...
• Have yourself waxed once a month instead of shaving them Every. Effin. Day.
• It sounds counterintuitive, but use a slower-drying topcoat on wet polish instead of the quick-drying ones, since they’ll make your polish last much longer (less time for touch-ups!).
• Chuck the stuff in your kikay kit that you don’t use daily, so you won’t have to dig around it all the time.

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6. Follow The 2-Minute Task Rule

If something will take less than two minutes to do at work, like asking a coworker if you’re all set for a meeting, do it right away so it doesn’t crowd your brain. For lengthier tasks, Allen suggests writing a reminder and putting it in your inbox so you’ll have to face it later.

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7. Cut Off ARambler

Obviously, we all love our friends, but when a good pal goes on about a problem, it can sap time from your day. Try hearing her out once, then sympathize and move on, suggests Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email In The Morning. This phrase will sum that up for you: “Wow, that’s a tricky situation. I’m here if you need help, but I’m sure you’re going to do great.”

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8. Figure Out Your Weak Spots

Just like food diaries are a great way to see what you’re actually eating (as opposed to what you like to believe you’re eating), writing down what you do for a day helps you locate the stuff that needlessly takes up a bunch of your time, says Vanderkam. Yes, tracking your activities is boring, but it has to be done if you want to get ahead. Keep a notepad on you for one typical day, or type everything into your phone to see where your big snags are at work, at home, and with friends. Once you ID the problems, you can use the rest of these tips to help with those areas.

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9. Make Use Of Wasted Hours

Believe it or not, there are chunks of time when you’re pretty much doing a lot of nothing­—your commute and time on the treadmill at the gym come to mind. Make these moments productive to free yourself up later or to turn them into enjoyable personal time you feel you’re missing out on, says Vanderkam. So, commute with a coworker to get some work done on a project, or coordinate gym time with your guy or a friend to make it more social.

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10. Learn To Say No

“You can’t say yes to all invitations and commitments that come your way. You really have to learn how to say no, and saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It will make you more efficient. If you spread yourself out too thinly, you’d have nothing of yourself left to give, and you won’t be able to give your best in everything.”  —Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, wife, mother, TV host, and public servant

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