Time is money… Time waits for no one… Lost time is never found again…Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend… Time is the wisest counselor of all…
These are a few quotes about the value of time from some of the wisest humans ever lived. If time is so valuable and precious, why do we waste it at all? Here are three reasons I could think of:
- We don’t know what to do in the free time
- We get distracted even if we know what to do
- We are not good at planning our schedule or sticking to it
It’s up to every individual to figure out their priorities. I would suggest listing down three priorities for 2–3 months and go from there. For me, these are 1) Getting a job, 2) Spending time with family, and 3) Maintaining good health. So, whenever I have free time, I know where to spend it.
Right now, the biggest time-sucking machines in the whole world are infinity pools (like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest), and TV. The simple reason why these mediums are so engrossing and distracting is that a huge number of very smart people are making them so and get handsomely paid for doing that.
By default, only a few of us are good at planning and managing. The rest need a little help and effort. The very first thing one needs to fix a bad habit, overcome a shortcoming, and learn something is “a realization.” Without realization, we can’t even take the very first step. Why? Because we don’t realize we have a bad habit, a shortcoming, or we are missing something.
If we are lucky, and we realize what we are missing/need, some easy-to-apply tactics can help us minimize distraction and plan what to do with our free time.
How I was already making time
A couple of years ago, I saw my CEO’s work calendar and noticed how he had added tasks on his calendar. I realized that this practice has some real benefits.
I was anyway using a calendar for meetings, so why not use the same for tasks. Plus, tasks need to be scheduled, and they take up time, just like meetings and other events. So a calendar seemed like a natural fit.
This small change turned things around for me. I am now more organized and productive than before.
Here’s what I was already doing to focus:
- Writing tasks down: I like to have a physical list of todos (outside my phone), and I write them on a small whiteboard next to my desk. This way, I don’t get distracted by the phone. Plus, the list only lives where I need it the most — in my office. (#1)
- Waking up early: I have never been lazy. Being a light sleeper has its benefits too. For over ten years now, I have been waking up very early — around 3/4 o’clock — and naturally, I have more quiet time to do anything I like. The early bird gets the worm. (#14)
- Staying away from Facebook: I was an early Facebook user and even persuaded some friends to join it. However, I left Facebook in 2011 and have been saving the most valuable currency of lifetime. (#18)
- Disabling Notifications: I read it somewhere else, but for the last couple of years, I have disabled almost all the notifications, except calendar and reminders. (#19)
- Wearing Apple Watch: I love Apple Watch. Not only has it helped me lose weight, but it has also helped me save time that would have been lost on the phone. (#21)
- Skipping the morning check-in: This has been super helpful to help me focus on my morning meditation. While working with a team in India that is 10+ hours ahead of me, I used to get a lot of Slack messages and emails. I realized if I see them, either I will start replying, or it would distract me, and I couldn’t spend more than focused 20–30 mins in meditation. (#23)
- Blocking social media: I don’t have many distractions. No Facebook, hardly active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. No apps for any of these infinity pools on my phone. I only use WhatsApp and that too, for my immediate family group chat. (#24)
- Ignoring the news: We don’t have cable, and I don’t see or read news online. Maybe only once a month, and that too when someone tells me that something has happened. I only get news from my wife or friends or family. Frankly, I believe news is more depressing than anything else. What’s the benefit of knowing about things that don’t concern you or out of your control. Avoiding news helps me stay happy, calm, and focused. (#25) (#43)
- Flying without Wi-Fi: I don’t fly very often, maybe 3–4 times a year, but I never use in-plane Wi-Fi. I might watch a movie or two, or meditate if I can’t sleep. (#27)
- Trading fake wins for real wins: I learned this long ago when I saw people going crazy about followers and likes. I don’t have Facebook, hardly check/post of Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Dribbble. Focusing on my family and work is my win. (#31)
- Turning distractions into tools: I use YouTube for recipes, DIY-ing, or watch talks about design (once in a while, I watch soccer highlights or music videos). WhatsApp is my other distraction (I use it for family and very close friends), but it is not an infinity pool, and I have put 20 mins App limit on it. (#32)
- Being a once-in-four-years soccer fan: I am a soccer fan. However, I only get excited and nervous when I am watching the World Cup — a few days every four years. (#33)
- Putting the TV in the basement: Our TV is in the basement where I only go when I want to watch something or play TT. This setup has helped us, and our kids watch less TV (1 hour a day, 2 hours on weekends) as we come across it less. (#44)
- Using fewer streaming services: We unsubscribed Netflix and Crave (HBO) and left with Disney, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV+. (#46)
- Inventing a deadline: I have always followed this tactic. Recently, I did this to design my portfolio, where I did four weekly sprints. After planning the week, I forced myself to finish all those tasks by the end of the week. (#49)
- Starting on Moleskine: Always do, and I love Moleskine. I even started this article on paper and then moved to Notes. (#54)
- Taking a day off: This happens naturally to me as I go for volunteering on Fridays. Sometimes I work on Saturday to make up for it, and sometimes I just take a day off. (#59)
- Walking 30 mins a day: Walking is my favorite exercise, and I do it every day, even when the sidewalks are full of snow. I enjoy walking on snow (sometimes). (#61, #62)
- Inconveniencing myself: Occasionally, I walk to get groceries and feed two birds with one scone. (#63)
- Eating salad before a meal: Fat loves me, and I put on weight quickly, so I naturally have to do this 5–6 days a week. (#66)
- Skipping breakfast: To lose weight or avoid gaining it, I skip breakfast 2–3 times a week, and that has helped. (#67)
- Going to trails: I love walking and even more so on trails. (#77)
- Keeping my ears empty: I do this all the time to enjoy sounds of nature. It helps me relax. Even music becomes noise if we listen to it more. (#79)
- Spending time with family: I work from home, and every day I help my wife get kids ready for school and drop and pick kids together. During the evenings, I love going to the park with kids so I can watch them play. On weekends we go to the nearby trails. #81
- Eating without screens: With TV in the basement and no social media and news on phones, we have no reason to look at the glass. #82
- Making the bedroom a bed room: We only have one TV, and that’s far from the bedroom. #83
- Taking a nap: As we get up very early, by noon, we naturally fall on our faces and take a nap for a few minutes. #85
After reading “Make Time”
I’m a need-based reader. Most of the books I have read are about design, and a few others are about spirituality. I have also read a few books about productivity and working remotely.
