The approach described in this article may appear rough, pragmatic, and not suitable for people that live in a moment. You might find ideas shared in this post candidly dispassionate.
I decided to write this story to tell how the minor changes to trivial things changed my life experience within a short period of time.
This productivity experiment lasted for a month and resulted in the development of my blog. This post is a summary of one month of hard work.
I am thankful to all people who helped me to test, calibrate, revise the concept, and also who supported me along the way.
Once I had a discussion about life and its purpose with my friend, a full-time developer in a middle-sized IT company. He was frustrated:
— Recently I started to feel like my life is consuming me. Every day I’m getting swamped with the workload of stuff I must do, and I have no time for myself. On the back of my mind, there is a stockpile of exciting things I always wanted to start with, but each day I miserably fail. I don’t know how to solve this.
This made me thinking. Because I am familiar with my friend’s routine, I understand that some activities there are, to put it mildly, suboptimal. I personally know many people like him, who do not realize the impact of minor routine things on life quality. And these people have little time to educate themselves about it because they are constantly ‘busy’.
The reality is that every day, we have many possibilities to change for the better, and sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing the necessary how. I hope by the end of this post, you will learn valuable practices you can apply to your routine that will help you to create a better tomorrow.
First, let’s clarify what is routine, as it plays an important role in the approach.
Routine, in the context of this article, is a set of practices, activities, and ceremonies performed daily. It can be enjoyable, or it can be burdensome; in any case, it is a sequence of actions regularly followed.
Routine is designed to generate control and efficiency as it aims to remove chaos from a day and make it predictable. Routines eliminate the “paralysis of choice”, or in other words, when you don’t have to choose what you eat for breakfast, you save energy for more critical decisions.
Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition. — W. H. Auden
The role of routine practices in productivity is frequently underestimated, as you will see its impact later in the article.
Who is it for?
After the internal testing, I concluded that the methods illustrated in this post are not suitable for everyone. But, there are main criteria that describe my target audience:
- You have a somewhat strict routine that you follow.
- You are able to set the goals and adjust the lifestyle.
Who it works best for?
- Full-time office workers or entrepreneurs (your role does not matter)
- Remote workers and freelancers (does not matter where you are)
- Students who struggle in studies
- Students who succeed in studies (because you can always do better)
For whom it doesn’t work?
- People on retirement
- Unambitious (to use these tools you must strive somewhere)
If you are satisfied with where you are, I am afraid this guide can not help you. On the opposite, you must be unhappy about your life or some part of it to get the most benefit from this content.
Why is it important?
This article helps to gain insight into the quality of our day-to-day life and helps to answer these but not only questions:
- What are the suboptimal things I spend time on?
- How to develop a healthy and sustainable routine?
- What are some of the obvious points in my daily life to improve easily?
- Where to get (more) time for side-projects?
- How to increase the quality of my time?
- How to do MORE and get MORE?
What can you achieve?
Within my initial experiment, I managed to decrease my time spent on an unnecessary routine by 35.2% and gain an extra 7 hours per day for my desired activities.
The results that you can achieve depend on your lifestyle and daily routine.
What made me start it?
At one moment, I noticed that my regular day is full of ‘important’ things, but by the end of it, I rarely have the fulfillment of achieving something meaningful. It almost felt like time was miserably slipping through my hands. I wondered: “Where does my actual time go?”
The next day I listed all my regular activities and calculated the average time spent on them daily. Calculation methods are described later in the post. I ended up with something like this:
You can consider the number of 20 hours 37 minutes pretty reasonable until you notice that I did not list work or study activities there.
So that’s 20 hours of my routine, activities that I do or have to do daily in order to sustain myself, or, well, just because that’s what I do.
Now, this number is damn huge, leaving me with only 3 hours 23 minutes per day for work, study, and well, whatever I’d like.
I understood that something was not right.
If I want to advance in my career, 3 hours per day certainly is not enough.
On that day, I laid the foundation of the framework, which allowed me to more than 3x that number and brought back the feeling of life satisfaction and fulfillment.
The main mottos of TimeLean:
- Every minute matters.
- Do it today, and it will yield a better tomorrow.
The things we spend time on and the amount of time we spend on them daily is a huge dealbreaker for our life in the long term. The core principles behind TimeLean are recursion and accumulation.
Recursion, or repeatability, or consistency, or persistence. In human nature, the set of actions repeated over and over again translate into a habit. Good or bad, a habit sticks for a long time and requires significant effort to be changed. That’s why doing it today yields a better tomorrow.
