How to Save Time by Stealing It

Where can you steal time from?

There comes a point where the way you’re spending time doesn’t allow you to do the things that matter most to you. Most people respond to this situation by looking at certain kinds of time — especially work time — and trying to get more efficient with what they’re doing in those blocks of time. We focus on scrunching down work so we can get more work in but often leave our non-work time unexamined.

A more holistic option is to take a look at all of your time and see where you can steal time from. For instance, a common place where time can be stolen from is in media consumption habits. While I’m not advocating no TV for everyone at all times — it can be intentional connective or leisure time for some — what I am suggesting is that maybe your right amount of TV is two episodes of one of your favorite shows per night, rather than from dinner ’til going to bed too late.

Here are some places where I’m currently stealing time from:

  • TV — I only watch TV with Angela, and only a few shows that I really resonate with. It helps that it’s the summer, but even in the winter months, there are only two or three shows I want to watch anyway.
  • Commuting — Sure, I own my own online business and thus can direct the structure, so I’ve experimented with going to a full-time office and other flex-time office arrangements. I spend just enough time at my flex-time office to get out of the house and meet clients, but I otherwise repurpose that ninety-minute commute for writing.
  • Social media — I’m back to avoiding Facebook entirely except for when I’m in the Campfire, and I’m mostlyable to spend 10 minutes or so on Twitter per day. The exception is the end of the day where my willpower and focus are weakest, in which case I can find myself on Twitter.
  • Eating at home — One of the most important reasons Angela and I try to minimize dining out is not just the money we save from doing so, but how much we save time when we eat out. By the time you count deciding, driving, waiting, ordering, waiting, eating, waiting for the check, driving, and settling back into home, it’s easy for two or three hours to be spent on dinner.
  • Meal prep and eating — I’ve found a pre-made protein drink that costs $3 per drink and has most of the nutrients I need (although it has more sugar in it than I’d like). I’m about a month into their being my breakfast and lunch and haven’t suffered any physical or performance detriments yet. This allows me to steal another forty or fifty minutes back per day. An amazing upshot is that it’s lowered decision fatigue for me since I don’t really have to decide what to eat, and boy does it save time when we go grocery shopping.

With everything above combined, I’m able to steal at least three or four hours per day. Given that a lot of those hours come after work and I’ve reached my work limit, I’m spending more time exercising, hanging out with Angela, meeting with friends and colleagues in the evening, or just going to bed early. Going to bed earlier means I get more time to write in the morning, though I have to be careful because my meeting rhythms are such that I can accidentally overwork if I spend two to four hours writing before a full deck of three or four meetings and business management work.

Another reason I’m highlighting how I’m stealing time during my non-work time is because I realize that a lot of folks don’t have as much autonomy over their work hours as I do. It’s straight-up true that many people’s employers and bosses dictate their work schedules, though I’ve learned that a lot of people in our audience actually have far more autonomy in their schedules than they realize. That said, a notable difference is that Angela and I are intentionally childless, so our morning and evening don’t involve parenting children. Parents have considerably less time to steal and may not get to repurpose it in the same ways, but… there’s still time to steal.

Charlie Gilkey is an author, business advisor, and podcaster who teaches people how to start finishing what matters most. Click here to get more tools that’ll help you be a productive, flourishing co-creator of a better tomorrow.