How To Finally Own Your Time (And Stop Feeling So Stressed)
You spend all day working only to lie in bed at night tossing, turning and worrying about how much you’ve got to do and how you’ll find ideas for your creative work.
Well, you’re not alone.
According to a 2017 Statista survey, 30 percent of those in the US who work more than 51 hours each week feel stressed, compared to 15 percent of those who work 31 to 40 hours per week.
One thing is clear: The less you own your time, the greater your chances of stress.
So how can you protect your time?
Plan Your Day Based On Your Energy Levels
Hyper-productive people are mindful of what they can accomplish more of and when. They use this self-knowledge to plan their days and weeks in advance.
For example, Noah Kagan, founder of Sumo, AppSumo and Kingsumo, experimented with and tracked his day to determine when he should focus on maker work (like recording podcasts), manager work, learning and so on.
He said, “When I optimize and manage my schedule properly, everything falls in line. My days are easier, I’m more organized, and I’m happier.”
Similarly, Joel Gascoigne, founder of Buffer, prioritizes exercising in the morning and organizes his day by themes.
So at the end of the working day and week, spend 10 to 15 minutes reviewing your calendar.
Block book time in advance for working on important projects based on your energy levels. Consider which meetings you can cancel or move to a more appropriate time to accommodate this new way of working.
Then during the following week, track how long you spend on specific projects and what you accomplished. Ideally, this information will help you streamline the management of your calendar over time.
Make Friends with Deadlines
Contrary to popular opinion, deadlines are not the enemy.
It’s unproductive to start a big project without a deadline because you’ll have to find the motivation to finish it somehow.
On the other hand, a deadline from a client, customer or boss might motivate you to deliver on time — and then take a break.
Elon Musk, for example, sets an internal deadline for people and teams within his companies. He also sets an external deadline for customers, shareholders and other stakeholders. This gives his teams a margin of safety within which to work without disappointing people.
When meet your deadline, reward yourself with a break. You might take time then for casual internet browsing, reading an article saved to your phone or even a beer or a glass of wine on Friday evening.
After all, owning your time isn’t just about working to meet other people’s priorities.
Do One Small Thing
A lengthy To Do list that takes days to purge is the best friend of a sleepless night.
If your rapidly expanding To Do list is keeping you up late (or it’s just Monday morning) pick a single item from your list and do one small thing to advance it.
For example, let’s say you want to outsource the management of your Facebook advertising campaigns. It might take five to 10 hours to accomplish because you’ll have to source and interview contractors.
In this case, one small thing could be finding the contact details of just three contractors.
How long will it take you to conduct a simple Google search and check the websites of some social media marketers?
This momentum will help you increase the pace of your work and progress through your To Do list faster.
Leverage Your Resources
In a company where I worked, we spent hours in meetings face-to-face, over the phone and using conferencing tools.
If a meeting ended early, the organizer invariably said, “Now you have an extra half an hour back in your day. Use it wisely.”
In this case, time was a valuable resource. You might be able to recover other resources such as money, people or a better tool to finish a project. Or perhaps you can renegotiate your deadline.
If none of that works, use constraint as a form of leverage.
Perhaps the scope of your key project is too big to accomplish before your deadline. In that case, consider shipping a minimum viable version of your product or idea.
In the end, stress-free time management means examining how you spend your valuable hours, using your resources wisely and knowing when to switch off.