“There aren’t enough hours in the day.”
How many times have you thought that as notice the clock and remember all the things you didn’t get done? Sometimes it seems this way even when you’re accomplishing some of your goals.
You always think there’s more you can squeeze out of the work day. But the hectic nature of the contemporary world doesn’t need to be a series of unchecked boxes. Remember, before you can even start checking them off, you actually have to create a list.
Humanity is struggling to keep up with the computing breakthroughs that have been made since the turn of the millennium. The world has dramatically shrunk in a short period of time and we’re now bombarded by information that flows seamlessly across the globe with the press of a button.
How do you find time, let alone free time, when a million different things happen all at once, and technology means those million little different distractions can hit simultaneously? Here are six simple steps every entrepreneur (yes, this includes you) can take to free up the most valuable commodity that’s ever existed — time:
1) Make Every Meeting Count
Meetings can feel ineffective and wasteful, and sometimes they are.
This is intertwined with our identity. “North American cultural values tend to support individual action over group activity, mountain men over wagon trains,” writes John E. Tropman in Effective Meetings: Improving Group Decision Making.
“Other societies (e.g. Japanese society) that recognize that humans are inherently interdependent do a better job preparing people for communal decision making.”
But you don’t have to be Japanese to know a wasted meeting is a luxury you don’t have; time is money, and if you’re meeting just to meet, it’s costing you. Make sure to set a meeting agenda, but go further than that. Designate someone to corral the conversation if it strays too far from the point of that meeting. An agenda-keeper will keep you on topic.
2) Outsource, Outsource, Outsource, etc.
It depends on your business, but if you’re bogged down by repetitive tasks, or you’re trying too hard to perform ventures outside of your expertise, it’s time to outsource.
What’s the most effective way to do so?
According to Josh Steimle, founder of MWI, there are four steps for choosing the right SEO firm that translate to other outsourcing endeavors: “Setting clear goals, getting multiple bids, examining predictors of the future, and listening to stories.”
The crowded and confusing search-engine optimization (SEO) field offers up a blueprint for how people are tricked by superficial external factors — a nice website, a good Google rank for your area, or the size of the firm — that don’t add value.
“Have a goal in mind by which you will measure the success of your engagement with your SEO firm, and make that goal the center of your communication with them,” he writes. “If you can’t measure how successful your SEO efforts are, you’re less likely to be successful with them.”
This is true for every outsourcing objective.
3) Create an Organized Agenda for Each Day
This isn’t a waste; it actually frees up more time.
A detailed map for the day, the week, the month and year will keep redundancies down. It takes time to create a schedule, but it helps in the long run.
Connor Gillivan of FreeUp says, “Every Sunday, I sit down for one hour and I create goals that I want to achieve in the next week. Each morning, I create an hour by hour plan for how I will spend my time in that day based off the goals I created for the week.”
Make sure to prioritize while doing so, and do what you dread first, usually early in the morning.
Virgin’s Richard Branson and Apple’s Tim Cook both wake at dawn because it’s the most effective time to get stuff done. Keep that in mind when you’re creating your own schedule.
4) The 20-Minute Break
This is best applied for when the work day is done and you need to reorient yourself for recreational relaxation time, a plus for any hard-driving entrepreneur.
Walking the dog, or sitting down with a Scotch and 20 minutes of Sportscenter might not sound like an effective use of your day, but it’s actually incredibly helpful.
Your brain is a muscle, and you need to stretch and power down if you’re going to power back up the next day. Make sure to schedule a 20-minute break in your workday and stick to it, so you’re more refreshed and enthusiastic when it’s time to work.
5) Eliminate One Customer and One Report
There’s always one report no one reads, yourself included. Get rid of it. It’s already a superficial drain on your day, and the very idea of it encumbers the mind.
It’s not necessary.
The same can be said for that low-return, high-stress customer who simply isn’t worth the brain drain they’ve become. Does their business really outweigh the collective stress and time they create?
Either find a way to replace their business with someone a lot less demanding, or figure out whether it’s possible to make money without them. Your blood pressure will lower after implementing both of these tactics and you’ll have more time.
6) Side-Step Interruptions
Deloitte did a study that says 40 percent of people are on their phones within five minutes of waking up and another 20 percent do so immediately. This happens during those wasteful meetings mentioned above, too.
You’re rolling along and then you get a text, or an update, and your attention is either divided, or completely lost. It’s an interruption you can’t afford if you want to stay on that schedule.
Do Tim Ferriss’ morning hack, and put your phone on airplane mode for the first hour of every day. Turn the phone off during meetings, and train yourself to only check it at the end of the day before you take your 20-minute break to unwind.
Interruptions happen to everyone, it’s important to minimize them, and blockading your mobile phone time is a good way to do so.
Stop jealously wondering how your peers seem to have so much free time— you can, too.