When I think about my everyday conversations, there are certain questions that just seem to pop up time and again. The most common of these is without a doubt “how do you get so much done?”, this is then followed by comments like “you mustn’t sleep much” or “how do you balance family and work?” Now when people ask this, I typically refer them to practical tips like leveraging time better and working hard to prioritize, but we’ll get to these later. In this post, we’ll cover how successful people like CEOs and high performers manage time, plus tips on helping you do the same!
What this article covers:
- How much time you have – Your life visualized
- Time is about priorities
- Time expands – Parkinson’s Law
- How much ‘free’ time do you have in a week?
- How successful people separate themselves in 180 only minutes
- Time management tips
- Time’s up, now what will you do?
For the record, I’m not in the 1% of people that can survive on just 4 hours sleep each night, I need an average of 7 hours to enjoy life to the fullest – sadly (or perhaps thankfully) my biology just doesn’t afford me the opportunity of a regular 20-hour day.
Anyway, before we move onto the advice, I just wanted to set some perspective and challenge conventional thinking around life and the concept of time.
How much time you have – your life visualized
So, let’s start with a hard-truth… life is finite. Sometime in the future we will all live our final day, yet this definitive end is often forgotten. Most people feel like they have so many days to live that they can afford to waste a few here and there, but if they took a moment to look at the bigger picture, they’d perhaps realise otherwise. A day is not just another drop in the ocean, that’s wishful thinking, it’s more like a drop in the bath. Doesn’t seem so plentiful now, does it? Take a look at the video below for a better appreciation of how time works, and how perspective can reveal how much you really have.
This video comes from a position of scarcity. ‘Free days’ to do what you love and enjoy are limited, so making the most of them is vital. However, many fall into the trap of taking them for granted. Time is far more fluid than we realise, and the slippage in our recollection and management of time is often wildly inaccurate.
Time is about priorities
Looking from a different perspective, Laura Vanderkam challenges the conventional advice that follows the typical mantra of shaving time off everyday tasks. She argues this isn’t the way we should be looking at the challenge and that in reality, when we say, “we don’t’ have time”, what we really mean is that it’s not a priority; there are better things to do.
She then summarises the challenge superbly…
“We don’t build the lives we want by saving time, we build the lives we want and time saves itself.”
Here, she’s saying time is highly elastic and we can’t make more of it. However, it will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it. If you can identify what’s really important to you, you’ll find time to prioritize, then the other bits of life will either fit in, or fall away.
Time expands – Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s law around time argues from a different point of view. In essence, Parkinson believes that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” – a task will take as long as it’s allotted to take. So, if we become more conscious of how we actually use our time, and focus more on outcomes, we can save the time we naturally waste and do the task that’s set for 60 minutes in 30. Of course, this is easier said than done, it takes a high level of self-awareness and the right mindset to achieve. After all, who are we to say how long a task should take? Knowing your limits and capabilities is critical to achieving more in less time, without impacting the quality of your output.
How much ‘free’ time do you have in a week?
There are 168 hours in a week, 24 hours a day.
Let’s say you need a solid 8 hours sleep every day. That’s 56 hours, meaning you have 112 left.
Then let’s say you’re a hardcore workaholic, doing 60 hours weeks. 60 hours! That leaves 52 remaining.
Then take a couple a days to cover commuting, eating and hygiene. Leaving roughly 38 hours left.
At a worst case, that is 38 hours a week to do WHAT YOU WANT.
So, if something is a priority for you, and you cannot find 1, 5, or even 10 hours within 38 hours a week, then it really can’t be that important.
How successful people separate themselves in 180 only minutes
When it comes to dedicating time to success, it can be difficult to know where to start, but looking at studies around successful people, clear patterns are easy to see.
These are the behaviours that often set apart the successful from the rest:
Over 80 percent engaged in 60 minutes a day of dream-setting
This typically involves some form of extracurricular activity that has the potential to generate a second stream of income and often links to hobbies. It’s the pursuit of the ‘dream job’.
Nearly 80 percent engaged in 60 minutes a day of deliberate practice or education
Successful people recognize the need to constantly improve and so they commit regular time to enhancing their knowledge around a skill, their career or industry.
Nearly all of them engaged in 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise
Appreciating the need for exercise is critical to good health and longevity, two things successful people want to maintain to maximize their potential and opportunities.
Nearly 90 percent devoted 30 minutes a day to building rich relationships
It’s often who you know, not what you know, so building relationships physically and digitally is critical to creating a network than can help drive success.
When you combine the benefits of these 4 activities, its easy to see how just 180 minutes a day can give successful people the edge, platform and advantage.
Time management tips
1. Get clear on priorities
Take a moment to self-reflect and understand what’s really important to you. Fully commit to the projects you really care about and push through to unlock their true potential. If you need help here, try the Goal Setting Worksheet to get a head start on this.
2. Know what is more important to you
Understand what really matters and set goals to push and motivate you towards the outcomes you desire. The more you can prioritize, the easier it is to commit time to the tasks that deliver the most value. If you’re struggling here, the next step should hopefully help.
