Time is money.

It's the one asset that we are all given each and every day. Yet many of us find it slips away so easily.

What can you really do to make better use of your time? The solution may be easier than you think. We tend to have the mindset that we have to do more to get more, but that's not always the case. There are many different ways you can manage yourself and your time in order to approach tasks with more efficiency.

By making slight tweaks to your behavior and the way you handle responsibilities, you can actually grow your business without simultaneously expanding your workload. Here are five simple ways to work smarter, not harder.

1) Become a faster reader.

Reading isn't something we think about very often despite how frequently we do it. To most it's just second nature, and you doubtfully have it on your list of skills to work on.

Speed-reading however is a technique that, once learned, can drastically save you time during the day. Think about it–how much of your day is consumed by reading emails, articles (like this one), RFP's, and more. Now imagine cutting that time in half.

The goal to being a better reader is to increase speed without compromising your understanding of the content. The most effective technique in accomplishing that is learning how to group words together (3 to 4 at a time) rather than reading one at a time. This strategy is called "chunking." By reading a chunk of words at once and not breaking each word down by syllable, you will not only move through text faster, while also increasing the speed at which you comprehend the material.

Here's a great short video by master entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss, detailing a variation of the chunking speed reading technique.

2) Make a daily to-do list and determine which tasks could be outsourced or automated.

First things first: you need to crush the mentality that no one can do it as good as you. Whether that's true or not, it's standing in your way of having a more balanced life. Evaluate all the things you do in a day and take an honest look at what you could hand off. It can be as simple as cooking dinner or as complex as gathering research for a project.

Here are a few tasks you could outsource to free up time during the day:

  • Utilize a subscription delivery service from sites like Amazon that automatically ship staple items (such as paper towels or dog food) to you each month.
  • Try a service like HelloFresh that cuts the shopping and prep out of cooking by delivering you everything you need to make a healthy, delicious meal.
  • Use a virtual assistant service such as Zirtual to help lift some weight off your shoulders by taking care of mundane tasks like proofreading documents, scheduling, or data entry.

3) Learn to multitask the right way.

The key to multitasking is to pair two activities, one that requires thought and one that does not. The idea is to check off a necessary but thoughtless task (e.g. eating, exercising) and a more complex assignment (e.g. meeting, responding to emails) simultaneously.

This idea has expanded to more creative groupings like a "working walk" in which coworkers actually take their meeting outdoors and go for a stroll. While it's important to apply multitasking to work-related responsibilities, it's also just as effective at home–watch the news while folding laundry, make phone calls while cleaning the house. The pairings are endless.

4) Take advantage of the "in between" time.

Think about all the moments in life we wait: riding an elevator, being put on hold, watching a pot of water come to a boil... All that time adds up! Rather than just standing around or playing games on your phone, use these moments wisely.

  • Respond to emails
  • Make a grocery list
  • Organize your calendar

The in-between time we're given almost every day is a great opportunity to complete all the small tasks we tend to push aside.

5) Make decisions in the morning.

The first two hours after you wake up is prime decision-making time. This is when you're at your peak of performance and will be able to make good decisions, and fast.

Like our body, our brain gets tired. This is what's called "Decision Fatigue." As the day goes on, our brain functionality declines, and it could take us more energy and time to come to the same conclusion.

Schedule your day with your hardest endeavors first, and deal with easier tasks later in the day. Another way to up your ability to make decisions is by removing as many small ones as possible. Having routine in life–such as wearing the same clothing style, a strategy Mark Zuckerburg uses–eliminates a lot of mental debate that could be spent doing more important things.

Published on: Jul 30, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.