Accumulation — is when the small bits of time daily aggregate significantly in the future. For example, spending 10 minutes on an activity every day leads to 45 hours annually. That’s why the man should be careful and precise about how to manage the routine time — doing it today yields a better tomorrow.
TimeLean framework is a step-by-step method of optimizing your routine. Besides, it is a great mindfulness and journaling exercise.
Anyone can start applying this tool right away. All needed are a pen and paper, but an Excel spreadsheet works better.
The first to do in this method is to make a list of the main routine activities.
The rules are simple:
- Imagine your regular weekday.
- Focus on a period of 24 hours.
- Make two categories: Work and Everything Else.
- Focus on Everything Else category.
- Review the most repeatable day-to-day activities.
- Calculate the average time spent on the activities.
After making such a list, you should already have a good understanding of where the time gets spent.
The next and core steps of the TimeLean framework are closely related to its lean part.
Lean is a methodology that focuses on minimizing waste within manufacturing processes and simultaneously maximizing productivity.
From now, these are the key targets for the activities list: minimize waste and maximize productivity.
Step 1: Identify Waste
To illustrate the real-life example of applying this framework, I will continue with my story.
After all routine activities are listed, it is important to classify them for the next steps. TimeLean supports five main categories:
- Utility — activities that are vital to surviving either physically or financially
- Benefit — activities that develop certain abilities, either physical, intellectual, or mental
- Relationships — activities aimed at maintaining existing relationships with inner and outer circles of connections
- Work — all predictable and consistent work activities (email check, daily meetings, etc.)
- Waste — activities that are either don’t bring any benefit or can be replaced by a viable and time-efficient alternative
For detailed classification of activities, see the Activities List section in the article down below.
On my example, it looks something like this:
- Some of the activities might belong to two categories, depending on the individual case of each person. For example, I classified hobbies as a waste as they consisted mostly of videogames. More on the classifications below.
- Keep in mind that I don’t list my “main” work as an activity because my workload varies day by day and is not consistent.
In this section, we will review the most common activities, average time spent, their type, and if they require focus or not (this will become important later in the experiment). Each activity will contain a bullet point summary about its impact on productivity. To read more about each activity, see the attached article.
<To see the results of the TimeLean experiment, scroll down to the next section.>
Average Time: 7–9 hours | Type: Utility | Requires Focus
- Sleep is the biggest source of energy and an essential productivity “tool”.
- Consistent sleep is the best sleep — maintain a sleeping schedule.
- Too much sleep can provoke dizziness — not productive.
Average Time: 24 minutes | Type: Waste | Requires Focus
- On average, people hit the snooze twice before getting out of bed every morning.
- May cause sleep inertia — when you are awake, but your body is dormant.
- Work on efficient sleep.
- Place an alarm ringer far from the bed.
- Learn about your sleeping cycles.
- Develop a sleeping schedule.
Morning Smartphone Check
Average Time: 5–15 minutes | Type: Waste | Requires Focus
- It’s very tempting to browse a smartphone after waking up, but it can be a big obstacle to a better day.
- New messages may cause a feeling of stress, anxiety, and disorientation.
- Distracts from a morning routine.
- Not able to process and solve tasks effectively from the phone.
- Turn on Flight + Do-Not-Disturb Mode before going to bed.
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 5 Morning Routine
Do it right — 5 common mistakes we make every morning
Morning Exercise, Yoga, or Meditation
Average Time: 5–45 minutes | Type: Utility | Does Not Require Focus
- Helps the body to transition from resting to the active state.
- Helps to concentrate on daily goals and maintain focus throughout the day.
Average Time: 8 minutes | Frequency: 1–2 Times per Day | Type: Utility |
Does Not Require Focus
- Keep yourself fresh after the workout.
- Use cold water to minimize the time in a shower and stimulate the neural system.
Average Time: 1–3 minutes | Frequency: 1–2 Times per Day | Type: Utility |
Does Not Require Focus
- Combine with showering to save 99 days in a lifetime.
Average Time: 20 minutes | Frequency: 0–3 Times per Day | Type: Utility/Waste | Usually Does Not Require Focus
- Only 13% of people love cooking. The other 87% do it because it’s cheaper, healthier, better controllable, or a habit.
- Outsourcing cooking might be a favorable decision.
- Combine cooking with e-books or phone calls.
