As a student, there is no such thing as ‘free time’. The time you think is ‘free’ – you could actually be using to do something else that is productive, such as finding a book on the course reading list, writing up notes or reviewing the last lecture. Every minute we are encouraged to cram more and more activities in, more socialising, more studying, but there are only so many minutes in a day.
As much as I advocate slowing down and doing less, sometimes it isn’t possible in a student’s hectic lifestyle, especially during exam times. I consider myself a bit of a minimalist, stuffing more isn’t really my thing, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, so here are some of my favourite hacks to try to cram more minutes into each day.
1. Read when cooking. There’s a lot of waiting when you’re cooking. Most people flip the tv on, or have a day dream, but I recommend bringing a book into the kitchen and get a few paragraphs done whilst waiting for that pasta to become al dente. Also applies for toilet breaks and long queues.
2. Group activities together. Part of David Allen’s famous Getting Things Done method involves grouping tasks that are in the same context together to save time doing them. For example, if you have to boot up your laptop to do something, why not wait until you have two or three things to do and then you only have to turn on your laptop once to do them all. This may sound obvious, but it does require a little bit of organizational skill in that you have to think ahead to make sure you haven’t left anything out, especially if you’re going to make a trip to a particular place. It’s no good getting halfway back home from X and then remembering you had one more thing to do! Which brings me to…
3. Write things down. Maybe it’s the people I hang around with (or me) but you’ll be amazed at the number of times I’m walking around campus with someone who suddenly ‘just remembered’ they had to collect or hand in something and turn in the direction we just came. One of my friends even spent one whole day mumbling “I know there’s something I have to do today…” (It turned out she had to ask our lecturer something important, but by then the lesson had already finished and we were on the other side of campus). By jotting things down on a daily basis you can save countless minutes from trying to recall all of the things you had to do.
4. Listen to podcasts. Ok, this one doesn’t save you time, but it’s a way to fill up those idle minutes. It’s no secret that I love podcasts. The best ones are educational and intellectually stimulating. They could be news in an area you are interested in, or debates and discussions around your degree. There’s so much stuff out there, I’ve dipped into so many different subjects, including (and not limited to) economics, astronomy, travel, philosophy, history, nutrition, Zen,…you can even learn languages via podcasts. They’re a great alternative to looping the same album (however amazing) on your ipod whilst walking or waiting for the bus. Please remember to look out for traffic!
5. Be minimalist. Yes, you knew it was coming. In this case by minimalism I mean having fewer things, which generally means you will be in a much tidier environment. You will save minutes if not hours if you can find everything and anything you need because it’s not lost under a pile of clothes or crumpled at the bottom of your bag. Find a place for all of the things you need everyday. For my keys, I actually hacked a key hook using some blue tak and a piece of wire (the kind you get wrapped around cables of electronics) shaped into a ‘J’. I stick it just above the handle of my door, so I always know where they are. Try to keep sheets and notes as organised as possible, or at least keep them all in one place, so you don’t spend ages looking around for them.
With these tips, you can probably save upwards of ten minutes a day, which doesn’t sound like much, but could add up to an extra hour or two every week. At the moment, I’m conducting a bit of a hack-slash-experiment which I am trying to reclaim up to an hour and a half each day, but more of that coming soon…
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