10 Ways to Make More Time in Your Day


How to Find Time in the DayHave you hit the wall yet? That wall where you realize if something doesn’t change with your current schedule and responsibilities, you’re not going to be able to keep going at your current speed? It often happens when communication piles up, you forget to pick your kid up from school, or you miss an important meeting. At least, it did for me when I sat down and really quantified how I spend my time. The results were interesting. The majority of my day is spent in my inbox. Why then do I feel like I’m NEVER caught up and everyone keeps asking me, “Hey, did you get that e-mail?”

I get really angry when I see people tweeting “w00t, inbox zero, p0wned that!” I went a step further to see if I was simply the world’s worst e-mail responder, or if there was something else at play. What I discovered after I did some data crunching was that my inbox has a daily average of 42 e-mails that require a legitimate response. That number doesn’t include spam, junk, or newsletters! That’s 42 e-mails that require thought, probably some research, an action, or communication with others. Some e-mails might be answered in under a minute from click to read to response and send. Others might take much longer. Add those to my existing responsibilities and it’s a lot.

How do I scale ME?


1. Hire the Right Team

This could be an entire post, but for now, here are the bullet points:

  • Always be hiring
  • Hire for culture
  • Empower your team
  • Clearly define your vision
  • Give them the tools they need to succeed

2. Create a System of Accountability

Standing meetings
Meetings can be a major time suck if you don’t stay on task and have productive conversations. Mark Menard and his team of local Ruby on Rails developers hold daily standing meetings to keep everyone literally on their toes. We recently started doing this, and it goes a long way towards keeping everyone focused and accountable to each other for deliverables.

3. Turn Everything Off

There’s a lot of research coming out on what the Internet is doing to our attention spans. In light of these discoveries, have we changed our work patterns? For most of us, the answer is probably no. Our world is full of push notifications, text messages, social media alerts, phone calls, e-mails, Skype messages, and my biggest frustration–Google+ numbers in the upper right corner of my e-mail.

Everyone seems to have instant access to me (and probably you). Is that helping us get through our highest value work? For me, the answer was no. Here’s how I unplug:

  • Schedule time on your calendar to unplug
  • Tell others what you’re doing so they know not to disturb you unless there’s a fire
  • Close the door or put on your headphones
  • Put your phone on silent
  • Close out of anything that forces an alert, sound, or other notification
  • Take a deep breath and dive in
  • When you’ve completed your task, let everyone know you’re back online


4. Use your notification settings

In the office, we use Skype to communicate with the team. Sometimes group chats can get very off-topic and the last thing I need to focus on is who is craving ice cream. To counteract this, I set up notification settings and told the team about them. Now they know that if they need to get hold of me in a group chat (vs. individual chats where my settings were left normal), they can simply type “Rhea” or “OSM” and I’ll get a notification.

  • Right click on a conversation and select “notification settings”
  • Select “notify me only if these words are mentioned:”
  • Enter your name or whatever agreed-upon group ID will be used
  • Select “OK” and enjoy having conversations again on your terms

Skype Notification Settings


5. Prioritize unread messages first

Michelle instructed our team to do this for link outreach. It helps everyone catch priorities. At first, I didn’t like it, so went back to seeing everything at once. Then I recognized why I didn’t succeed the first time–I would open an e-mail, read it, and not have an answer, so I’d click out of the e-mail, but not add an action to it. I assumed that I would remember, because I’m smart, but I’m also human so invariably, I did not remember. Now I’ve made a simple rule for myself–if I can’t respond to an e-mail in that moment, it stays “unread” until I have what I need to respond. This may sound incredibly simple, but it works. You could also use labels and filters to step up your organization, but be careful! Too many labels and filters and you might miss something important.

