How To Do Things Faster

1. Stop looking at the clock and counting the minutes

The most effective way to make time pass faster is to stop monitoring the clock altogether and focus on something else entirely.

That may be diving into your work without distraction, losing yourself in entertainment for a while, or just grinding through whatever is in front of you.

If you don’t have something to do, look for something!

Ask the people (or your boss) if there is anything else you can do or help out with.

Work on a side project if there isn’t anything imperative in front of you.

Develop a new skill or pick up a hobby that will give you something to focus your time and energy on.

Whatever it takes, the most important thing is to stop paying attention to the clock. The more you look at it, the longer it’s going to feel like it’s dragging on.

Just do something – anything other than spending your time looking at the clock!

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#2 Energy Timing

Within the same project, you can find that some tasks are harder than others. Maybe it’s because of your skills, or what type of work it is.

It’s tempting to postpone the hard things and start with the easier ones. But by the time you do that, you have less energy and motivation to complete the hard task. And when you work in those conditions, it takes you longer to produce anything.

The one-size-fits-all solution: do the hardest task first. You arrange your daily activities from most to least energy-intensive.

High energy could be analytical work that requires you to focus. Low energy can be creative work and brainstorming. They’re both important, but you do them faster when it matches your energy levels.

Here’s a straightforward exercise:

  • For the next 3-5 days, ask yourself how energized you feel every 1 to 2 hours (excluding sleep).
  • You answer from 1 to 10, being 1 no energy/wellbeing and 10 being optimal energy/wellbeing

You can do it just one day if you’re impatient, but the data won’t be as reliable.

Note: If you drunk coffee, worked out, had a bad night, or anything, you write that down as an observation.

Once you gather the data, you may find that you have similar energy levels at the same time every day (it changes with every person’s ultradian rhythm).

  • Do the hardest tasks whenever you have the most energy
  • If that time isn’t available, use your second best time
  • When you have low energy, use that to complete tedious or creative tasks (as long as it doesn’t involve deep work)

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10. Learn something

Learning something new engages your brain in a way that few others things can match. And the beauty of learning is that there is a virtually limitless amount of things to learn.

Think about something that interests you. Then find ways to learn more about it. This could involve reading books, watching videos, using study apps, enrolling in online courses (there are free and paid courses for all sorts of things).

Even if you’re looking to pass time at a job where you can’t use your phone or read a book, you could always write down ten phrases in a foreign language on a piece of paper and look at it occasionally as you try to memorize those phrases.

Learning is a challenge. It helps you enter a flow state of concentration where time fly by.

#7 Intentional Focus

It’s no secret that work gets done faster when you focus. But it’s not easy to get into that state.

You may need to struggle for half an hour before you can focus, and most people give up before that happens. But you can use some mental tricks to make it happen faster. You just need to show yourself more intentional with work.

Imagine if, before working, you did all those little things productive people do:

  • Clean the room
  • Look your best
  • Take a cold shower (if you’re at home)
  • Eating healthy
  • Working out
  • Meditating 5-10 minutes
  • Writing down your goals
  • Preparing your virtual desktop

Are these things going to make your work faster? Maybe. But if you do all of them, you’ll suddenly find yourself very motivated. Because when you condition your environment, the brain understands your intention and adapts to it.

The more you prepare for work, the easier it is to focus when you start.

If you didn’t do all that, you may probably wonder: “Why should I do this work at all?”. But if you set your intentions right, you instead think: “How can I do this the best I can?”

How to Make Time Go Faster

Okay. So we know why time goes slowly sometimes.

Now what can you do to make it go faster?

1. Stop looking at the clock

Experts of all varieties seem to agree that one of the best ways to make time seem faster is to simply stop looking at the clock. A piece in The Atlantic cited time enthusiast Alan Burdick and psychologist William James as agreeing on that fundamental notion. James wrote, “A day full of excitement, with no pause, is said to pass ’ere we know it.’ On the contrary, a day full of waiting, of unsatisfied desire for change, will seem a small eternity.”

Now, obviously, it’s going to be hard to stop looking at clocks. They’re all around us. Your phone, your watch (if you wear one), your computer, and your office wall are all probably screaming the time at you. Yikes. But if you want to know how to make time go faster, this is the absolute most important thing you can do.

I recommend blocking whatever time indications you can, whenever you can. You could put a small sticky note over the corner of your screen, where the time is displayed, for example. In any case, try to do something other than constantly looking at the clock or thinking about how much time has passed.

2. Create a predictable routine

Yeah, routines are kind of boring. But here’s the thing—they’re totally forgettable.

