The 8 Things I Do To Give Me More Hours In My Day
Every one of us is bound by having the same amount of time every day. We only get 24 hours. 24 hours in which we have to sleep, work, love, travel, exercise, eat and pursue our dreams. 24 hours which almost never seem like enough. I don’t know about you, but I constantly feel like I’m running out of time in the day to get everything done. I need more time. Maybe just another hour? That’s not too greedy.
If I had another hour, I could use that time to exercise. I could look after my health with better food. I could work on generating more income or another income. I could devote an hour to chasing my dreams. I could take time to meditate. I could spend more time with my wife. An hour can really make a difference. Yet, unless the Earth gets knocked off its axis, we’re stuck with the same 24 hours.
“Just sleep less. Easy.” -is the first flippant solution most people have.
Less sleep is not a sustainable solution.
Occasionally I might sleep a little less. If a deadline is fast approaching I may stay up into the night. Arguably, depriving myself of sleep to meet a deadline can usually be traced back to poor time management in the days prior. Eating into your recovery time with work is not a solution in itself. It’s a stop-gap that should be employed sparingly. Have you ever tried to run your life in a sleep-deprived state long term?
I tried it. I had a project I wanted to launch in a certain time frame which I thought was achievable. I worked late into the night every night. Even weekends. I ran on about 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, for 8 weeks. That may seem like a fairly short period. 8 weeks? That’s only two months. But toward the end of those two months with improper sleep I noticed:
- My creativity suffered terribly.
- A reduced attention span.
- Inability to shut out distractions.
- I was irritable.
- I made snap decisions (often poor ones).
- Reduced strength and stamina during exercise.
- Dependency on coffee.
- Repeated easy mistakes.
By forcing a period of what I thought was hyper-productivity I most likely got less effective work done. Too much time was spent forcing creativity. And becoming frustrated as a result. Too much time was spent fixing errors made by poor decisions and lacking attention span.
Obviously, sleeping less to do more was not going to be a long-term proposition. Especially if I wanted to do great work every day. Less sleep is not the answer.
The solution, I decided, must instead lie with optimisation.
Optimising every hour of the day to gain back lost time. Time lost to inefficient practices. Lost to things which did not move the needle forward on the things I care about.
Ever heard of the phrase “Paralysis by Analysis”? Put simply, paralysis by choice. In his book The Paradox of Choice psychologist Barry Schwartz identifies the detrimental effects of having almost infinite choices available to us everyday.
You have an incredible array of options available to you everyday in almost every instance. What to eat. What to wear. What to watch. What to read. What to buy. In almost any facet of our daily existence we’re faced with a multitude of options. As Schwartz explains, having an abundance of choice can actually lead to anxiety, wasted time, and the inability to make decisions. We become paralysed in a state of indecision by analysing all our available choices.
By removing choice and simplifying a few things we do every day we can save valuable time.
Shop for your groceries just once per week. Plan your meals for the entire week beforehand and make a grocery list. Taking a few minutes once per week to make this overarching decision will give you back valuable time. Time you spend deciding what you feel like for dinner. Time waiting in line at the take-out. Time driving to the store and standing in line at the checkout.
Develop a uniform. If you find yourself in front of the mirror every morning choosing an outfit — guess what. You are wasting time. If you simplify your choices to a kind of ‘uniform’ you will gain that time back. I don’t mean wearing exactly the same thing every day. More of a curation down to the basics. Ask yourself what you are most comfortable wearing. Something appropriately in-keeping with your daily obligations. Distil this to a limited number of options in tops, bottoms and shoes. Restrict your morning outfit decision making.
Find other areas where you are often caught wading through too many options. Ever spent an hour just deciding what to watch on Netflix? Do you have just one go-to source for your news, or do you sift through several media outlets every day? Does everyone you follow on twitter provide you with consistently valuable content, or could you stand to cull a few? Simplify and remove choice.
There really is no such thing as multitasking. If you think you can perform multiple tasks of value simultaneously you are kidding yourself. And wasting time. Dividing your attention and jumping between tasks means that you are never able to fully develop ideas or achieve a state of flow. You are simply switching your brain from one thing to the next and back again. Never actually performing two important things at once. Not only are the individual projects unlikely to reach their optimal result, but they will take longer to complete.
Just one thing at a time. In their book Rework Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson emphasise the value of reaching flow and the “Alone zone”.
“You should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done.
During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings. Just shut up and get to work. You’ll be surprised how much more you get done.”
Stop wasting time mind-shifting between tasks. Tackle one thing at a time. Get shit done.
In four hours of concentrated effort and flow you will most likely get far more done than your scattered colleagues will in eight.
To get into the alone zone or a state of flow you cannot be distracted. Doing your best work effectively is impossible if you have notifications beeping on your phone. Turn them off.
The lure of your phone is all too easy to succumb to in those ‘in-between’ moments in your day:
- Stopping to clarify a thought
- Resting between sets at the gym
- Waiting for an expected phone call
Leave it the hell alone. ‘Just checking’ twitter or instagram or your email can very easily run into twenty minutes or more of wasted time. Do this several times a day and it quite easily totals near to an hour.
If you work with office noise and distraction put on headphones. Playing a single song or album on repeat can be helpful to tuning out outside influence.
Control your environment as much as you can to allow proper focus.
Sort your health out
A healthy body is a functional and capable body. Keep yourself in optimal condition and you will experience a lot less downtime and burden caused by sickness and injury.