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 8 Cooking
The reason why we don’t eat in restaurants every day
Average Time: 23 minutes | Frequency: 2–4 Times per Day | Type: Utility | Does Not Require Focus
- Use the benefit of auto-pilot — combine with other things or people
- Morning power-up — have a strong, healthy breakfast to fuel up your day and not get distracted by hunger
- Avoid late-night snacks for better sleep
Average Time: 10–20 minutes | Frequency: 1–3 Times per Day | Type: Waste | Does Not Require Focus
- Being inactive for some time after finishing a meal may cause disruption in your daily workflow
- Occurs during breakfasts and lunches. Steals time from important daily activities
- Avoid watching long TV episodes during early meals
- Develop a habit of immediately cleaning after yourself when the meal is finished
Preparing to Get Out for Work
Average Time: 11–58 minutes | Type: Waste | Requires Focus
- Long preparation times to leave home to work in the morning is a waste of precious time that can be utilized for the work itself.
- Switch to remote or partly-remote way of working.
Average Time: 15–60 minutes | Frequency: 2 Times per Day | Type: Waste | Usually Requires Focus
- Commuting twice a day for 30 minutes equals to spending one year of career on traffic.
- You can combine traveling by public transport or taxi with reading, watching educational videos, or making calls.
- Bikes are good for e-books as well.
- Switch to remote or partly-remote way of working
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 2 Transport
Get to your work efficiently. The truth about commutes
- The average basket size for physical orders is 40% smaller than online ones.
- Offline shoppers are twice more influenced by new brands and more likely to make an unnecessary purchase.
- Store visits also require logistic expenses.
- Online delivery via the local supermarket chain
Average Time: 51 minutes | Type: Utility/Waste | Does Not Require Focus
- Prevention is better than cure — reduce the time spent on cleaning by following simple prevention practices.
- Automate work by utilizing electronic appliances
- Split responsibilities if co-habited with a partner
- Combine with e-books or phone calls
- Outsourcing cleaning may be a viable decision
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 9 Housework
4 principles to make the household routine more productive
Average Time: 23–39 minutes | Type: Benefit | Usually Does Not Require Focus
- Healthy body = healthy mind. Being physically fit positively contributes to the mental state.
- Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity. Physical activity helps to maintain energy levels.
- Start small — begin with 5-minute workouts and gradually increase the load by 5–10% every time.
- Workouts can be combined with e-books and podcasts.
- Competitive sports can improve relationships and gain new connections.
Average Time: 144 minutes | Type: Waste | Requires Focus
- Social media providers have a goal to engage you and sell you the ads.
- Often we got lured into the social media app with some kind of notification.
- Purposeless browsing is damaging to productivity.
- Change app notification preferences or turn off the notifications completely.
- Doze social media: dedicate separate time blocks to enter social media.
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 1 Social Media
Use your social media right. What really stands behind the app screens.
Average Time: 40 minutes | Type: Benefit/Waste | Requires Focus
- Two types of leisure — developing and wasteful.
- Developing — contributes to physical or mental health, builds relationships, develops new skills, or helps in business.
- Wasteful — physically or mentally disengaging. Does not add new life experience, skills, or knowledge.
- Support developing hobbies and avoid wasteful ones.
Average Time: 0–90 minutes | Type: Benefit | Requires Focus
- By dedicating 60 minutes a day on (e-)reading, you will finish 27 books every year on average.
- Combine learning with routine manual activities that do not require focus
- Prepare content in advance to avoid bottlenecks (buy a set of books, download podcasts, prepare video playlist)
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 15 Self-education
The one trick I learned to read 27 more books per year
Time With Pets
Average Time: 45–90 minutes | Type: Relationships/Waste | Does Not Require Focus
- Dogs should get at least 2 hours of social time with humans every day.
- Cost to acquire a dog — $260 to $1,780. The annual cost of a dog — $380 to $1,170
- Cost to acquire a cat — $370 to $1,440. The annual cost of a cat — $430 to $870
- Combine pet walking with jogging, e-books, or both.
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 12 Pets
The cost of domestic pets and their impact on a career
Average Time: 10–120 minutes | Frequency: Random | Type: Waste | Requires Focus
- Often Force Majeures are simply poorly managed risks.
- Plan your week ahead, analyze upcoming activities, discover possible risks. Prepare “if THIS then THAT” solutions in advance.
- Use reminders not to miss the important events
- Force Majeure cannot be entirely eliminated from the routine. Always be prepared for the unexpected.
Online Messaging (Staying Connected)
Average Time: 20 minutes | Type: Relationships | Requires Focus
- Incoming messages notifications throughout the day can be distracting. Turn on Do-Not-Disturb mode during important tasks.
