"It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?" -Henry David Thoreau
What would you do with more time each week?
2 more hours? 5 more hours? 10 more hours?
I've heard so many people say, "if I only had more time, I could..."
- Read a book/more books
- Learn to cook
- Travel more
- Get in shape
- Start a passion project
- Start a blog or a podcast
- Start a business
Guess what? You have the time. All it takes is identifying what really matters to you, focusing your energy in that direction, and minimizing or eliminating everything else.
Make Time For What Matters
"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." -Stephen Covey
How we spend our time determines what we prioritize, whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not.
The problem is that it's easy in the short-term context of today, this week, and this month to overemphasize the importance of some of these tasks. They make us feel better when they're done and help us relax, even distract us from some of the bigger stuff.
But if we can extend our perspective to think long-term, like from our deathbed, and ask ourselves:
- Are we going to be really happy that we had a perfect record cleaning our apartment and doing laundry on time every week and __________ (fill in the blank)?
- Might we regret not finding time to explore our curiosity, possibly even make a transformational career change or start a life-changing business?
Variations of the questions above helped my brother Joseph and I realize that although we were constantly traveling or working late nights and weekends in the corporate world, we could make time for what really mattered.
And one of the things that really mattered to us was starting a business together as early as we possibly could.
So we found time, even on our busiest weeks, to turn our summer leadership camp into a business that could fully support us.
Sure our laundry piled up a little (ok, a lot), but prioritizing our time based on what mattered allowed us to become full-time entrepreneurs at 25 and 23 to live the rest of our lives the way we had always dreamed about.
10 Ways To Increase Your Free Time
“You cannot run at full throttle when applying your mindset to all of the different things running through your head. Focusing is the key to manifesting your desires.” –Stephen Richards
You have to stop thinking you're at the mercy of time, and start making time for the things that matter.
Whether you have your own business, or work for a startup or a large corporation, the strategies below can help you get more free time back for what really matters to you.
1. Schedule Time Blocks
This strategy is singlehandedly responsible for a 1,379% increase in my productivity (I have no idea what the percentage is, but it's absolutely exponential). I've been able to get things done for our business in one uninterrupted morning that used to take 1 week.
Time blocks are chunks of time you intentionally schedule that are dedicated exclusively to one specific activity without interruptions.
Below are the chunks of time you should be scheduling on a daily basis:
This is the most important work that requires your highest levels of focus and attention. Despite natural human tendencies, deep work should always be completed first, if possible.
Schedule a block of 3-6 straight hours, or 50 minutes every hour, to spend doing deep work. During these blocks, you should:
- Work offline or only leave tabs open that are essential to completing the deep work
- Close email and turn off all alerts
- Make no outgoing calls and let incoming phone calls go to voicemail
- Put your cell phone in your desk or out of sight
- Listen only to non-distracting music
- Do your best to avoid all meetings and limit interruptions from co-workers
Bonus: If you have a shared calendar with your boss or co-workers, they'll see that you're busy on your calendar and may avoid scheduling anything or coming to interrupt you during that time.
You should have blocks dedicated exclusively to communication (phone calls, emails, meetings) so that these things don't interrupt you from your deep work blocks.
Keep the number of email and phone call blocks small (i.e.- checking at 12pm, then not until 4pm) because very few things are actually an emergency.
These include meals (don't stress yourself out thinking you'll be ultra productive while you eat), breaks to walk around the building or outside, workouts, and social media. One thing I've found really helpful for social media: I only check it in the restroom.
Yes, you should schedule 7-8 hours of sleep on your calendar. Sleeping less will technically get you more time in your day, but the damage to creativity, focus, and productivity negatively outweighs the additional time you get back. Proper sleep will increase the quality and efficiency of your work and therefore, free up more time.
We're talking about increasing your free time, so of course you should schedule it on your calendar! Don't just call it "Free Time" though- if you don't plan out specifics, this could easily be spent checking social media or watching Netflix without purpose.
Use your free time to spend time with people you love, enhance your passions, or anything else that you love doing that will help you move closer to your ultimate goals.
2. Refuse, Delegate, and Outsource
Refuse or Delegate
If you're a high-achiever, there's a good chance you say "yes" to too many things. I did this in my finance job.
Plain and simple: you have to start refusing work.
In his must-read book Essentialism, author Greg McKeown writes that given the reality of trade-offs, we can't choose to do everything.
"The real question is not how we can we do it all, it is who will get to choose what we do and don't do. Remember, when we forfeit our right to choose, someone else will choose for us. So we can either deliberately choose what not to do or allow ourselves to be pulled in directions we don't want to go."
Don't always be the first one to volunteer for unassigned tasks, and when asked directly if you can take something on, quote your other projects and deadlines as justification.
If you can't refuse a task, don't be afraid to ask for help or delegate to someone else on your team who has more capacity.
If you don't think any of this would fly at your company, we will discuss what to do shortly.
This has more to do with your personal life. Most people don't want to outsource tasks or hire help because it requires spending money and/or they can do it themselves (i.e.- cleaning).
The key is to value your time more than you value saving money.
The following are tasks to consider outsourcing/automating:
- Automating finances (payments/deposits/transfers)
- Food preparation
- Graphic design
- Content writing
- Social media
- Web development
- Taking a Class (learning to cook, playing an instrument, building a business, etc.)
- Hiring a coach
3. Use your weekends
In addition to some rest & relaxation, use the weekend to enhance skills you want to develop, advance your passion project, or start your side business.
While this is challenging given the tendency to totally shut down from work, see friends, drink, and wait until Sunday night dreading to do it all over again, you can do one or more of the following to take better advantage of this free time:
- Stick to a similar schedule that you have on weekdays going to bed and waking up, or maybe don't close down the 4am bars
- Use time blocks (#1) on the weekends as strictly as you do during the week to get work done in the morning/early afternoon
- Consume less alcohol when you do go out with friends on the weekends
- Skip one or both nights of drinking
I know some of you will object to these, but it really is all about what you prioritize.
4. Work from home (or at least leverage your commute)
How long is your commute to work? Whether it's 10 minutes or 4 hours, when you add up 2x per day, then 5x per week, then 20x per month, it's a pretty good chunk of time!
Working from home is an amazing way to get more time back during the week. Your company may already have a work-from-home policy, but even if they don't there are proven ways to negotiate part-time or full-time remote work arrangements.
If you're not able or willing to eliminate your commute right now, then think about your commute as an awesome opportunity to work towards your ultimate goal. Instead of looking at social media or checking email...
- Read relevant books and articles
- Listen to relevant podcasts and audio books
- Research to learn more and develop your expertise
5. Change Jobs
You should consider changing the dynamics of your current job, actually changing jobs, or leaving to do something completely different if:
- You can't make time for what's important (your health, your passions, your growth, and your happiness)
- You get way more excited for life outside of work
- You feel unfulfilled, are not growing, or are not being challenged
- This job does not fit in with the long-term vision for your life or what you want to do for work
Life is too short for any of the above. If you can't make time for what really matters because of the demands from your current job, it's time to make a change.
Disrupt The Cycle
If work and life feel separate, if you get substantially more excited for life outside of work, it's time to make a change.
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