Is there a thing in your life that you really want to spend more time on but you don’t? Like working on a business idea on the side, picking up that forgotten hobby of yours, working out, or spending more quality time with your family? Let me guess: the problem is that you just don’t have the time for it?
Let me answer to that: Bullshit. You have time for everything that matters. IF it matters enough to you. And if you don’t have the time for it, it’s just a matter of priorities. In reality, you are setting your priorities in a way that doesn’t leave time for anything else. Or, you are not very effective and efficient at swimming in the sea of daily commitments and distractions which tend to set priorities for us without asking.
It’s time to reclaim your day. So here are some tips to make it easier for you to shift your priorities and make room for that extra project of yours.
Be clear on what matters and your motivation for doing so
First of all, you have to be crystal clear on what that thing is you want to spend more time on. Just saying “I wish I had more time” is pointless. You will only create that time if you are clear on what you want to spend it on and why. That ‘WHY’ is crucially important. What is your motivation for wanting to do it? I’m pretty sure you have good reasons but maybe they need to be at the forefront of your thinking when you make decisions about your time. So write them down! See yourself spending time on that thing and realize how good it will make you feel. Knowing your ‘why’ will give you a lot of energy to finally make time for what matters and get it done.
Do what matters first
There is a simple tactic for making time for your new project: do it first. Do it before your ‘regular day’ starts. If it’s exercise, do it before work. If it’s working on a business idea, do it before work. If it’s some form of work, don’t work on anything else before that one hour of important work is done.
Get up earlier
We all need enough sleep to have the energy necessary for a life full of work, interests, commitments and loved ones. But an hour per day can often be gained by getting up one hour earlier. If you snooze for an hour anyway, finally put your alarm clock at the other end of the room and your problem is solved. Since the beginning of the year I moved my wake up time from 8.30 am to 6.30 am and added a couple of awesome morning habits to my day. Sure, in the beginning it is painful but after a short while you start going to bed earlier. Usually, the last hour of the day is easily saved if it consists of mindless TV watching or checking your Facebook feed (as if you hadn’t already done that all day long…)
Schedule what matters, make it non-negotiable
Have you ever noticed that things on your calendar usually get done? Our calendar is full of commitments to other people like meetings and phone calls. What about making a non-negotiable commitment to yourself? What gets scheduled gets done, so it’s time to put your new pet project into your calendar.
Become more effective and efficient at work to get the same done in less time
Shaving one hour off your working day is a great strategy to create more time for what matters. Don’t fall into the trap of filling your newfound time with more unimportant clutter. Go home early and do what matters!
Kill stuff that doesn’t matter
For a couple of days, record how you spend your days. You may be surprised. (It’s like writing a food journal when you are overweight and realizing how much crap you eat in between what you thought were your only meals.) Look at all this stuff in your day and classify if it is high or low urgency and high or low importance. Then start reevaluating your low importance time killers like emails and meetings. Delete, defer and delegate as much as possible.
Watch out for large spans of wasted time spent consuming media: reading newspapers and blogs, checking social media and watching TV. All of that is okay for a while but probably not to the extent that you do it. How many blogs do you really need to read? How often do you check Facebook and Twitter during the day? How many episodes of ‘The Walking Dead’ do you need to watch every night? Restrict yourself radically and you will see that you don’t miss much.
Some ideas: Delete your Facebook / Twitter / whereeveryouwastyourtime account (or delete the apps from your phone). Install apps or browser extensions that block or restrict internet or social media usage (like Freedom, Anti-Social, LeechBlock or RescueTime). Unsubscribe from all newspapers and newsletters.
As for meetings, we all know how destructive they can be for our day. If possible, cancel meetings, reduce the amount that you go to, and challenge their necessity or their length (especially if they are recurring). A task tends to fill the amount of time dedicated to it, so if you set shorter meetings you will probably get the same done in less time. Also, schedule meetings back to back so that they have a forced end, and don’t turn your day into a patchwork rug of 17 short time slots left for your important work.
Reduce time lost in your inbox
Email. How I dread you. Too much time spent in your email inbox is probably one of the biggest time suckers during the day if you belong to the 99% or so of the population spending most of their day in front of a computer. While this topic can fill a whole book, here are some strategies that are essential in order to reduce time spent in your email inbox:
- Your inbox is not your todo list. Move tasks out of your inbox onto your todo list. Otherwise you will end up browsing your inbox for your todos. In the process, you will notice 12 new emails that have come in and read them, sucking you in even deeper.
- Separate processing emails from working on them, and touch every email only once. There are times for processing emails and then there are times for acting on what the email wants you to do. Processing means deciding what to do with every email: delete, archive, respond, delegate, put on your todo list. After deciding, put that email where it belongs (trash, archive, dedicated folders).
- Batch process emails. Don’t check your emails every five minutes. Check them as few times as necessary. While it may sound radical it’s probably a good idea for all of us not working in customer service to check emails only twice or so per day. As a consequence, you can spend the remaining time on your own todo list, not on someone else’s.
If you want to get your work done in less time you need to be rigorous with distractions. Your best work gets done in periods of uninterrupted concentration. When distractions come your way they will throw you off track and you will need a lot of time to get back to what needs to be done. This is another topic worth a full book but here are some tips to reduce distractions now:
- Work where people cannot disturb you. Go to an empty meeting room, a coffee shop or work from home.
- Be clear about not being distracted, e.g, by co-workers or family members. Close the door. Put on headphones and listen to music. When someone asks you if you have a minute, say ‘No’.
- Anticipate all possible distractions and eliminate them. Turn off the internet, close all browser tabs, close all unnecessary programs, put your phone on silent, turn off all email and social media notifications. Work in fullscreen mode.
If you implement all of these, you will probably save much more than one hour per day.
So tell me, which ones of these will you implement today in order to create extra time for what really matters to you? Make a commitment now!
All the best, and start doing what matters.