An unhealthy individual will waste a surprising amount of time. They will be distracted by the discomfort caused by poor gut health or skin conditions. They will have to compromise the way they work, walk or sit due to simple injuries. They will seem to catch every bug going around and spend more time sick in bed. They move slower and experience more brain fog.
Keeping your body in top working order will give you the edge.
Make time for exercise. It doesn’t have to be hours a day. Concentrated, high intensity training will keep your physique in check and boost mental performance.
Don’t skip meals. And make them healthy. It may seem counter-intuitive to maximising your time to stop and sit for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, the benefits to your metabolism, gut health, immunity, and energy production far outweigh the time cost. And, if you have planned your meals for the week in advance, sitting down to consume them really won’t take much time.
Take supplements. Obviously you should be trying to eat as whole and balanced a diet as possible. Even the best diets struggle to provide properly effective amounts of all the necessary micro nutrients you need to be your best. This is where supplements come in. Talk to someone knowledgeable at your local health store or do a bit of online research to see what you may be lacking.
Make the most of your commute
Whether you drive or catch public transport you can transform this seemingly dead time into your education space.
Almost any book you can think of is now produced in an audio version. There are countless podcasts available on any topic relevant to you. Find the best and most relevant handful (remember to remove choice where you can). Listen to your selection on your way to and from work and you will likely find insights and ideas that translate directly into your own life. Ideas that motivate you. Insights which give you a clearer perspective. Tips that help you become a better version of yourself.
The fifteen or forty minutes or however long your commute is that were previously spent listening to music and grumbling at traffic suddenly become a useful and uplifting part of your day.
Instead of taking time in the evening to read that book, you can now listen to it on the drive. Instead of taking time to research articles on a topic you can listen to that exact topic addressed by experts in a podcast.
Turn dead time into your learning time.
Quit the shit
If you want to gain time in your day you have to decide what really matters.
And identify all the things that don’t. All the shit.
The shit that takes up time in your day but does nothing to progress you or build anything of value. Be brutal in cutting back the shit.
TV is a big one. So are useless relationships. Relationships that you can draw no benefit from. Everyone has friends or acquaintances that are low on the ladder of mutual benefit. These relationships can be hard to let go of. You don’t want to hurt the other person. Try to look at it as objectively as you can and decide who in your life really matters to you.
Who would your life be incomplete without? Who uplifts you and motivates you? Who do you love? Who shares your goals and aspirations? Who genuinely wants the best for you? Who do you turn to for advice? Who would be there for you in a time of need? Who is grateful for your help? Keep these people in your life. These people are important to you.
The people who don’t make it onto this list can most probably be let go of. They may not be malicious or mean you any harm. They may however sap you of valuable attention and time. Meaningless conversations and interactions. Taking and taking without ever giving back. Unreasonable demands. Seeking constant advice without ever actually listening or implementing. These are all traits of relationships you would be better off without. They all take up time. Cut them.
And cut back on the TV. Minimising time in front of the TV will go a long long way to cleansing your life of meaningless shit. It doesn’t matter what the desperate housewives of whichever city are squabbling about this week.
Assign entertainment time
Reducing TV time doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of all entertainment. Far from it. We’re not robots. We need time to wind-down or lift our mood. A good movie or book or favourite show can go a long way to helping decompress your mind and nerves. Drinks with friends keep you sane.
Staying mindful of how much time you spend on entertainment is important though. Is it creeping into time that would be better spent on a crucial project? Is it keeping you awake a few hours too late?
Approach your downtime consciously. Assign time at the end of the day, or to a certain day even. Maybe Sunday mornings can be spent under the covers with three episodes of Suits? Agree to drinks on Friday nights, but turn down the mid week gatherings that will rob you of sleep.
I use entertainment as a rewards system for having made progress during the week.
Completing my daily tasks successfully means that Friday nights are spent either out at a restaurant or with take-out on the couch with a good movie. Saturday mornings are for time doing whatever my wife wants to do. I may even sneak in a mid-week double episode of Huang’s World if I feel I’m killing that week’s goals.
Staying focused and optimising your time every day shouldn’t result in an existence deprived of fun and human interaction. They key is identifying how much time you want or can afford to spend on fun without it becoming wasted time. Just be smart about it.
Get enough sleep
Many people ‘on their grind’ will enthusiastically praise the bravado of sleeping little and working a lot. Let them. In most cases they’ll reach a point of burn-out within a few months or a year. Burnt out people don’t get much done while they’re recovering.
I started this article mentioning sleep because it’s the easiest and most foolish way to getting more time in your day. You may have more literal waking hours as a result, but you will have less effective waking hours.
Sleeping seven hours plus a night will mean your body and mind can properly recover. Recover and be fresh to generate better ideas and be more creative. To make clearer decisions quickly. To be less irritable and in a better mood. To be stronger and healthier. To be more effective.
Finding more time in your day, every day, is achievable by anyone if you remove the excess and the unnecessary. Curating your daily options, focusing without distraction, taking care of your health and minimising the unimportant things will make a real difference. Taking back that time can make all the difference in your pursuit of a goal. It doesn’t matter if it’s professional, personal, financial or a relationship, any worthwhile pursuit requires time to achieve. Time you can now find.
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Do you want to do more of what really matters to you? Me too. Join me here as I figure out how to optimise for a truly wonderful life.