  • If you use Gmail, go to your settings
  • Select the “Inbox” tab
  • Select “Inbox type:”

Gmail Prioritize Unread Emails First

6. Display a Snippet of the E-mail

Recently, I was away from the office for about ten days of conference travel, and noticed that even though I was traveling, I tackled far more e-mails than usual. Why was that? It occurred to me that my phone was set up to display a snippet of the e-mail. This gave me a quick look at the content of the e-mail, so by the time I finished reading the subject line, I’d also read the first part of the e-mail. Let’s be honest, how often do you see an e-mail and recognize that you probably don’t have time to respond to it right then, so you ignore it until you do? By viewing a quick snippet, I will often be surprised by how simple a response may be versus anticipating a bigger problem.

  • If you use Gmail, go to your settings
  • Select the “General” tab
  • Select “Snippets”:

Display Gmail snippets

7. Set up Canned Responses

How often do you have to send the same e-mail to someone, or a variation of it? Rather than typing the same message over and over again, use Gmail’s canned responses in Labs:

  • If you use Gmail, go to your settings
  • Select the “Labs” tab
  • Search for “Canned Responses by Chad P”
  • Select “Enable”

Canned Responses in Email
Now when you compose an e-mail, a new area for “canned responses” will appear, and you can insert, save, and delete responses as needed.


iPhone voicemail 8. Make Voicemail Management Easier

This is the feature that would have sold me on the iPhone faster than any other, but no one told me about it! Nothing made me want to hide from voicemails faster than my Blackberry because there was no simple way to get to a particular message.

With iPhone’s voice-mail interface, I can navigate quickly to a specific voicemail, see the contact associated with it, and use the scroll bar to fast forward or rewind to hear their phone number again. And, if I delete a message, there’s an archive that forces a double deletion, so I can reclaim a message if I mistakenly got rid of it.

Cardmunch 9. Stop Collecting Business Cards; Use cardmunch

This iPhone app makes it simple to scan a business card, save it, sync with a contact, and find someone on LinkedIn. Just take a snapshot of the card and wait a few minutes. Soon, magical fairies will transcribe the card’s information as a business contact. If the contact has an account on LinkedIn, they’ll associate it with the contact information. Now, when I go to conferences, I snap cards instantly with the app rather than returning home with a pile of cards that eventually get tossed with the receipts my accountant really wanted me to save.

Dragon Dictation 10. Dragon Dictation

Are you an extrovert? I am!

This means I don’t know how to think unless I’m talking out loud. Seriously. I process by speaking whether it’s to myself or anyone who will listen. You don’t even have to respond, just let me go! ;)

Dragon Dictation means I can talk through some things and quickly see those thoughts in writing. Then I transfer my notes to Evernote because I probably just rambled an awful rough draft while driving somewhere or cooking dinner.


Claye Stokes just wrote a solid post for Raven on tools to use to increase customer service. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I recommend you check it out. Dave Snyder wrote a similar post years ago on tools for entrepreneurs that always stuck out in my head.

That’s it from me. What are your favorite hacks or tips for increased productivity? It’s a subject that never gets old, because we can always be doing more!

Your Comments

  • netmeg

    One of the ways I get through scads of emails is to sort them by subject matter. You’d be surprised how many you can eliminate very quickly.

    I don’t like to keep emails in the inbox (probly less important for Gmail) because in Outlook or Thunderbird, the inbox is a system folder – which means if it gets corrupted for any reason (and that does happen) then you lose everything. So I have a folder called ‘To Do’ that I put emails that require action.

    I make copious use of message rules and filters. One of the things I started doing a long time ago was creating a GSTK folder, for anything I sent or forwarded to myself (informational) that I thought I might need later. GSTK stands for Good Sh*t To Know. (You don’t even wanna SEE my Gmail labels)

    And everyone – and I mean everyone, from my partners to my clients to my 81yr old mom – is hooked up with shared folders on Dropbox. It’s so worth it.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    Netmeg – do you use Evernote at all? The GSTK folder seems like the perfect place to store those types of things. It’s where I store all of my project-specific notes, posts while I’m working on them, and pretty much anything else random.

