5 Productivity Secrets That’ll Free Up An Extra 2 Hours Per Day

Have you ever found yourself wishing you had the super-power to freeze time, just so you could catch up on what you needed to do?

Entrepreneurs have busy lives, and time seems to fly. An extra two hours a day could really make a difference.

Of course we can’t literally freeze time. What we can do is make it feel like there are more hours in the day by making the best use of the time we have.

Time is possibly our most valuable resource. No amount of startup capital can create more time, and even if you’re working twelve hours a day, you still need to sleep, eat, and live.

This post will reveal tried and tested strategies to help you take control, and free up some of your time again.

Let’s get started.

1. Reevaluate Your Beliefs About Time

The problem with time management isn’t really a lack of time, but rather making poor decisions about how to use an extremely limited resource. It starts with our beliefs about time.

If you believe there just isn’t enough time in the day — there won’t be. This means that your mindset is probably tuned in on a frequency of ‘constant urgency’ and possibly even ‘mild panic’. Advertisers often use this tactic to get us to buy things — offering things for a limited time, or in limited quantity. But the sense of urgency is not real; we create it ourselves.

A good way to regain balance is to slow right down to a complete stop from time to time. Set aside a tiny fraction of your available time on a regular basis to review your timing habits.

Clear away the clutter (literally and figuratively) and re-think your strategy. Evaluate where your time has gone, breaking it down into tasks you have completed. Ask yourself these questions for each task:

  • Can I eliminate this task?
  • Can I automate this task?
  • Can I delegate this task?
  • Can I simplify or streamline this task?

Once the sense of emotional turmoil about time has been separated from the practical details, it all becomes much clearer and more manageable. We simply need to take back control.

2. Be Ruthless With Distractions

“I would have finished everything if it wasn’t for all the distractions!” Does this sound like one of your days?

Some distractions can’t be helped, and they are predictable, so you need to plan for them. Others are self-created, and can be minimized. Be ruthless with this latter camp of self-created distractions.

For example, many of us have long lists of emails to go through regularly. The burden of email can eat up hours of our day, leaving us feeling that we haven’t accomplished much. So instead, schedule regular email times, and stick to them. (Once every hour or two might suffice, depending on your demands).

David Allen, author of the 2001 book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity says that if replying to or disposing of an e-mail takes less than two minutes, you should always do so right away (otherwise leave it for later).

Allen advises us:

“Do not have an alert flashing on your computer every time a new e-mail comes in. Send less to receive less: Keep your e-mails short, and write fewer of them. If possible, only check your e-mail at designated times during the day.”

Technology is meant to make our lives more efficient, but it only works if we can be smart about which technology we allow ourselves to use. Apps like SelfControl for Mac and Freedom for Windows let you temporarily block certain distracting pages (we’re looking at you, Facebook) to help you manage your self-imposed social media distractions.

If activities aren’t worth the time — simply cut them out of your life.

3. Schedule Focus Times and Breaks

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. The name comes from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used in the method (Pomodoro is Italian for ‘tomato’).

Image: pomodorotechnique.com

The method forces you to choose one important task, and set the timer (usually for 25 minutes of focus time). When the buzzer rings, you take a short break — no more than five minutes, then focus again until the task is complete. After four “pomodoros” or focus sessions, you take a much longer break.

This way you focus all your attention and energy into a burst of concentrated work. The regular, forced breaks actually do wonders for the power of concentration, and you end up spending your time far more efficiently. During focus time, you’re really focused on only one task.

Use those coffee breaks to stretch, stand up and walk, and re-focus your priorities. Save non-essential tasks for later, when your energy is lower than at the start of the day.

4. Delegate the Details

Once our priorities are straight, the task of managing our time becomes easier. It helps to decide what our core skills and activities are, and to zoom in on those. Ask yourself: “Where is my time best spent?”

If you’re a print designer at heart, why waste time trying to learn programming, just so you can improve your portfolio? If you’re a programmer, then why waste time trying to write web copy? It makes more sense to delegate tasks that are outside of your core skill set. Someone who specializes in that activity will accomplish it in a fraction of the time, and possibly at a reduced cost to you, considering what your time is worth.

In this day and age we’re all learning new things every day, but it also makes sense to cut down on the amount of learning curves — time is limited. Simply hire an expert for the job instead.

Sites like Odesk.com, Freelancer.com and Guru.com are great places to find competent freelance help at reasonable rates. When possible, put experts in place and delegate the details.

5. Minimize, Set Limits, Define Boundaries

No business owner wants to say “no” to a good opportunity, but sometimes declining or postponing is better than risking an overload. As an entrepreneur, quality of work should trump quantity.

It makes sense to minimize and specialize. If you’re finding yourself overloaded, it might be time to add someone to the team, or to specialize into something more lucrative, cutting out the rest.

Set limits to your availability, and boundaries to your up-time. Being available to our clients is important, of course, but everybody understands that people are not available all the time. If you’re clear about which times you are available, most clients will work around it, despite the time-zone difference or deadlines involved. A little planning goes a long way.

Always make your down-times really count. Switch everything off and recharge. Your up-time will be more enjoyable and productive as a result.

Conclusion

Life will continue to become more complex, no doubt. The amount of time in a day won’t change, so the logical outcome is that time will become even more precious, if anything.

The way towards freeing up two hours a day is therefore a matter of compromise. It starts with being more conscious of time as a valuable resource for you as an entrepreneur. It’s a mindset — either you’re permanently fighting the clock, or the clock is a valuable ally.

The rest comes down to practical details. Be ruthless with unnecessary distractions, and try to plan for the necessary ones. Schedule focus times interspersed with breaks to boost concentration and efficiency. Delegate what you can’t personally manage, minimize the demands on your time, and set clear boundaries.

These are just some of the challenges that can be overcome. We’d love to hear in the comments: What apps and techniques have you found useful for freeing up time in your day?


Originally published at blog.getdrip.com.