Time doesn’t really exist. It’s something man created so that we can structure, prioritize, and calculate things we do.
Man has been using the concept of time to structure activities and create rituals forever, at minimum by observation of the sun, moon, and stars. It used to be something we used as a tool—something we ruled over.
Fast forward to today, and now we are the tools…and our time no longer belongs to us, we are slaves to it.
What changed? Time hasn’t changed, we’ve just found more things to deplete it with, and most of the things we spend time on add little to no value to our lives.
We’re very indulgent and self destructive with time.
Scenario – You’re starving, and you’re given two options:
1. A pound of broccoli and rice
2. a spoonful of ice cream
Logic says to eat the pound of broccoli and rice because it will fill you up much more than a small spoonful of ice cream, and the nutritional value it adds to your body far outweighs that of the ice cream.
Seems like a no brainer, but when you start letting those thoughts of how tasty ice cream sounds creep into your head, the decision gets a whole lot more difficult.
How we look at activities is the same. You might know you could be more successful and fulfilled if you worked on a side business after work for a few hours instead of playing video games and watching tv, but humans love to indulge, and before you know it, you’ve wasted another night shooting zombies instead of slowly but surely cracking away at your side business.
“I don’t have time to start a business.”
“I don’t have time to blog.”
“I don’t have time to learn new skills.”
Those things may be true now, but you can change that.
The simple fact is, we can’t force the universe to provide us with extra time each day, so we have to create it ourselves (hence the 5 suggestions below).
1. Prioritize and Eliminate
Take a hard look at what things are important to you. What do you want to accomplish, and what are you doing to make those things happen? Or rather, what else are you doing instead of the things you could be doing to accomplish your goals in life? As much as we might want it to, success will not come to us, we have to go get it.
Make 2 lists – Things you should be using your free time for, and things you currently use your free time for. Combine the lists and prioritize your free time. There are unavoidable things like errands, chores, etc. that we have to continue doing, so make sure to include those too.
Take your prioritized list and eliminate everything you don’t need, put a limit on everything you feel is important enough to keep (like spending time with friends/family/casual downtime), and realize how much more time you have to do things that are important to you that you haven’t been able to “find” the time for.
According to Nielson, the average American watches more than 4 hours of tv EVERY DAY. That translates to literally 2 months out of every year spent with the magic box. Don’t be average.
2. Increase Efficiency
When things can’t be eliminated, find ways to do them faster. Technology is a beautiful tool for improving processes and increasing efficiency of tasks. Whether using technology or not, consider batching similar tasks to get them done all at one time.
For example, instead of checking how many new Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, email subscribers, and purchases you get multiple times per day, check them all at once, one time per day. Instead of checking your email every 15 minutes, check it only a few times per day—more often than not, people’s requests can wait. If you can free up several small amounts of time each day or each week, that can combine to create a meaningful amount of extra time.
3. Improve Focus
Have you ever been working on a task and someone interrupts you with a small request for help, or maybe you get a phone call that you answer which derails you from what you were working on? Yeah, me too. Happens all the time, and it seems like it’s no big deal to stop what you’re doing to take a 2 minute phone call or respond to an email really quickly, but it is a bigger time waster than you might realize.
A study in 2002 (although most likely still accurate) by Dr. Richard Swenson showed that the average office worker is interrupted seventy-three times every day, and the average manager is interrupted every eight minutes. What’s more troubling than the interruptions is that it takes about 20 minutes on average to get back to the same level of focus that we were at before being interrupted.
It is imperative to eliminate distractions whenever it’s in our control. Use the batching method with checking email, texts, returning phone calls, and anything else you can control to improve your overall focus during the day so you can get your work done quickly.
4. Create Limits
Free time may very well be the most valuable and underused asset in our lives. Although we shouldn’t eliminate all fun from life, we can and should learn to limit indulgences.
Everyone needs fun time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s important for our mental health and our relationships to spend time with people and watch a movie or tv show once in a while. It’s very important though to do these things deliberately, and for limited amounts of time. Just like with money, set time budgets to create more time for the things that will help you reach your goals.
5. Learn to say no
As painful as it might seem, make your default answer to requests for your time, “no.” Your time is valuable, and you should treat it that way. I’m not saying to never help anyone, just get in the habit of respecting your time and your goals so that other people do the same. It’s easy to want to say yes to every request to help people with things, but those things you’ve said “yes” to can quickly add up and become overwhelming. The more things you say no to, the more time you create for yourself, and it is 100% ok to be selfish with your time if it means you’ll actualize your success.
What methods do you use to create more time?