How to give yourself more hours in a day, according to highly efficient experts

From shortening your workouts to factoring in ‘white space’, experts share how to win back time.

Don’t check emails first thing

“It is too tempting to think, ‘I’ll quickly answer this email,’ which ultimately leads to ‘quickly’ getting back to that colleague and so on. Before you know it, most the morning has passed and your to-do list has grown but you haven’t even started your day or any of your actual work.” Rebecca Ann, leadership expert and founder of The Successful Leader’s Collective

Identify and banish your time wasters

“One of the best ways we can win back time is by looking at what is making us lose it. Ask yourself what it is that is leaving you feel that you don’t have any hours left at the end of the day. Sometimes we hear how people don’t have the time to do anything, yet in the same sentence they talk about how many episodes they watched of a favourite TV seriesTime spent on our mobile phones can also tell a different story to our narrative about time – all you need to do is look at your phone’s average screentime data to see how much you could get back.” Lisa Gunn, mental health lead at Nuffield Health

Call instead of emailing

“Many of us default to communicate via the written word, such as emails, texts or instant messaging. But sometimes it is much quicker to pick up the phone – in a couple of minutes, you can clearly communicate what might first have taken you a while to write down and then discuss with an endless thread of back and forth.” Ruth Kudzi, psychologist, neuroscientist and author of ‘How to Feel Better’

Batch it

“If I am boiling an egg for my breakfast, I will boil another one at the same time to enjoy cold the next day in a salad or sandwich. If I am having a photoshoot done for my business, I will make sure I bring plenty of different outfit changes so I’ll have a variety of photos I can use all year round, not just for a few weeks. Ask yourself: what can you do in batches to save time?” Helen Jane Campbell, life coach and Life Coach Directory spokesperson

Find a second brain

“I save time with a digital ‘second brain’ – a centralised system where I can offload my thoughts, organise work projects, and track anything inspiring. I’ve found it’s been particularly beneficial for managing my ADHD, as it declutters my mind, reducing decision fatigue and allowing me to allocate my time more efficiently. My go-to tool is a free Notion account, but EverNote and Google Drive are great alternatives. The system works by categorising content into Projects (things with deadlines), Areas (such as a reading list or work area), Resources (logging items for future reference), and Archive (for completed tasks). I’ve found it helps to reduce my mental load and allows me to stay more focused without fear of losing track of tasks.” Georgia O’Brien-Perry, PR manager at Bulldog Digital Media

Shorten your workouts

“Research shows that exercising for as little as two minutes at a time can yield positive health benefits, such as lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer. So if you need to win back time, cut the long slogs at the gym and incorporate short bouts of intense exercise throughout the day instead. This could be as simple as running up the stairs or doing a quick bodyweight high-intensity interval training routine.” Sam Quinn, personal trainer at Nuffield Health

Come off autopilot

“A lot of our thoughts are subconscious, and a lot of our behaviours are habitual. But when we are on autopilot, we may do things a certain way which isn’t time-efficient simply because we’ve always done it that way. It is a good idea to look at our schedule and habits and see what really needs to be done and what doesn’t. Really question what the cost is if we don’t do certain things, and whether is it more important to create free time or go around the usual cycle.” Lisa Gunn

Factor in ‘white space’

“Overwhelm often occurs when we have too many unplanned things to do. When mapping out our time, it is impractical to allocate every minute or even every hour of the day to do something. Instead, we should always factor in some ‘white space’ – this gives us breathing room and time for unexpected things that inevitably crop up.” Lucy Shrimption, wellbeing expert and speaker at The Baby Show

Adopt the Pareto principle

“This is the idea that 80 per cent of your daily work is accomplished in 20 per cent of your day. The best way to maximise this rule is to first record when you are at your most productive, your most alert. Then structure your day so that the most important tasks or the ones which require most attention are accomplished within that time frame. Go all out within this time, and remove all distractions, close down emails, silence phone and notifications and watch your productivity rise.” Rebecca Ann

Find your creative cottage

“All great artists, producers and leaders had a place they would retreat to get away from the noise. This could be a hotel lobby in your home city where you go to finish a key project or a quiet area of a public library where you can think, rather than being distracted.” Robin Sharma, author of ‘The 5 AM Club’ and ‘The Wealth Money Can’t Buy: The 8 Hidden Habits to Live Your Richest Life’