    Definitely love Dropbox. Like that LinkLove uses it for uploading presentations and other materials. We haven’t really used it for OSM, but I use it personally.

    Thanks for sharing your processes!

  • Matt Beswick

    Rhea, I think you may have just changed my life. Cardmunch looks fantastic, and the notification settings for Skype are something I really should have known about but didn’t… So thanks!

    Oh, and finally – canned responses are a dream. Been using them for a while and they save countless hours of copy / paste.


    • Rhea Drysdale

      So glad you found some value in it! I can’t pretend to have it all figured out, but as the daily stack of to-do’s increase, these really help me prioritize. Hope you find some productivity zen and come back if you find any exciting new methods. :)

  • Dennis G

    Somebody once told me: “Never touch a document twice”
    Which would mean, if you open an email, finish what you need to do with it.
    Might work work for some, not for all…

    • Rhea Drysdale

      This is the ultimate goal. David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” really focuses on the need to not double-up on efforts. That’s difficult sometimes, but I agree with always trying to escalate to an action or find time in the future to handle it.

  • Matt

    I like number 3, probably vital in today’s world. Too many distractions usually only means one thing, lack of purpose, which is never a good thing. Making time to really focus cannot be stressed enough, call it preventative damage control, :).

    • Rhea Drysdale

      Matt – “lack of purpose” —> awesome insight. I’d argue it’s sometimes less about purpose and more about focus, which you got to with the next line. I feel like everyone has a purpose, it’s just a matter of, as you said, taking time for preventative damage control. We lose sight of our purpose when we spend so much time hopping from thing to thing. Soon we’re stuck in a technology loop (have you seen the Portlandia sketch?). Tom Critchlow just had a great personal post that he published today on the technology pattern we throw ourselves into in social settings with our phones: http://tomcritchlow.com/post/20963321487/the-art-of-being-switched-on Good stuff. I’m personally trying to take more time to meditate. Not in an “ommm” kind of state, but meditation on what matters in my life, in my day, in my company, etc. Easier to stay focused and on task that way.

      And on that note, I’m unplugging. Goodnight! :)

  • Indes

    Yes it is the number 4. Notification settings can not distract from the important things.

  • Alessio Madeyski

    Thanks Rhea for this! really useful. another thing I would like to add is : whatever you do standing meetings, seated meetings or no meetings at all, just talk, interact, laugh, get angry, whatever with people in your team. “live” with them, and in the future you will more time for your tasks because be part of the team (even if you are the manager) makes the things a lot easier for everyone.

    thanks for sharing.

    • Rhea Drysdale

      Alessio, love your suggestion to just “live.” It’s something I think we do a really good job with in the company. We laugh a lot. Instead of counting the hours until 5pm, we’re usually going, “NO! How is already 6pm!” That’s amazing. I’m blessed to have a team that doesn’t just show up, they love and respect each other and the work. To your point, when a crisis hits, everyone bands together and we get the job done. That wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have those fun moments, they absolutely make things easier for everyone. :)

  • Tommy Walker


    I’ve been finding myself getting busier and busier since we started doing our web series, and this helps out quite a bit. Canned responses in particular because it can cut down on the time that is being sent crafting lead follow up information.

    I just read a couple of great articles on cutting time on the creation process on Copyblogger and on enforcing limits on Mars Dorian’s site and have found those both to be extremely beneficial too.

    • Rhea Drysdale

      Tommy – thanks for the two links, checking both of those out. Also, happy to hear canned responses work well. We’re hoping to transition to a more automated form of canned response soon with InfusionSoft.

  • JC Dawkins

    I’m going to print these out and implement them this week.

    I had no idea about the settings in Skype and GMail.

    Thank you!

  • Yvette Aitken

    Thanks for the article, who doesnt need extra time during the day?
    Great points thanks!

  • Ryan Bradley

    Thanks a lot Rhea! I didn’t know you could do all of those things with email. You probably just shaved 30 min off my day.