How I created more time in my day so I could take over the world

(and other lessons on time management and productivity)

There are sites and stories popping up all the time to talk about hacks, tips and tricks, productivity, and so much more. Bare with me as I add to the mix.

Let me tell you why first.

I am now over the 5-year mark of being an Executive Director for regional, growth oriented non-profits.

That means I am creeping towards that beloved 10,000 hours. While I don’t feel like an expert, I do believe I’ve learned a few things. In thinking through the lessons you learn over time, it is mostly how you create or maximize scarce resources — time and/or money.

This focuses on the one that I believe brings true happiness. How do you create and most efficiently use time?

Stop Feeding the Bandits — These are the actions that stop you from achieving your goals. Sometimes that is staff knocking on your door. It can be personal or professional issue you need to tackle. Sometimes these are things you can control. Sometimes, they are not. There are ways to limit the bandits effect on you and controlling two things — time and productivity.

Stop Multi-Tasking — The best way to both be more productive and make more time is to stop trying to do 2 or more things at once. You are losing 40% of your productivity. Science says you can’t do multiple things at once. You might think you can. Science is fact. Please don’t discard the facts because you believe you are different. You are special. I promise. You are also not able to prove science wrong. Do yourself a favor. Stop multi-tasking. If you do, you will have more time and you will be more productive.

Time block — Want to know the best way to stop multi-tasking? Time blocking! When will you be free? Add it to your calendar. When will you respond to emails, write, read, run, eat? Put it on your calendar. When you block out time, you are saying to yourself and the world, “this is when I am focused on this particular task”. This holds you accountable and makes it clear what your goal is and when it will be done. This is my favorite tactic for productivity.

Great read on these two tactics: The One Thing.

Create more time! Create a habit, then stack it. Habits are powerful. There is a thing called decision fatigue. It is why folks like President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same things over and over and over again. Limit decisions. It is also why you want to be in front of a judge early in the day too. Science, right?!

If you create a base to work off of, imagine what happens when you create that pattern. Habit stacking is a powerful tool and Dawn Hafner has a great article on the tactics to implement a plan. Once you stack a series of habits, this is what your morning can look like according to an article on 12 powerful habits by Tomas Laurinavicius.

Habit stacking works like magic for me, my current morning miracle looks like that:

  • Wake up at 5 am
  • After I wake up I will drink water
  • After I drink water I will eat
  • After I eat I will delete trash emails
  • After I delete trash emails I will start to work out
  • After I start to work out I will listen to an audiobook or podcast
  • After I listen to an audiobook or podcast I will end my workout
  • After I workout I will drink water
  • After I drink water I will read
  • After I read I will write
  • After I write I will create my to-do list for the day
  • After I plan the day I will do the affirmations (What do I want? Why do I want it? What am I committed to doing in order to get there?)
  • After I do the affirmations I will visualize and imagine doing the tasks
  • After I imagine doing the tasks I will….

There are no thoughts here. This is what I do. This is my morning. I launch my morning, I have not made many decisions and I have accomplished a ton.

Want to learn more or learn the theory read: The Power of Habit and/or Drive.

I lied, multi-task when you can. You have times you can do two things at once. Have walking meetings to get those steps in while you do your one on ones. Read on your commute (assuming you aren’t behind the wheel; be safe!). Listen to podcasts on your drive to and from. If there is a way to achieve two goals at once, why wouldn’t you do it. For me, that is listening to audiobooks (non-fiction specifically) when I am running. Love to hear how you combine activities to kill two birds with one stone. Don’t draw your focus away from something, but if you can combine a habit with an action, then why wouldn’t you do that?

In fact, I love audiobooks and podcasts. I tend to read a book (fiction) at night for myself, non-fiction (work) in the morning or when recharging, and listen to a non-fiction audiobook throughout the day/working out. When I am not listening to an audiobook, I listen to podcasts. When I am listening to either an audiobook or podcast, I listen at an increased speed to get through it faster. Usually at 1.25x or 1.5x speed. This means I can get through book 25% — 33% faster than normal. Imagine how many more things you can listen to in a career by doing that!

Take the time for self-improvement! A little work now can save you a lot of time later (Find time to read). None of the stuff I have written is something I created. It is what I found. I found it from reading and writing. Find the things that inspire you, read them, digest them, share them (especially with me). Ask people what to read and share.

Here are my favorite resources:

There are countless books too. Those are everywhere. I am sure you can find the essential non-profit and business books. If you are struggling, please feel free to engage with me and I will share a few of my favorites.

You already have enough time…. One of my favorite reads recently is from Greatist.

If you work 10 hours. Sleep 7 hours. What are you doing with the other 7? Change the numbers. Unless you are working 24 hours or sleeping 24 hours, you have time dripping out into something else.

You have enough time. There are a few easy ways to find the time that is being taken from you by you and others. This goes back to the first point. Don’t fall victim to time bandits.

Once you find the time, build the habits, and focus on the tasks in front of you, you will accomplish more, feel less stress, and focus on the things you care about.

If you like this, I hope you will recommend the story. If you have other tips and tricks, please share your best practices in the comments and help me grow as person and nonprofit Executive Director.