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The Timing of the Time

How to make the most of a valuable commodity

Time is by far our most valuable commodity. We all know this, and it’s why we dedicate so much energy trying to maximize each hour in our day. Few moments are more frustrating than climbing into bed at night with a lengthy to-do list swirling cyclically in mind and wondering what you could’ve done differently to get through it all. Most of us make one cardinal mistake while attempting to dream-up an optimized day:

Efficiency is not so much about the “what” as it is centered around the “when.”

There are ideal times to do almost everything, and mastering the timing of the time will help you knock out your must-do list more skillfully than ever.

Plan ahead. Procrastination is not your friend.

Any task you’re trying to accomplish at the very last minute is likely happening at a wildly inconvenient time — that’s probably stressing you out, which makes you less productive. Do yourself the kindness of taking time to find the right time in advance.

Part of working efficiently is caring for your own wellness, which can be tough to do in a pinch. If making healthy meal choices during your work week is a struggle, try whipping up overnight oatmeal (check out this recipe) in the evening for breakfast the next morning. Or choose something more immediate, like yogurt, granola and fresh fruit, that you can quickly put together. For lunch or dinner, consider making Sunday afternoon all about meal-prep. Find a great recipe and cook a large meal that you can eat for days.

You can keep your preventative health well-timed, too. Don’t wait until you have a health issue to address, call your doctor or dental office when you first think it might be time for a visit. You’ll be able to schedule the appointment you want, which means it’ll likely be more convenient, and you’re more likely to nip any issues in the bud before they become serious.

Are you in task traffic?

The grocery store on a weekend. The post office after work. These are the poster children of poor timing. If everyone around you is doing the same task at the same moment, this is not the best time. Make your shopping trip on a weekday evening, or try having your groceries delivered. Instacart and Amazon Fresh do a great job. Conversely, send returns and other packages on your way into work, or on Saturday morning — not 30 minutes before the post office shuts its doors.

This rings true for stopping at the gas station during rush-hour. If you’re routinely battling traffic and sitting in line to simply reach the gas pump, perhaps you have not chosen the right time. Which, leads me to my next point:

Maybe you don’t have the time. Offload the task.

There’s nothing noble about trying to be superhuman and running yourself down in the process. Would you benefit from offloading a few tasks? Adjust your to-do list to reflect what you can reasonably get done, and if you can’t make any cuts, call on a service. Filld can refill your gas tank while you’re at work or at night while you’re spending time with your family. If you’re sitting in rush-hour traffic on a detour to the dry cleaner every month, try using Rinse to pick up your laundry from your front door. (See my top picks for other helpful apps that can streamline your day.)

Speaking of rush hour, take some time for yourself and sign-up for a carpooling service. I like Waze Carpool, Chariot and Uberpool or Lyft Line. Yes, you’re still sitting in a vehicle for the duration of your commute, but you’re not driving anymore. Now, this time is yours. Get ahead on email. Chip away at that book you’ve been dying to read. Or simply enjoy the view and let your mind rest.

Is your own schedule optimized for your best interest? If not, can you change it?

Who says working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the best work schedule for everyone? In the age of the remote workforce and long distance teams, the notion of a rigid, static workday has begun to shift. If you’re toiling through an hour of morning traffic simply to arrive at work by 9 a.m., why not consider adjusting your work hours? (This assumes, of course, you’re job allows flexible schedules.)

You’d spend less time on the road if your workday spanned 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. or even noon to 7 p.m., which could open up hours for, well, whatever you’d really like to be doing. And, with an augmented schedule, you’d dodge peak hours just about anywhere your errands might take you.

This applies to when you eat, too.

Though research shows that eating several small meals can help us feel more energized, why do we continue to build our lives around breakfast, lunch and dinner? Eating more frequently can help your body maintain a steady level of glucose, its central fuel, which means you can better avoid the productivity slump you feel when those levels plummet.

Conversely, some swear by biohacking their consumption and fasting weekly for days at a time. Proponents say they avoid the mid-day energy crashes they experienced with traditional eating schedules and find themselves feeling more alert through their fast.

Whatever you choose on your journey to a more efficient lifestyle, don’t be afraid to question our traditional models of timing. You just might find what works best for you.

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