In my previous post, I wrote that one good way to invest your time is to build time assets. Time assets are things that can save you time in the future. They require time investment to build, but once they are built, they can save you a lot of time. You will be more productive as a result.
Here I’d like to discuss several ways to build them. Of course, what I’m about to cover is not exhaustive; you are welcome to recommend more ways in the comments. But I hope these can give you a starting point.
From my experiences, here are seven ways to build time assets.
1. Create checklists
I have written about the benefits of using checklists before. In short, it helps you not to miss anything when performing a task. Plus, it frees up your mind for more creative things since you don’t have to remember steps and procedures.
Checklists are especially useful for complex tasks that you do frequently. For such tasks, you should invest time to create an accurate checklist so that you can do the task much faster later.
2. Build a knowledge base
Whenever you solve a difficult problem, be sure to document it. Write down the problem and the exact solution. You might think that once you solve a problem you will never forget the solution, but I often find that the reality is different. After several bad experiences, I made it a habit to document difficult problems I encounter and their solutions. I call the document my “knowledge base.”
3. Learn outsourcing skills
No matter how good you are at managing your time, your time is still limited. In addition, you can’t be good at every tasks. That’s why outsourcing is important: it allows you to tap into other people’s time and expertise and get a lot more done as a result.
These days there are a lot of outsourcing sites like oDesk, Elance, and Fiverr. Knowing how to outsource effectively though, requires practice. You should learn how to structure your tasks, how to find the right people, and how to handle communication problems. But the time you spend to learn these skills is worth it because they enable you to boost your productivity.
I must admit that I still have much to learn here. So far I use outsourcing mainly for graphic design, but the potential is almost endless.
4. Learn to use keyboard shortcuts
When I recently installed Windows 8, one of the first things I did was learning its keyboard shortcuts. I have become so accustomed to using keyboard shortcuts that not using them feels like a big productivity hurdle.
Whatever application it is that you usually use, you should spend time to learn its keyboard shortcuts. Some good candidates are the operating system (like Windows), browser (like Firefox), email app (like Gmail), and word processing app (like Microsoft Word).
5. Improve your typing skills
If you use computers a lot, it’s worth your time to learn to type faster. It seems that keyboard will still be the main input device for the foreseeable future, so being able to transfer your thoughts through it faster will save you a lot of time.
6. Highlight books
This one deals with the ability to quickly “reload” knowledge from a book. Unless you have a photographic memory (I know I don’t), you might find that you forget most of the ideas in a book within just a few weeks. After experiencing this again and again, I concluded that an important part of reading books is ensuring a faster way to “reinstall” the knowledge later on.
Highlighting the book you read is an easy way to do that. By highlighting the important ideas in a book, you can read just those parts when you want to get the knowledge back.
7. Get organized
Have you ever lost something and spent a lot of time trying to find it? I certainly do. Obviously, that’s not a good way to use your time. Isn’t it much better if you can quickly find what you need when you need it? That’s why you should get your stuff organized.
It applies not just to your physical stuff, but also to your ideas, appointments, and others. Have a place to store each of them and organize them in such a way that you can easily find them later.
When it comes to time management, here is a good principle to live by: spend time on things that will save you time in the future. If you do that, you will be much more productive in the long term.
The best keyboard shortcut I know is a piece of software called Text Expander. It allows you to assign a key to ANY piece of text (no matter how long!) I have all sorts of messages in here and I just hit a short key (e.g. “;intro”) and a whole whack of text will be entered in any application. As I recall, the software cost about $49 but it’s worth every penny for all of the time it’s saved me.
Thanks for the information, Daphne!
I live off lists – but I find that I spend a lot of time moving important “todos” from day to day.
If it’s really important, I’ll schedule the todo in my calendar rather than add it to a list. These calendar items tend to get done (even if they move around a bit)!
Used GTD for a number of years, but found I got more stuck in improving the process than actually doing something…
Interesting approach, Doug. Thanks for sharing!
