You can't change the number of hours in a day, but you can fill them more efficiently, with less stress and mental effort. You've likely heard this before, and perhaps your past efforts at time management have been, well, a waste of time. But most people's attempts to increase productivity get derailed by two virtues of modern living: technology and options. Today's onslaught of tech – smartphones, iPads, search engines, social media – is fragmenting our attention spans, gumming our mental gears with useless facts, and turning us into surface-level thinkers. At the same time, all the communication choices we have today – email, IM, text, Skype, or Gmail chat – are thwarting efficiency. But we don't have to give up technology to regain control. "You need to set expectations of yourself and other people," says Daniel Markovitz, a blogger on time management for the 'Harvard Business Review.' "You need to say, 'Here's the Bat Phone number. Use it if there's an emergency. Otherwise, leave me alone to do my job.'" Here, eight ways to manage time.
Willpower is key to efficiency – and just like the muscles in your body, if you exercise it more frequently, you can improve it. Florida State University psychologist Roy Baumeister found that making people perform simple willpower exercises – like using their nondominant hand to open doors or brush their teeth – strengthened their focus during more important tasks. "When you practice overriding habitual ways, you are exerting deliberate control over your actions," says Baumeister. "If you can get people to do willpower exercises like these, it will improve how well they manage their time and help them develop the willpower to make better decisions." Hone your willpower by breaking a routine like driving the same way to work or by giving up a bad habit like junk food for a week. Willpower gets depleted when you use it too much – which is why judges and surgeons, who make decisions all day, begin to make generic or underinformed ones later on. Avoid making major decisions after a series of hard choices. When possible, make the toughest decisions when your willpower is strongest – in the morning for most, says Baumeister. You can identify this time by experience, he says. Are you more likely to forgo a workout in the morning or afternoon? Do you get more done at work when you first get in or before you leave?
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