How to Make the Most of Your Time

Time management is a skill that you can master to become successful. Learn how to maximize your time, and start living the life of your dreams now!

The “making the most of your time meaning” is a phrase that has been used for quite some time. The meaning, however, can be different depending on who you ask.

Book cover, possibilities in spare moments by Abraham lincoln.

Many of the new year’s resolutions and objectives that people are setting today will be determined not just by willpower, but also by timing. If you want to do more reading, studying, listening to podcasts, writing, stretching, exercising, journaling, and so on, you’ll need to schedule time for it each day.

Finding these crucial minutes and hours in what is likely an already jam-packed daily calendar with all of its slots seemingly taken might be a difficult effort. Where, therefore, may these new temporal resources be mined?

Your morning and evening rituals are a good place to start. Getting up an hour earlier each day may provide you with a rich, calm, and delightfully productive span of time that has the potential to completely transform your life. Substituting a pastime or side business for the few of hours of Netflix and aimless web browsing you usually do at night may be a similarly dramatic shift.

Consider what you might accomplish with your lunch hour at work, in addition to your mornings and nights. If you finish your dinner in 15 minutes, you’ll have 45 minutes to do other things.

However, there are many more golden threads of time waiting to be found outside of these bigger, more evident pieces of time.

If you know where to search, you’ll find it.

Time’s Forgotten Gold Dust

“In the United States Mint at Philadelphia, there is a wooden lattice-work on the floor of the gold-working chamber, which is taken up when the floor is swept, and the tiny particles of gold-dust, worth thousands of dollars a year, are thus conserved.” As a result, every successful guy has a network to collect the raspings and parings of existence, those scraps of days and small pieces of hours’ that most people sweep into the rubbish of life. He who hoards and accounts for all odd minutes, half-hours, unexpected vacations, ‘between times,’ and chasms of waiting for unreliable people produces results that astound others who have not learned this most precious secret.” –From Orison Swett Marden’s 1894 book, Pushing to the Front.

Years ago, I came across a guide who assisted me in locating the thin-yet-powerful slivers of time that most people ignore and squander. Orison Swett Marden was a well-known self-improvement author around the start of the twentieth century. Many inspiring nuggets may be found among his fifty or so books and pamphlets, but one of my favorites, and possibly the one that has resonated with me the most, was a chapter in his Pushing to the Front titled “Possibilities in Spare Moments.”

Possibilities in your leisure time! Even the word sounds fraught with possibility, and it has resurfaced in my thoughts on a frequent basis since I first read it, assisting me in recognizing and seizing golden moments of opportunity that I previously overlooked.

“Many of history’s greatest figures acquired their renown outside of their usual vocations in strange pieces of time that most people waste,” Marden writes, “in weird bits of time that most people squander.” Marden emphasized that these “strange pieces of time” may provide not just renown but also personal growth.


Most people tend to think that little chunks of time — 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there — are only suitable for looking out the window or at their phone. But, just as saving a little money here and there adds up over time, reclaiming a few minutes each day adds up to a large bank of hours. “Great men have always been misers of minutes,” writes Marden, who “hoarded up [time] down to the tiniest pieces!”

Where might these secret threads of time be found so that they may be spun into more prosperity, pleasure, knowledge, and fulfillment? When you start looking through the lens of “possibilities in idle moments,” you’ll find them strewn over your daily life. I’ll point out some of the frequently untapped nooks of time you may have previously neglected, intermingled with Marden’s advice, below — tiny reservoirs of valuable minutes that, if you become fully aware of them, may be accumulated into large returns.

In Spare Moments, Where to Look for Possibilities

“Any guy of average ability might learn a full science if he spent one hour a day away from frivolous hobbies and productively occupied.” In 10 years, one hour a day would transform an illiterate guy into a well-informed man… A child or girl might read twenty pages attentively in an hour a day, totaling nearly seven thousand pages or eighteen huge books in a year. An hour a day might be the difference between just existing and enjoying a productive, joyful life. An hour a day can—and has—turned an obscure guy into a celebrity, a worthless man into a benefactor to his species.”

Commute that is active

If you travel to and from work every day, you’re wasting some of your most important free time, which is given by your stereo. While grooving out to music may be a great way to get inspired or unwind, why not switch it up every now and then and listen to an insightful section from the Great Courses or an informative podcast? (If you’re looking for some decent podcasts to start listening to, here are 27 of our suggestions.)

Even if you don’t have a lengthy commute to work because you live near by or work from home, you’re probably in the vehicle at least once a day, traveling 10 minutes to the gym and back, and 10 minutes to your child’s school and back. When you add it all together, you’ve spent more than 3 hours in your vehicle simply from Monday to Friday. That’s 7 days of your life over the course of a year. What are your plans for the next week? Do you want to spend your time hating yourself for singing “Fight Song,” or do you want to grow your mind with thousands of new concepts that may help you enhance your career, relationships, and knowledge of culture and yourself?

