How To Find Extra Time When It Seems Like There Is None

Just about everyone you meet thinks they’re busier than everyone else. We become entranced in our routines, disappointed that we can’t accomplish more while we remain oblivious to the opportunities we unwittingly waste.

Money Under 30 digs into the issue, soliciting ideas about how to find extra time for endeavors such as freelance work, side projects and hobbies. Here are some tips for the story, for which I chipped in some advice:

* Find and use dead space during your day. If you usually space out in front of your computer during your lunch break, you can put the wasted time to use. Other soft spots can include time you’d usually spend watching TV after dinner or downtime during meal preparation.

* Delegating or eliminating pointless tasks. If you’ve got tasks that suck away your time, see if there’s someone who can help share the load. For instance, if the project you’re working on benefits someone else, you can ask that person to step in to handle a task and give you the time you need to get it done. If you find yourself stuck in unproductive commitments, you can eliminate them to free yourself up.

* Strategically sacrifice sleep. My contribution was the strategy of giving up as much sleep as you can muster. When I’m working on a big, time-consuming project, I alternate nights of little sleep with nights of full rest in order to squeeze extra time out of the day without having to float through the next one like a zombie.

Time Management for Freelancers: How To Find Extra Hours for Earning More [Money Under 30]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Cat says:

    And the best thing, the very best thing of all, is there’s time now… there’s all the time I need and all the time I want. Time, time, time. There’s time enough at last.

    ~ Henry Bemis

  2. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    Looks like an excellent instruction list for how to be miserable and get an ulcer.

  3. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Why did reading that article make me feel like somebody slammed a door on my head?

  4. The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

    I don’t think I can get up earlier or stay up any later. Typically I sleep from about 1-5am.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I wish I could get by on four hours sleep. That would be awesome. I need 9 but can function okay on 8.

  5. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    “* Strategically sacrifice sleep. My contribution was the strategy of giving up as much sleep as you can muster. When I’m working on a big, time-consuming project, I alternate nights of little sleep with nights of full rest in order to squeeze extra time out of the day without having to float through the next one like a zombie.”

    I’ve been doing this a lot lately.

    Involuntarily, though. The youngest kid has been up during the night as lot lately, and since I can get by on less sleep than my spouse, I generally get up witth him.

    I’ve found 3 hours to be the practical limit. Anything less than that, and I’m a zombie. I think I managed 4 hours last night.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      “I’ve found 3 hours to be the practical limit. Anything less than that, and I’m a zombie. I think I managed 4 hours last night.”

      When I was in the Army, 4 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period was the goal for sleep, ideally with one full night every week. Given enough time, one can adapt to pretty much anything, especially when young and in shape. Now that I’m close to 20 years older, I can’t imagine consistently getting less than 7 continuous hours a night and still being able to function.

      • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

        When the stars align, I can get 6.5 on week night. 7 is pretty much impossible, unless the kids sleep in on a weekend morning.

    • PHRoG says:

      Our kiddo is on the same bout. I work from home and mostly into the late evening because it’s nice and quiet. So I’m crawling into bed around 1 or 2. It seems just about every other day, at 4AM on the dot, our youngest wakes up and sneaks into bed with us. He then proceeds to turn sideways in his sleep, kicking me in my back and waking me up. Once this happens, the brain starts working again and falling back asleep is impossible.

      So 3 to 4 hours a night has been my norm with the occasional daytime nap squeezed in. :D I wonder how long this phase is? What’s the maximum sleep deprivation a human can endure? :)

  6. Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

    How about managing your priorities? Whatever is most important, do that first – until it is done. Designate or negotiate your own deadlines. If someone wants me to 4 hours of work in 20 minutes I flat out tell them no and re-negotiate the time to one that better suits me and my workload. Finally, establish boundaries. I have to manage my fun time to make sure it does not impinge on other things I need to do. Not more than 20 mins on the Cheezeburger network, and limit warcraft to weekends only after all the chores are done. OK, so I farm on weeknights while I watch my husband watch tv -I count that as together time, not warcraft time.

  7. webwbr says:

    “Delegating or eliminating pointless tasks.” That’s laughable.

    In this business climate, where all support staff have been laid off. I now have nobody to delegate to and “the boss” just adds more pointless tasks believing it makes him look more important.


    • Cat says:


      I here you. I’ve got a bunch of corporate motherfuckery going on around me…

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I know the feeling. We used to have an office manager who would take phone call, send faxes, make photocopies, drop off packages, pick up mail, run errands, etc. but she was laid off last year. Now we have to rotate salaried employees who have billable time to do non-billable tasks, with a labor rate of 2-3x what our office manager made.

    • Rachacha says:

      Just do what I did. My boss was on my case about not updating our weekly project progression with new anticipated completion dates until I pointed out to him that the tasks were all low priority and in 8 months I had made no progress on any of them due to other high priority tasks. I told my boss to decide if he wanted me to update the projected due dates for low priority tasks every week with dates that we both know will slip, or if he would rather have me jump on that high priority task and get it completed before the due date which makes him look good for his boss. I have not updated my low priority due date list for over 18 months.

      • webwbr says:

        I’m in marketing… so there are no level tasks. They are all “high” priority.

        Reminds me of the evil kid on The Incredibles “… if everyone is special, then nobody is special…”. Same thing with projects… if they are all high priority, then none are high priority.