Before I discovered “Make Time” via Invision Podcast, I was reading Rest: an interesting book showcasing how some great scientists and famous politicians have used “rest” as a tool to increase their focus and productivity.
“Make Time” is the most practical book I have ever read. It has taught me how to focus on what matters every day. This book contains 87 tactics that can help you focus, energize, and reflect.
Recently, I bought “Make Time” book, and frankly, I couldn’t put it down. It is one of my favorite books of all time (I read a lot). While reading “Make Time”, I was delighted to find out how much of it I was already following.
The book focuses on four steps to be repeated every day:
- Highlight: Start each day by focusing on the main task
- Laser: Beat distractions to make time for your highlight
- Reflect: Use the body to recharge the brain
- Energize: Adjust and improve your system
While reading the book, I started using some of the suggested tactics. I couldn’t wait to finish the book, and these tactics sounded so compelling that I read them aloud to my wife. She loved them too, and use a few every day.
Here’s the list of tactics I am applying now after reading the book:
Groundhog it (or, “Do yesterday again”) (#2)
In the evening, while planning for the next day, I simply look at today’s schedule and add what I missed or couldn’t finish.
Stack rank your life (#13)
This simple exercise helped me set priorities for at least the next three months. Here’s my life ranking: Portfolio > Family > Exercise > Work > Diet > Learning/Reading
The might-do list (#15)
Things that are not super important goes on my “Planned” calendar. Once I go more into the day and get more clarity, I move the “planned” tasks to the “Actual” calendar.
Schedule your highlight (#18)
This is the first thing I plan every evening to make my next day productive. This is super important.
Design your day (#13)
I have started adding most of what I want to do on my calendar. This guides me throughout the day and helps keep myself on track. Most of the time.
I am keeping my home screen blank and moved all the apps to the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth screens.
Leave devices behind (#22)
Every day I go for a walk, I try to leave my iPhone at home. This has helped me think without getting distracted. If there is an important/interesting idea I need to capture, I simply record it on the Voice Memos app on my Apple Watch.
Schedule email time (#35)
This is a bit hard, especially now, when I am looking for a job. I am planning to keep this to twice a day, around 9 am and 3 pm.
Pretend messages are letters (#37)
Though I get very few messages (I prefer talking), I have decided to treat them as letters. I will leave them unread and reply only 2–3 times a day.
Explode your highlight (#50)
This a great tactic to get stuff done. I tried a couple of times and worked great.
Go All-in (#60)
This one is about putting all your energy into something, even if you don’t want to. This can’t be done everyday but really helpful when I need to get important stuff done.
Squeeze in a super short workout (#64)
In addition to walking, I’m planning to be more regular with 7-minutes. It is fun with kids.
Disconnect Sugar (#76)
This was a hard one as I’m (sorta) addicted to tea. Especially evening tea, which is an event for us. So we have started applying this for our morning tea.
How you can make time
This is not one size fits all, and whatever has been working for me might not work for you. Therefore, Jake and John have compiled 87 tactics. You can find some 30+ of them on https://maketime.blog/articles/. I’m pretty sure you would find the ones that can help make time for yourself.
The most useful tactic
Just like every other couple out there, my wife and I are very different in terms of organizing time and work. However, the one tactic that has done wonders for both of us is “choosing a daily highlight.”
Apparently, it is also the most popular tactic in the book. Jake and John have even @created a course around this tactic. https://maketime.blog/course/
I would highly recommend starting with “choosing a daily highlight” and see how it goes. You can read all about it here on Make Time blog. https://maketime.blog/article/choose-a-highlight-to-make-time-every-day/
Hope this helps you make time for yourself, your family, and all the things you love and want to do.