Don’t feel obligated to fill your commute with any form of noise, whether educational or not. You may compose music, poetry, or lines for your great American book while driving (or walking or biking) in solitude. Wallace Stevens, the famed poet, wrote his work while walking many miles to and from his 9-5 job at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company; when inspiration struck, he’d scribble it on the backs of envelopes he carried in his pockets.


Commute in Passive Mode

Perhaps you’re a young guy without a driver’s license who is chauffeured about by your parents. Perhaps you take the bus or the train to work every day. In such instances, you have the same amount of time as an active commuter, but since you’re not driving, you have even more alternatives for how to use it.

Not only can you listen to a podcast instead of listening to music via your ears, but you can also jot down some ideas for that innovative book you’ve been working on. Anthony Trollope, the renowned and prolific English author, started his literary career in this manner. His employment as a postal worker led him on several train rides around Ireland, and he quickly recognized that this time might easily put him on, ahem, the fast track to realizing his ambition of becoming an author:

“I discovered that I spent a significant portion of my life on train cars. I used to read like everyone else, but Carlyle has since advised me that while traveling, a man should’sit motionless and label his thoughts,’ not read. But, if I wanted to earn a living from my writing while still doing my best for the Post Office, I needed to put more effort into these hours than I could accomplish just by reading. As a result, I created myself a little tablet and discovered that after a few days of practice, I could write as swiftly in a train compartment as I did at my desk. I worked with a pencil, and my wife afterwards duplicated what I wrote. The majority of Barchester Towers and the book that followed it, as well as a large number of others, were written in this manner.”

Leaving aside Carlyle’s complaint (although commutes are certainly nice moments to sit quietly with your thoughts), riding to and from work is a great time to read. To that end, keep your phone’s Kindle app supplied with ebooks, or keep a paperback in the glove box or seat pocket of your vehicle as your exclusive ride-along read; never take it out of the car, and read it in snatches anytime you’re its passenger. Examine how these little periods of time, which formerly seemed insignificant, would enable you to read multiple large volumes in a year. You promised you didn’t have time for those books.

“Some youngsters will pick up a decent education in the scraps of time that others foolishly squander, just as one man saves a fortune by practicing minor economies that others scorn.”

Workplace Relaxation

In many occupations, there aren’t enough duties to cover the whole workday, so you wind up twiddling your thumbs figuratively. I’m referring to your phone when I say thumbs. In many of these situations, it might be beneficial to ask your supervisor for more projects to work on, or to simply hunt for other activities to assist with. In many circumstances, even if you don’t have enough work to complete, you must act as if you have, since your supervisor would frown on you indulging in non-work-related activities.


There are a few positions, though, where there isn’t much more to do after your responsibilities are completed, and your boss doesn’t object if you occupy your leisure with non-disruptive personal pastimes. And, of course, there are times when you’re the boss and you have a few minutes to kill in between meetings. Even if those few minutes aren’t enough to launch into another substantial activity, they may be put to greater use than twiddling your phone.

For example, Abraham Lincoln used every spare minute of his free time to advance his autodidactic education. He usually took a book with him while he went about his daily activities as a child, and he read a little of it whenever he had the opportunity. In his 20s, while Abe was running a general shop, he’d read books and study legal texts in between client visits, preparing him for a future in law.

A similar tendency was followed by Theodore Roosevelt. He kept a book on his White House desk by his elbow and read a few lines whenever he had a free minute between visits and meetings. TR was able to eat many volumes every day, and tens of thousands over the course of his life, thanks to this strategy and his ability to fast read.

Breaks in the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique entails working for a specified amount of time and then resting for the same amount of time. Work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break, or work for 45 minutes and then take a 15-minute rest.

What do you do in the downtimes? The possibilities are endless. Browse the internet (the distracting stuff that would normally get in the way of your work session). Take care of the household tasks. Alternatively, work on a goal in little steps. Read. Play the piano or the guitar. Send someone a brief thank-you letter. Review some flash cards for a foreign language you’re learning. Whittle. Pick a lock and practice picking it. Toss a tomahawk in the air. (The later options presume you work from home; tossing a tomahawk down the hall and into Bob in Accounting’s cubicle wall is not encouraged.) When was the last time you said you didn’t have time for a hobby? You have it now.

Pomodoro breaks are also a great way to meet your New Year’s resolutions of being stronger, more agile, and overall moving your body more. Push-ups and pull-ups are a great way to “grease the groove.” Make an effort to improve your posture. Perform some of the stretches that may help to reverse the effects of sitting. One of my objectives is to be limber, so I use my lunch break to practice some MovNat exercises like crawling, stretching, and balancing on a 2X4 in my living room, among other things.

Getting Fit

Listening to music that gets your blood pounding and your thumos inflamed is the way to go while you’re undertaking a hard exercise. However, for a slower, lengthier activity, such as a long run, it’s simple to listen to a podcast and watch the kilometers pass by.


