Everyone gets 24 hours in a day, yet some seem to get more done in the same time. How? The place to start is to figure out how you currently spend your time. And that is the precise way to talk about time. We spend it.
I agree with Franklin to a point.
But, Greg, you said you were going to give me steps to have more time. Now you’re telling me you can’t make time. Come on!
We can’t make time, but we can invest and spend it wisely and free up our time for what’s most important. That’s what we’re going to do.
But, before you spend time being efficient, make sure you’re being effective – at what’s important to you. Are you spending most of your time on what you want to become and do? Let’s find out.
Step 1) Keep a log of how you spend your work and leisure time for one full week.
Greg, you’re killing me! We’re talking about how little time we have and you want me to use some of it logging how I spend it?
Yes! Trust me a little. You will be shocked at some of the things you are spending your time on.
Write down how you spend every minute of the day — everything — sleeping, getting ready for work, commute time, how much time you spend on different tasks at work, (including talking with colleagues, water cooler, etc.) lunch, dinner, family time, television, email, web surfing, social media, golf, workouts, going out with friends, church, phone calls, etc. I know it can be tiresome to do this, but we’re only doing it for one week to see where your time goes.
At the end of the week, review your list. Which activities on your list do you like doing? Which ones do you dislike doing? Which ones are you really good at? Which ones are a struggle for you?
Step 2) Avoid Time Sucks
Take a look at your list. What are you doing that is truly a waste of time? We all need to relax and recharge, but are you doing it purposefully? Be strategic in your choices and look at all the extra time you will have to do the things that really matter to you.
- TV – Americans watch an average of four hours of TV a day. Don’t channel surf. Plan the few shows you actually want to watch. Don’t just chill and watch Netflix, search for a specific movie or show to watch once or twice a week. Or, just don’t watch it at all. (I know it sounds crazy, but if you try it for a week, you will be shocked at how much time is freed up for better things.)
- Internet – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. How many funny cat videos do you need to watch? Do you really need to see what your “friend” had for lunch? Schedule your Internet time and set a timer when you log on.
- Email – Everything doesn’t have to be responded to the second you receive it. This can distract you from your important focus and turn your day into a series of reactions. What if you made this the signature of your email? “In order to be as efficient as possible, I only check my email at 11:00am and at 4:30pm. If there is an emergency this policy doesn’t take care of, you may call me.” (Some of you are saying, No way can I only answer email twice a day! Maybe, maybe not. Send out an all staff email explaining why you are doing it. Try it for 2 weeks. If it really doesn’t work for you, how about checking email only 3 times a day. How would that improve your life?)
Eliminate, Automate, Delegate, and Negotiate.
These are concepts we all have dabbled with. I like how Jennifer White describes them in her book, Work Less, Make More. We will get into these one at a time.
Step 3) Eliminate:
Look at the list you made on how you’ve been spending your time. What can you eliminate to create more time for what energizes and excites you? If you’re about to say nothing, then you need to look again. All of us do some nonessential activities.
Remember the 80/20 rule: Twenty percent of our activities produce eighty percent of our results. So let’s get rid of some of the stuff that doesn’t work.
If you’re really worried you’ll miss something try this. Stop doing a few of the activities you think might not be very important and see what happens. Did anyone notice? Did you really lose anything?
What do you do to fill time and feel productive instead of doing what you know you need to do? Stop doing that. It’s simple, and very effective.
I bet 20-50% of what you are currently doing you don’t need to do. You have to say no to the good so you can say YES to the great. That’s one of the ways to get more time.
Step 4) Automate:
What do you do every day, week, or month that could be automated? With your smart phone and laptop you have more power than kings used to have.
Research what software programs and apps can help you automate.
Many of them are free and save you a ton of time. Here are just a few ideas for apps and software that help automate tasks and save you time:
Create email templates.
Certain types of emails are required frequently. Write a great thank you email and save it as a template for the next time you need one. You can then spend just a minute or two personalizing it and you’re hitting send. Sweet.
Do the same thing for every type of email you tend to write repeatedly. Huge time saver.
A close cousin to automation is clustering, grouping, or batching. This is where you take your simple tasks and do them all at the same time instead of allowing them to constantly interrupt your day. I do this with email, snail mail, voice mail, and more. I create all my tweets and Facebook posts at one time and schedule them via Hootsuite to go out at different times throughout the week. I spend one day working on ideas for several blog posts.
What tasks can you use clustering with?
“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?”-Thoreau
Step 5) Delegate:
Check your list of how you are currently spending your time again and look for the tasks that need to get done that you either don’t like to do, you aren’t good at doing, or just aren’t the best use of your time. How many of these tasks could you delegate to someone else?
Almost all of us could delegate more. Why don’t we? Is it because we think no one can do it as well as we can? Sometimes, that’s true. But, often that’s because we don’t invest the time to train someone to do it the way we want it done.
Have you ever tried to delegate something, spent a couple of minutes explaining what you want and then gotten upset when the results weren’t what you were hoping for? Well, you need to take responsibility for that. If you spend the time necessary to explain and train them so they are able to do the task better than you can (yes, I said better than you can – it’s possible) you will save so much more time from that point on. It’s an investment and it’s worth it.
You also have to let go of the idea that the way you do it is the only “right” way to do it. As long as the job gets done well, who cares if a different way was used to get there?
Another reason we don’t delegate as much as we should is we don’t have the staff to handle it.
Here are a couple options: If you work for someone else, go to your boss and explain how much more productive and profitable you can be for the company if she could help you delegate these tasks to someone better fitted for them. Offer to do this on a trial basis so she can see how much more productive you will be on the things that matter most. Once you prove yourself, she will have no problem letting you delegate more.
If you’re self-employed, why not outsource like the big boys do? There are a ton of outsourcing companies in and out of the United States that can do virtually anything you need done. I listed several of these in a previous post. I’ve used outsourcing for many different tasks and have been very pleased with the cost, quality, and speed of the work. I recommend using a company with many employees rather than one person. That way, if one person quits, gets fired, is on vacation, etc. your work still gets done.
Step 6) Negotiate:
If an offer, opportunity or request comes your way that doesn’t fit your strengths or the best use of your time, don’t immediately say yes to it. Take a little time and figure out the best way to handle it.
Could you simply say no?
Could you explain what part you could do really well and why you think Susan or Bob would be perfect to handle the other part of it?
Could you take on a different project in exchange for the one that doesn’t fit you?
When you explain how this negotiation will help everyone, you will be surprised how often your counteroffer is accepted.
Step 7) Spend 80% of your time doing what you do best and what you love to do.
Congratulations. You have cleared away so much from your life that you don’t really need to do. You still have the same 24 hours in every day, but now you have much more control over how you will use them. You can focus on what you do and like best.
Here’s a great way to plan out each workday:
In the evening prepare for your next day. Ask yourself: What is the most important thing that if you got it done tomorrow would make the biggest difference to your business? Decide on it.
Getting this one thing done would make your day a success. That’s what we’re looking for here. IF you finish that, what is the next most important thing you will get done? IF you finish that, what is the next most important thing you will get done?
The next day:
- Do your most important thing until it’s done. I know sometimes “things come up.” But you need to schedule time for your most important activities or something will always “come up.” At the minimum, work on this task for one hour. Then take a break for anything that requires your attention. Then repeat the process.
- If time remains, do the next thing on your list.
Step 8) Bonus step: Celebrate a great day!
Go for a walk with your spouse. Read a book to your kids. Go out for dinner. Eat some boiled peanuts and watch a martial arts movie. (Wait, that’s just what I like to do. Sorry.)
Questions for comments: What strategies do you use to help you have more time for what’s most important to you?