Delegate and outsource

“I used to find it really hard to delegate, which meant that as my businesses grew, I got busier and busier. Sometimes I would think, ‘Oh, it will just take me a few minutes, so I may as well do it’ – but this mindset was keeping me stuck and making me lose time in the long run. So, look at what you can delegate or outsource, whether it is through virtual tools such as AI or simply asking people for a hand.” Ruth Kudzi

Change up your to-do list

“If you want to be more productive, focus on your evening (not morning) routine – and how you ‘capture’ your daily to-do list. As a general practice, I like to keep two lists. One list is a massive dump for the week. The second is a daily focus of three items. As new ‘to-do’s emerge throughout the day, capture them in the massive dump list. At the end of the day, review your massive dump list and select three items you will focus on for tomorrow. Then take a moment to reflect on your progress. Practising this as an evening routine will help you transition from work to your personal life, while setting you up for clarity and focus the next morning.” Stella Grizont, positive psychology expert and the author of ‘The Work Happiness Method: Master 8 Skills to Career Fulfillment’

Work out first thing

“Morning exercise can be a great way of winning back time later in the day. Not only does working out first thing mean minimal distractions, but it will boost your energy levels through the day, making you more efficient at the tasks at hand.” Sam Quinn

Take breaks

“It may seem counterintuitive, but research shows that people who take regular breaks in their working days are more productive and creative, less stressed, and more engaged with their work. Taking regular breaks prevents us from missing meals, and allows us to keep well hydrated. It also reduces the impact of eye strain and muscle tension, particularly for people working on a computer all day. Going for a short walk in the fresh air is invigorating, and you may find that some of your best ideas come to you when you allow your brain a little time and space.” Dr Mark Weatherall, consultant neurologist and author of ‘Living with Headaches’

Block time for admin

“Time-blocking is a powerful productivity technique and a great way to save time. I always set aside a specific chunk of time to handle administrative tasks such as emails, paperwork and scheduling. Having a dedicated block for these activities prevents them from creeping into more important work periods.” Sian Winslade, life coach and spokesperson for Life Coach Directory

Cook with an air fryer or slow cooker

“As with everything in the kitchen time planning and efficiency are key, and certain appliances help us in this domain. Getting ahead with 10 minutes of prep in the morning and leaving a slow cooker to do all the hard work for eight hours while you are at work is a really simple way to save time. Meanwhile, an air fryer that speeds up cooking by 50 per cent is also a real win.” Ben Ebbrell, chef and co-founder of YouTube channel Sorted Food

Use time-management tools

“If you genuinely don’t know where the day goes, try a time-tracking app. At the end of your week of time-tracking, review your data. You might be surprised not only by where the bulk of your time goes, but also by how long certain tasks take. The Pomodoro Technique is another useful time-management tool which helps you to track time in set intervals for work and breaks, which stops you from getting distracted.” Helen Jane Campbell

Focus on you

“If you ever find yourself comparing yourself to others and trying to keep up, it is likely that you are losing significant amounts of time to this curse. To win back your time, check the motivation behind everything on your to-do list. If you are being driven by comparison, or a need to please others, it is worth making the effort to focus on you – that way you can put a more personal-driven to-do list in place.” Maxine Nwaneri, author of ‘The Future is Greater: A Working Mother’s Guide to Finding Balance’

Run a strict family schedule

“Have a set routine so that time is more structured and also predictable. This will make everything run smoother for your family and mean that you don’t waste time not knowing who is meant to be doing what.” Heidi Skudder, parenting expert, founder of Positively Parenthood and speaker at The Baby Show

Meal-plan once a week

“This involves setting aside dedicated time slots in your schedule to plan and shop for ingredients. By allocating specific blocks of time for meal prep, you can streamline the process and minimise decision fatigue. This saves both time and energy, allowing you to focus on other priorities with the peace of mind that nutritious meals are ready to enjoy.” Sian Winslade

Dedicate worry windows

“Johnny Cash famously had ‘worry’ on his to-do list. And you should too. This is because it is unrealistic to expect never to have any worries. Of course worrying can distract us from the things we really want to focus our time and energy on, but if we dedicate time to working through our problems with a specific ‘worry window’ each day or week, we will spend less time stuck or preoccupied.” Helen Jane Campbell

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