I read little snatches of novels during my pauses between sets while I’m lifting weights. So I may be reading Plato’s philosophy while lifting a barbell at any given moment. Baby, gentleman barbarian style!

“Time is money,” they say. We shouldn’t be stingy or cruel with it, but we also shouldn’t waste an hour any more than we would a dollar bill. Waste of time equates to a waste of energy, vitality, and character in the form of dissipation. It denotes the squandering of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Be careful how you spend the time, since it will affect all of your future lives.”

Standing in a Line

Maybe you have to wait 5 minutes to walk up to the counter and another 5 minutes to receive your coffee at your favorite chic coffee shop. Why not squeak in some reading time during your regular downtime? Alternatively, you may study. I used to take a set of flashcards with me wherever I went in law school, and I would study them while waiting in line for lunch.

Remember that although little chunks of time may not seem like much on their own, they add up. A year of ten minutes per day adds up to more than 30 hours. Do you really have 60 hours a year, or 25 full days per decade, to waste if you’re devoted to learning as much as possible and being the greatest man you can be?

“The days come to us in disguise, bearing valuable gifts from an unseen hand; but if we do not employ them, they are carried away quietly, never to be seen again.” Each morning, fresh gifts are provided, but if we refuse to accept those brought the day before and the day before, we grow less and less able to account for them, until our capacity to appreciate and use them is spent. Lost income may be recouped via industry and the economy, lost knowledge can be recouped through study, wasted health can be recouped by temperance and medicine, but lost time cannot be recouped.”

Waiting for an Appointment (Or a Friend Who Is Always Late!)

We all expect that when we go to the doctor, dentist, or DMV, we’ll be able to register for our appointment, put our name on the waiting list, and be ushered in straight away. We all know, however, that this isn’t always, or even often, the case. Instead, we’re trapped in the waiting room for 20, 40 minutes, and we pass the time by reading an old copy of Sports Illustrated or browsing through Instagram.

Instead of squandering this little window of opportunity, read something you’ve been intending to read but have been too preoccupied to do so. This is a classic book. This is a substantial blog post.

Alternatively, you may utilize the time to meet up with pals. Instead of leaving a perfunctory remark on their Facebook page, send them an email. There are many paragraphs.

When you often find yourself waiting for a perpetually late friend or significant other, the habit of always having books on your phone or a paperback in your pocket comes in useful. While these moments used to irritate you and be filled with text messages inquiring about their whereabouts and estimated arrival time, they may now be something you look forward to – your own reading time.


“‘Oh, it’s only five or ten minutes till supper; there’s no time to do anything now,’ says one of the family’s most prevalent idioms. But what monuments have been erected by impoverished lads who had no opportunity, out of shattered bits of time that many of us discard! If you had used your time more wisely, the hours you have squandered might have ensured your success.”

Anything is what I’m waiting for!

The amount of times one finds oneself waiting during the day is many and impossible to define. When you’re waiting for your computer to start up, a file to download, coffee to boil, or your frozen supper to finish cooking, you’re probably staring at the numbers on the microwave or scrolling through your phone. They might be put to more productive and educational use if desired.

You don’t have to be actively “doing” anything to take use of the possibilities in spare moments if you follow Carlyle’s advise of just sitting still and sifting through your thoughts; you don’t have to be actively “doing” something to take advantage of the opportunities in spare times. During the few “interstices” of their day, great men always keep the engines of their thoughts working. “I have always found time to ponder about many other things inside my tent amid the toughest fight of war,” Julius Caesar stated. “I think in the crevices all the time,” director Woody Allen has remarked. “I’m not going to quit.” Umberto Eco, for example, told a journalist who came to his apartment:

“You rang this morning, but you had to wait for the elevator, and it was some seconds before you arrived at the door. While I was waiting for you, I was thinking about a new piece I’m working on. I can work in a restroom or on a train. I make a lot of stuff when swimming, particularly in the water. In the bathtub, it’s a little less so, but it’s still there.”

Similarly, rather of passively scrolling through your Instagram feed, you may mentally chew on an idea. Just remember to have a pocket notepad with you at all times in case that little moment of reflection yields a revelation.

And, to be honest, there’s a benefit to devoting part of your free time to just enjoyable phone usage. Instead of scratching the itch whenever it arises, make a “rule” for yourself, such as “I get to check my phone while I’m waiting for the microwave/the first five minutes of riding the subway/etc.”

Once you start searching for them, opportunities will appear in unexpected places. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a holding pattern, and you can either waste those minutes or weave their golden threads into your own growth fabric. Prepare to grasp not only the day, but every moment by having books and podcasts on your phone, a pen and paper in your pocket, and a vision of the man you want to become always in front of you.

“The present is the raw material from which we fashion anything we choose.” Do not ruminate on the past or fantasize about the future; instead, grab the moment and learn from the hour. The individual who correctly measures and completely comprehends the worth of an hour has yet to be born. As Fénelon puts it, “God only provides one instant at a time, and he doesn’t grant a second until the first is taken away.”




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