In your quest for personal development and self-fulfilment, perhaps you have now identified the activities that require your daily attention to achieve self-satisfaction. But the obvious obstacle that prevents you from doing what you desire is the lack of time. A demanding job (Or multiple jobs for that matter) is your largest burden, followed by family commitments and then perhaps you have time for a social life? Oh, and you have to make time for the gym today right? Sigh…
You, my friend, are in a war against time. And your objective henceforth is to bring as much of it back under your own control as you can make possible. We will discuss multiple strategies in this guide to assist you in reclaiming your time.
“The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win — you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. ”
— Jocko Willink on Extreme Ownership
This is our first challenge in the battle of reclaiming our time. When do you wake up? If more time is something you demand, the first thing we can demand from ourselves is simply being awake for more hours of the day. This is former Navy Seal Jocko Willick’sfundamental concept of reclaiming your time. If you wake up early, you get more done and you end up with more freedom. Simple.
Action: Set your alarm earlier tomorrow. If you win the morning, you will win the day.
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.”
— Tim Ferriss, Author of The 4-Hour Workweek
Tim Ferriss is arguably one of the best humans on earth for regularly writing and producing advice on the optimisation of your day to day schedule. For those unfamiliar with Mr Ferriss, Tim is the author of one of the best book’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading – The 4-Hour Workweek. A New York Times bestseller that offers tried and tested guidance to reconstruct your life so it’s not all about work. Time Management and the importance of being more productive with your priorities to free up more time is one of the fundamental, reoccurring themes throughout this book. So I’ll do my best to highlight some of the key concepts that can help us in our quest for more freedom.
Creating a clear list of daily priorities is without a doubt the most important thing you can do to achieve management of your time. Each evening before you sleep will be the ideal time to make this habit a reality. Leave the computerised/mobile to-do lists alone and get yourself a MoleSkine notebook or simply a small piece of paper that you can leave in your pocket.
Create two mission-critical items that are required to complete each day. This is the minimum criteria that you will now use to determine if your day was a success or not. Remember to ask; If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?
We’re now sitting down each evening and fine-tuning our life for the better. Literally writing our own destiny daily and determining what we want to achieve in life with each to-do list we create. This is time optimisation 101 and we’re no longer leaving our priorities to chance and emotion. We can predetermine the night before what we need to accomplish and what will determine the success of our day in a rationalised way.
Action: Before you go to sleep tonight, grab yourself a piece of paper/notepad and create a to-do list for the upcoming day consisting of x2 mission-critical items that will be completed tomorrow no matter what. Followed by the rest of your items that are more flexible. (With this habit, you’ll witness your life change for the better only after a few days)
THE PARETO PRINCIPLE – 80 / 20 RULE
One of the best pieces of Time Management advice from reading the 4-Hour Workweek is the Pareto Principle 80 / 20 rule. The principle states that 80% of your outcomes typically come from 20 percent of your inputs. For example, 80% of your happiness will typically stem from something you do 20% of the time. The aim of using such a ratio is to cut out wasted time and focus your time on the few highest leverage activities which will lead to more output in a shorter period of time.
This is not a technique that needs to be applied relentlessly each and every time. But if we’re regularly performing a 80/20 analysis on our workloads and asking ourselves: What’s the 20% of my life that’s getting me the most impact and how do I stop doing the rest? We can immediately begin the removal of inefficient activities.
Action: So what can we immediately start doing with this information?
- Identify the 20% highest leverage positive things in your life for (Training, hobbies & business) -> Use this information to formulate your newly optimised to-do list.
- Identify the 20% most negative things and eliminate them -> These are things we will no longer have on our to-do list.
Let’s face it, as passengers of the digital age, much of our time issues can now stem from poor computer habits. RescueTime is a free service that runs securely in the background on your computer and mobile devices. This app builds the entire picture of the time you have spent on various applications and websites, providing you with detailed reports and data based on your daily activity. Then you can proceed to Block distracting websites within the app and set alerts to notify when you have spent a certain amount of time on an activity. Probably the best time-management software there is available online today.
Action: Download the RescueTime app now, and begin your digital optimisation process.
Another tip from Mr Ferriss is to remove the act of multi-tasking. At face value this may seem counterproductive to the aim of finding more time, right? But his logic is quite sound. Talking on the phone while you’re responding to an e-mail at the same time doesn’t work very well. Listening to your partner’s story as you’re simultaneously reading the news? Don’t kid yourself – you’re giving yourself the illusion of feeling productive while you’re in a sad state of mediocracy. Dividing your attention across tasks will lead to poorer net results and poor concentration that may lead to a higher chance of making mistakes. Look at the larger picture – Aim for a net gain in your productivity and you’ll find your time increase as a result.
Your inability to understand and focus on what you truly want at this very moment in life may be the reason why you’re in a war against time management. We’re continuously bombarded with stimulation from each and every angle these days and many of us are simply overwhelmed with what needs to be done. An unorganised brain will want to do ALL the tasks as soon as possible.
We will stress out with such demands and because of such, we will create excuses for why we can’t finish or get started on an activity. The bottom line is, if you’re not sitting down and planning your priorities each day then you’re allowing the reptilian brain to get distracted by the continuous stimuli of this frantic world. Order and discipline will be the tools that will help you win this war and regain the time that you’ve lost. Create a trusted system that you review regularly, and you will find your life changing to a point you didn’t previously think possible. A tremendous capacity for focus will be the first prize, followed by less stress and the return of the time that you have previously lost.
The ball is now in your court.