- Designate separate time blocks daily to handle all incoming communication.
- Keep in touch with the followers by regularly posting and replying to comments.
- Don’t support meaningless conversations or trolling.
- Plan holidays, organize weekend meet-ups, wish happy birthdays, or joke with friends — important social connections can be easily maintained via smartphone.
How to Have 36 Hours in a Day: Part 10 Staying Connected
Two main differences in social lifestyle today and 20 years ago and how to use it
Time With Beloved Ones
Average Time: 2–2.5 hours | Type: Relationships | Requires Focus
Time With Kids
Average Time: 43 minutes| Type: Relationships | Requires Focus
Time With Rest of Family
Average Time: 37 minutes | Type: Relationships | Requires Focus
- Build and maintain integrity — regularly meet with the family to discuss recent news, share pains, successes, and build plans.
- Use modern technology to communicate with long-distance relatives.
Average Time: 156 minutes | Type: Work | Requires Focus
- On average, professionals check their email 15 times a day.
- Use batching — dedicate separate time blocks to manage email correspondence for better efficiency.
- Turn off email notifications to avoid interruption during important activities.
Step 2: Eliminate Waste
Right from the start, I can see what my routine consists of — and that is 26% waste.
And now, I can immediately understand the next steps I need to take and what habits to eliminate for creating a better tomorrow.
Step 3: Optimize Utility Time
The next step of gaining the edge on your routine is to look at the list of activities and determine the ones concurrent or possibly concurrent.
For doing so, we need to understand which of the activities require concentration when performed and which are done on auto-pilot mode.
For this purpose, I use a flag Requires Focus — Yes/No in front of each activity.
You can notice that most of the combinable activities are from the Utility category.
The next step is a creative one. You have to figure out the gaps within these activities and unleash the power of concurrency. Combine as many as possible to utilize that additional brainpower focus when you do the Utility activities.
After all the optimizations, the total time spent on the daily routine had become 13 hours 22 minutes.
There is a 7 hours 15 minutes difference between the start and the end of the optimization, leaving me with 10 hours 38 minutes of manageable time per day that I can use for work or anything else.
My 1-Month Achievements
I optimized my routine for one month using the TimeLean framework. Here is the summary of that month:
- Wrote 16 blog posts for the total reading time of 68 minutes.
- Created and developed TimeLean branding, including publication page, social media, and managed the design creation process.
- Kickstarted a book project.
- Worked as a project manager 2–3 hours per day part-time.
- Read 5 new books of an average 175-page count.
- Normalized my sleeping schedule, from average wake-up time of 9:30 AM to 7:15 AM.
- Started jogging every morning.
- Improved physical strength, from 5 to 8 pull-ups per average set.
It would be silly to say this month wasn’t tough. In fact, I had to leave my comfort zone many times during that period. But expanding the boundaries of everyday life is usually what comes behind achieving meaningful results. The feeling of achievement fuels me up for the days ahead.
I would recommend applying TimeLean optimization once every month. Update the list and review your routine to see what new activities appeared in day-to-day life. This will give insight into whether things are moving in the right direction and if there are any optimization options.
In the end, Lean principles is what helped car manufacturers like Toyota to conquer the markets in the ’80s. Moreover, nowadays, Lean transformed into a more modern Lean Startup methodology and is used by tech companies to dominate the industry. Eliminate waste and optimize efficiency are the core principles of Lean. Why wouldn’t we use such proven to be effective tools in our everyday life?
When you clear the path to success — that’s when you consistently get there.
- Average time per day is derived from my personal experience based on the variables: minimum time spent, maximum time spent, average frequency per day (where applicable), average frequency per week (where applicable)
- The wasteful activities are not only the ones that bring no benefit but also potentially harmful to your health, relationships, finances, or integrity.
- Lean methodologies
- Concepts acquired from The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- People around me
- To Kate Miller for your support and valuable suggestions on my content.
- To Vadym Ovcharenko for participation in my journey, big ideas, and standing feedback.
- To Twan and Veselin for participating in a survey and giving a critical opinion on the content.
- To Dmitriy Perkov and Sisetskyi A for being the ‘early clappers’ and supporting my articles.
- To Mary Prince for a critical assessment of one of my first posts.
- To members of Auxility who read and supported the initial content that I posted in the #random channel.
- To Jennifer Taylor Chan for supporting my posts in Simple, Not Easy publication.
- To ikzlv.design for creating amazing design concepts.
- Thanks to my mom for loving my articles and reposting them.
- Thanks to all the followers of the TimeLean pub on Instagram.