Top 10 Ways to Use Your Down Time More Effectively

istock_000010092262xsmall.jpgBy Emily Thomas

If you feel pretty confident with your time management skills, you may already use to-do lists, calendars, goal-tracking charts and alerts or alarms to keep you focused and driven during your work or school day.

But what about your down time?

If you leave your productivity skills at the door as soon as you check out of the office each day, you’re not maximizing your personal time. And while staying productive after hours when you’re supposed to be relaxing may seem counterintuitive, there are ways that you can use your down time more effectively without giving up the fun.
1.    Watch the clock. One of the easiest ways to manage time, especially if you’re not worried about deadlines, is to keep track of what time it is. You’ll be less likely to spend hours in front of the TV if you’re aware of the time that’s slipping away.
2.    Stick to a regular sleeping schedule. Avoid oversleeping and napping when you don’t really need it by sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, even on weekends. You can sleep in an extra hour or so, but don’t stay up all night and then sleep until lunchtime the next day if you want to use your time effectively.
3.    Multi-task. The next time you settle down to watch a movie, go down your to-do list and find a task that you can accomplish while sitting in front of the TV, like wrapping birthday presents, sending thank-you cards, or cooking dinner.
4.    Make the most of your commute. If you use public transportation or a van pool, use your commute to catch up on reading, e-mails or sleep.
5.    Stay plugged in. Just because you’re not at work doesn’t mean you have to turn into a vegetable. Staying plugged in to the world around you means that your creativity, memory and intellect or still operating, even if it’s just in the background.
6.    Visit friends. Being social keeps you “checked in” emotionally and mentally and helps you stay in a good mood, which also leads to better productivity.
7.    Eat right. Weekends usually mean that diets witness a little leniency, but remember to eat healthy so that you can keep your energy up.
8.    Dream. Daydreaming usually seems like a bad idea if you want to manage your time more effectively, but it encourages your mind to be creative and set new goals for yourself.
9.    Get a hobby. If you’re not fully satisfied with your job, get a hobby that stimulates your creativity and intellect, and could even turn into a second job or new career in the future.
10.    Exercise your brain. Help your body prevent cognitive decline by playing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper and mixing things up.
This post was contributed by Emily Thomas, who writes about the best online universities. She welcomes your feedback at Emily.Thomas31@