3. Write a Christmas card to your future self
In itself this isn’t how to spend time more effectively – yet the exercise will help give you clarity on what is important to you and how you need to prioritize time going forward. Write a Christmas card to yourself including all you intend to achieve in the year ahead. This will help you visualize what it is you need to do to meet your aspirations and provide focus for the year ahead.
4. ‘Timeboxing’ – Schedule time
Once you’re clear on priorities and what is important, it is time to make sure you execute against the most important areas and factors to you. Place them into your schedule as if they were life-events. After all, timeboxing is a proven strategy used by Richard Branson, Michelle Obama and other top leaders to double their productivity.
Plan your priority tasks in and give them the authority they deserve to be taken seriously amongst life’s other distractions. Pencil them in around your personal development, exercise and date nights, then treat them as seriously as a commitment to a friend. Of course, priorities will change on occasion, but work to accommodate. Don’t relegate your priorities to a nuisance.
“If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real.”
If you need a starter on what to schedule, then you must have skipped over the last section.
- 60 minutes dream-setting
- 60 minutes of practice or education
- 30 minutes of aerobic exercise
- 30 minutes building rich relationship
Plus, if you want to know what priority tasks should be, see number #12 below.
5. Set end dates
A project without a deadline is a daunting prospect. When you’re given all the time in the world to do something, it’s typically human nature to take it. So give yourself an end time and stick to it. Reduce the ability stuff has to expand into your time.
After all, goals are just dreams with deadlines
6. Reduce chores – leverage your time
When I saw that we spend 1,576 DAYS in our lifetime on chores I was flabbergasted. Astounded (and in bad way). That is over half the time of the 2,740 days for stuff we have left!
Now, I’m also terrible at chores. I have an extreme dislike for them and also the times I do them I don’t do them very well. After all, they’re low priorities for me, much to the dissatisfaction of my wife! So, now I don’t do them, I pay someone to them better than me, and use the time to earn money (considerably more than I pay someone to do the chores I don’t like and do badly).
Remaining: 2,740 remaining
Cleaning, ironing, gardening, DIY, cleaning my car, shopping getting repeated/delivered. How could you be saving time by not doing something? What else could you be doing instead that you enjoy? Could earn you way more money and spend time doing something you enjoy more than the chores?
If you’ve got the resources and the opportunity, deferring activities you’re not good at to focus on the ones you are might just be the way to go!
7. No Extra Time (N.E.T)
Taking full advantage of time often means looking to fill the gaps with something productive, so take a look at your schedule and see what activities can be enjoyed simultaneously.
- Exercise while listening to audio books
- Turn your video content into blogs (or vice versa)
- Leverage your commute, if you’re on the train, ensure you have a short work task ready, and if you’re driving, why not try audio education?
Every spare moment presents an opportunity, you just have to know how best to use it.
8. No more ‘saving’ time
Bottom line is, time is there to be used, there’s no point in saving it, it’ll continue to move forward, whatever you do. So, you may as well make the most of it and take every opportunity to maximize your productivity, without sacrificing the things you really love. With a little bit of self-discipline, self-awareness and effort you can develop habits that not only let you live the life you want to live, but also fulfil the latent potential just waiting to break free. Remember, time waits for no (wo)man.
9. Remove distractions
Every-time your flow is interrupted… and you “multi-task” productivity reduces by 40%! Put your phone away, turn off all notifications on your desktop and browser. Close email. Whatever it takes to not break your flow and get you to focus on one thing, do it.
10. Email and Inbox productivity
I won’t go into length here, as i’ve recently discussed email management with the 3, 21, 0 method and how the 4 (or 7) D’s help to keep your inbox organized.
11. Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique actually combines a few of these time management techniques: scheduling time, setting deadlines and removing distractions (not multi-tasking). Francesco Cirillo based this on a pomodoro tomato timer used in cooking – but instead of food, it was used to focus output for a given time period, commonly 25 minutes.
It follows the typical structure:
- Pick a task
- Set the timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings
- Tick off the task
- Take a 5 minute break
- Repeat for 4 blocks (x4 25 minute blocks with a 5 minute break after each) = 2 hours
- Take a longer break
For me, the 25 minute blocks don’t always work. Mainly as I have many tasks that 25 minutes just isn’t long enough to go deep enough So, i try to default my blocks into either:
- 15 minute blocks (used to review things normally delegated, simple tasks or give input and coaching around activities)
- 60 minute blocks (used for where i need to go deep into something and really immerse into task/output)
- After each of these have a break, normally 5-10 minutes
12. Income Generating Tasks (IGTs)
Income Generating Tasks (IGTs) are exactly what they say. They’re the most important tasks relate to revenue generation.
“I.ncome G.enerating T.asks are the highest value to you [or your company] tasks that align with your KEY RESULT AREAS’s, to maximise revenue per hour, minute and second.”
Time’s up, now what will you do?
Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and so making the most of it is critical to enjoying life and achieving what you desire. Whether it’s to build a career, a skill or just learn and embrace a hobby, these things each take time, which means you need to find a way of making time work for you. Hopefully, some of these approaches and perspectives on time help you get a better appreciation of how you can prioritize, and really take advantage of the time you have to get what you really want out of life.