  8. teamplur says:

    WIth the right meds, (ritalin) you can go for weeks on end with only a few hours of sleep a night ^_^. Although that seems to greatly reduce the effectiveness of the meds at what it’s supposed to do. But hey at least I’m not tired, right?

  9. wetrat says:

    Good advice for anyone working on a thesis or dissertation as well.

  10. rpm773 says:

    * Schedule important meetings with you manager for February 30 – It gets them off your back.

  11. Rachacha says:

    Manage your priorities. I left a job after working there for 10 years. Due to a variety of circumstances, I gave my employer almost 1 month notice. My supervisordirected new projects away from me, and I worked to re-allocate some of my other job functions to other people. This allowed me to close out some long standing, low priority tasks. When I gave my notice, I had 100 low priority tasks that were on my “to-do” list for about 8 years. Of those, about 15 still were relavent, the remaining tasks had been rendered obsolete by other company policy changes and other issues that had long since been resolved.

  12. td45 says:

    pretty sure not spending time on Consumerist should be on this list.

  13. kobresia says:

    I just saved some time by not reading the blog linked from this article, figuring it would be a pointless task and considering that Consumerist has proactively taken-up the task before I even had to delegate it. Thanks, Consumerist!

  14. BorkBorkBork says:

    Another things that works for me is spend a few minutes the night before outlining your next day’s plans. You create a ‘route’ for your to-do’s, kind of like what you may do when running errands, so you’re most efficient. I do this on a white board and on my apartment’s bedroom window.

    Most people I meet who play the ‘I’m so busy’ martyr card are just really bad at organizing their time. They have a lot of redundancies or inefficiencies in their day that if they took time to organize, would free up extra free time.

  15. aloria says:

    I’m the kind of person who will nod off even with a full 8 hours of sleep, so having ADHD is somewhat of a blessing in disguise. I can actually feel like a human being on 6 hours of sleep with my meds. Unfortunately, there’s a massive shortage of the drugs right now.

  16. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    My problem is getting overwhelmed.

    As a single mom who works full time here’s a few pieces I can offer:

    1) Cook dinner the night before. This has saved me a ton of time when you only need to reheat food consistently. Obviously this doesn’t work for the occasional spaghetti or mac n cheese night.

    2) Set daily goals. Instead of walking in to a messy house everyday and not knowing where to begin. Dishes are done every day because no matter how clean your kitchen is, IMO, if you have dishes in the sink it still feels messy.
    2a) Make each day of the week something different. i.e. Tuesdays clean the bathrooms, Wednesdays scrub floors, etc. It helps to keep on track rather than moving room to room feeling overwhelmed.

    3) Set a schedule for kids and stick to it. When we get home, it’s homework time while I do dishes and heat up dinner. Then TV for 30 minutes, then we play, and in bed for 8:30. There’s no whining or expectations for anything otherwise. Then I work out for 30 minutes, catch up on bills, or work. This schedule changes based on outside activities which we have a lot of, but we talk about the expectations.

    4) Being busy is a great way to teach kids responsibility. My son (7.5) is now at a point where he can easily clean up after himself, make his bed, hang clothes, and even make his own lunch. And he enjoys feeling like an important part of our little family.

    5) Keep active. I do squats while I blowdry my hair or we always try to do something that requires something physical.

    6) Make grocery shopping a priority. I try to go shopping every 1.5-2 weeks. I have found that when I am not scrounging for food to make for dinner or lunches I am less stressed. We also eat healthier with fruits and healthy options immediately available.

    I might have more but it’s Monday morning and I’m tired. It may seem robotic, but since incorporating more consistency I have been less stressed out.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Those are all good tips even if you don’t have kids. I’m going to see if I can incorporate any of them. The dinner thing, I would add that I try to make my lunch for the next day when I make my dinner, so I’m not freaking out the next day trying to find something to take so I don’t have to eat out of the vending machine.

  17. gafpromise says:

    “downtime during meal preparation” – Are they using a Crock Pot exclusively? Or microwaving their frozen burrito and using those two minutes to work?

  18. skormos says:

    Sacrificing sleep is the absolute worst thing you can do. And, I don’t know about the rest of the people out there but, when I’m prepping my dinner, it’s not “down-time” it’s “prepping my dinner”. It’s hard to do anything other than cooking, while cooking.

  19. HogwartsProfessor says:

    When I was finishing my last book, my time went like this:
    –Work all day.
    –Come home.
    –If warm out, take a walk; if not, do Pilates (unless too tired from workday).
    –Make dinner.
    –Eat dinner while reading a book or checking email.
    –Write until about 11 or 12.
    –Get up and do it all over again.

    I have never been so exhausted. I wish I could afford to work part time while I finish the current one. Especially since the day job has been piling it on and at night there is now my bf to talk to.

  20. Sad Sam says:

    Resolve to live in a slightly messy home. At any time during the week there are dishes in the sink or dishes in the dishwasher that need to get put away or laundry that needs to be put away or other tidying that needs to be done. When I work 12 hours a day there is little time to get that stuff done unless I hire someone (and while I want to hire someone I don’t want to pay someone to do it). My housekeeping goals consist of making the bed every day, hanging up my work clothes each night (or otherwise managing them, i.e. off to dry cleaner into hamper) and 15 minutes of something else. That 15 minutes could be dishes, could be laundry, could be putting the holiday stuff away, could be cleaning the toilet and sink, but only 15 mins.

    I would rather work out, spend time with hubby or dog, or relax than clean.