When you have a set routine, you can kind of turn your brain off and just run through the motions. I know that’s weird advice; it’s not the best for increasing productivity, improving engagement, or finding fulfillment. But I can practically guarantee it will make time go faster.

Depending on what you’re facing, this may be anything from easy to impossible. Some tasks will be so unpredictable, you can’t turn them into a routine. Others can be almost automated. Do whatever you can to keep things consistent, and your workday will fly.

3. Achieve flow

The best way to make time go fast is to achieve flow.

In case you aren’t familiar, in psychology, a “flow state” is a psychological state in which a person is fully immersed in a task. They feel energy and focus, and tend to be completely absorbed in what they’re doing. You can also call this “being in the zone.”

When you’re in a flow state, you won’t even be tempted to look at the clock. You’ll be so immersed in what you’re doing that time will become a secondary consideration. Hours may pass without your notice.

So how do you achieve this?

There are a few different theories, but the general consensus is that flow requires you to find the perfect balance of interest and challenge. You should be actively interested and engaged with what you’re doing. You should also be challenged enough that you aren’t bored, but not so challenged that you can’t relax.

Accomplishing this is trivially easy if you have full choice of activities. Some people achieve flow when playing basketball. Others feel it when washing windows, or playing video games, or folding origami. If you’re stuck at work or at school, your only real option here is to try and change the responsibilities you have.

4. Break time down into blocks

This goes against our first advice to stop paying attention to time, but you can also try breaking your time into blocks. (You might even want to use time blocking apps to do it—check out our guide on the best time blocking apps available).

What do I mean by “blocks?”

Basically, you’ll reduce time intervals into smaller and smaller chunks. If you head into work at 9 and lament the fact that you have to stay for 8 hours, until 5, you’ll naturally feel overwhelmed. But it’s much easier to say you have to work for 30 minutes until the next meeting or break.

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Consider breaking your day down into 30-minute or even 15-minute chunks. That way, you’ll never feel too far from the next milestone—and time will flow more quickly as a result.

5. Split your least pleasant tasks

Remember, one of the reasons why time passes slowly is because you aren’t enjoying yourself. The obvious solution is to just stop doing things you don’t enjoy—but the reality is, no matter what, you’re going to have to do something you don’t like.

So what do you do?

You split the task up.

It’s much easier to do 4 15-minute tasks, spread across a couple of days, than it is to try and muscle through a single, 60-minute task. At least, that’s true for most people.

This tip is only marginal in usefulness, given that some tasks are practically impossible to split up. For example, if you’re stuck in a 2-hour meeting, you probably won’t be able to convince the other members to break it up into 4 30-minute meetings.

6. Put something on in the background

Here’s another way to handle your least pleasant tasks; try to do something else in the background.

I have an analogy, so bear with me.

Strong spirits tend to be hard for people to consume. To make up for this, some people mix cocktails with cordials and/or sweet flavors like juices or sodas; this makes the alcohol much easier to take. You might also take a shot of a strong spirit, then “chase” it with something more pleasant.

You may be able to do the same with some of your unpleasant work responsibilities. For example, if you’re doing something tedious and repetitive, you might be able to put a podcast on in the background. If you’re researching something boring or uninteresting, you can jazz things up with background music. You could even put on an episode of your favorite TV show in the background, depending on what you’re doing.

You have to be careful here, since your background entertainment could end up distracting you and compromising your productivity. But even if it does, it could still help you feel like time is passing faster; for example, it might take you 15 percent longer to accomplish the task, but you’ll subjectively feel much better about doing it.

It’s a tradeoff worth considering if you’re desperate to accelerate the flow of time.

7. Do things you genuinely enjoy

Having fun makes time go fast. It just does. It’s why vacations, holidays, good movies, and great meals all seem to be gone in an instant.

Accordingly, you can make time go faster by doing things you genuinely enjoy. If you’re at work, you might be limited in what you can do. Consider playing a quick game or doing a quick puzzle on a break, or calling a loved one for a brief conversation. Otherwise, consider breaking up your day by occasionally switching to tasks you like (or at least ones you can tolerate).

If time is passing slowly because you’re bored at home, you’ll have much more flexibility. You could watch a favorite movie, read a book, play a game, make art, build something, fix something, or learn something on YouTube. This is probably my favorite trick for how to make time go faster.

Don’t enjoy anything? Then it’s time to find a new hobby. Learn a new craft, try to play a new instrument, or ask your friends to learn some of the things they’ve been into lately.

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