If I’m honest, I’m the most disorganised person in existence so a lot of these points resonate with me! I would love to learn how to type properly as I could only imagine how much more I could write with that skill.
I’m sure that will be a good investment of your time. I have a lot of things to improve myself 🙂
I have a great tip! Before going to bed one should write down the important things one is going to do tomorrow – it’s easier to fall asleep since the mind feels more relaxed about having the tasks written down and during the night the brain processess the information! Great greatness for sure.
Oh I have another great tip! Before falling asleep I use to plan the outfit I’m going to wear the next day and place the clothes near the bed – this way I don’t have to waste time thinking about clothes during the morning. I also use to pack my bag in advance – this way I naver forget pencils, the computer, the in-case-of-rain-umrella etc. It’s always good to be prepared, you never know when you realize you have overslept!
Thanks for the tips!
On the get organised front when I realised that you waste time scanning through the same old emails in the inbox if you don’t clear it down to zero I set that (zero) as my new goal for emails. I might not seem like much but as with each of you assets the small improvements build up over time and can move us out of “time debt” and give us the space to do something more valuable or even work out what more valuable is.
That’s a good idea, especially considering that many people spend a lot of time on email inboxes these days.
I have found personally that preparing a list before the next day, and coordinating your thoughts in the morning of the day helps productivity. In line with that we must always keep the goal for the clearly before us.
I love these tips – someone gave me a brilliant one recently – use your smartphone to video yourself doing tasks you may need to outsource or film any new processes that are unfamiliar to you – and then use the video as a reference point and teaching aid. I thought it was brilliant in it’s simplicity.
About learning to use keyboard shortcuts, I think it’s a great idea though it would have been much better if you had done that earlier when you actually learned to use the computer. To make it easier to learn/remember, you could make a list of these and put it somewhere near your monitor so that when you need it, you can just check the list.
Thanks for the tips, everyone! Glad to learn from you all 🙂
Thank you for the time management tips. As someone who loves to be efficient, I resonated with your ideas. I plan to work on “Build knowledge base”, and learning more keyboard shortcuts! Great ideas!
An important thing for me to learn has been to let go over planning and trying to basically micro-mange the Universe. I would get so hyper-focused on my to-do list that I wasn’t enjoying the journey. Now I make my list of what needs to be accomplished and then turn it over to the true manager of the Universe, God! I allow my inner guidance to lead me through the list, the interruptions and everything that happens in a day. I am learning that nothing matters more than being happy and making meaningful connections with others.
Donald: time is always of the essance. Just today I told myself I was going to be in the bed by now, but that is not the case anymore. Rarely, do I feel like I have made the most of my time, but I try to practice being consistent with my efforts. I like what you said about highlighting as I read because that is actually what I am doing as I read my books. I highlight words so that my second time reading I can look them up and know what they mean.
Anyways, lately I have been trying not to focus on time and just do what I can do and at the end of the day, I try to be happy with my results.
A free programme like Text Expander is Phrase Express, it has similar functions and saves me a lot of time by storing frequently used phrases – or whole emails.
Flipping through pages of a “real” book to quickly find highlighted passages is somehow much more satisfying than scrolling through an e-reader.
I needed this. It’s very helpful. i have terrible time management and I am going to put these into practice from now on. I must admit I am a huge fan of the to do list. Nothing is better than that. I feel when you write something down on paper, it becomes a goal. It’s much easier to achieve.
I once listened to an audio recording of Earl Nightingale, who said we cannot manage time; we merely manage the activities we do during the day. And we place priorities in the activities we need to do.
Thank you for really great tips. Great job everyone!
Have a nice day
If we all used these techniques, we would all be able to get twice as much done in the day. It really amazes me how much time is wasted on simple tasks. Good article all in all.
All these things are really beneficial in creating a perfect time table for all these things!!
I am gonna implement these things from now so that my new year starts good 🙂
Thank you so much!!
Wish u a very happy and healthy new year 2013
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