Time Management

5 hacks to create more time for yourself

Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I had 2 more hours every day to get my tasks completed.” And deep within you know that even if you had those 2 extra hours chances are you will still struggle to manage your time. There just seems to be too much to do in any given day, or is there?

You have probably gone to a training program on time management or read books on leadership and management that talk about the important of managing time and the mechanics of time management. And you probably have half a dozen apps on your phone that promise to be “productivity enhancers”, that you now find are another task to manage.

In my view time management is actually about creating time. Yes, you head that right – it is about you creating time for yourself, so that you can spend time on what really matters to you – your career, your business, your family, yourself… So how do you create time?

Hack # 1 – Do a time audit

Time wasters creep up into our daily lives without us even knowing about it. You may not be aware of how much time you are wasting in your day. Try this simple tool. Capture as many of your daily activities as you possibly can for a week, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Keep this sheet of paper and a pen with you at all times. Also capture the sleep you got that day.

Then total up for each day how much time you spend on activities that are non-value added (low to medium value in your chart). Remember sleep (less than 8 hours) is value added.

Hack # 2 – Get rid of the NVA (non-value added)

Studies show that employees at work could be wasting up to 35% of their daily working hours in completely unnecessary activities. That is a whopping 3 hours a day. This time is being spent on the usual suspects – Facebook, LinkedIn (and other social media), surfing the web, WhatsApp, discussing sports, gossiping with co-workers, online shopping, and even job searching!

Can you imagine what this adds up to across the entire working population? And it doesn’t stop there. At home there are even more time wasters. TV is probably the biggest and with the proliferation of online content (YouTube, Netflix, and the like). Our obsession with social media continues at home, with the need to improve one’s image online to be able to get “liked”.

Now not all of this is NVA. Building your network on LinkedIn helps you connect with a potential future employer or with your customers, but randomly reading all posts, liking and commenting on them with no clear objective is a big NVA. Connecting with family and friends on Facebook is great but spending more than 15 minutes in a day is getting into NVA territory.

So if you are prone to any or all of the above, you need to sit up and pay attention. Imagine having 5 to 6 extra hours each day to be able to do the things you have wanted to do but “not had the time” to do. That could be 30 minutes a day of quality time spent with your kids. That could be 30 minutes exercising. That could be another 30 minutes meditating. Or just getting an extra hour of restful sleep.

Hack # 3 – Have a morning routine

A great way to manage your time is to manage your first hour of the day. How you start your day pretty much determines the rest of the day for you. How you wake up is also very important. If your phone is the first thing you touch and look at in the morning, then all what you do that day will be determined by that phone and what’s in it.

Some best practices –

  1. Don’t use your phone as an alarm. And keep the alarm away from bed so you will be forced to get out of your bed to switch it off. And remember – you snooze, you lose!
  2. Turn off your phone internet data and Wi-Fi off the previous night before you go to bed. That way when you wake up there will be no notifications to check and hopefully no reason to spend time with the phone.
  3. Start your day by making your bed. In his book “Make your bed”, Admiral William McRaven writes “If you want to change your life and maybe the world, start off by making your bed”. It is your first task of the day and if done right shows your attention to detail. It is something to be proud of, no matter how small the task.
  4. Meditate for 15 minutes (at least) every day. There are a number of meditation techniques that you could use. Meditation helps you get grounded, gives you clarity for the rest of the day and keeps you alert.
  5. Exercise for at least 30 minutes in the morning. It is the ideal time of the day for exercise and more importantly is something you can be done with so nothing else takes away time from exercise later in the day. If you prefer exercising in the evening that is fine but a few stretches in the morning will get you going
  6. Plan your day for 10 minutes. By now you have exercised your mind and your body and are ready to take on the day. Put a plan in place that will help you stay focused on the deliverables for the day.
  7. Then pick up your phone and check your messages. You will find there was nothing important you missed. And in case of something urgent you would have gotten a phone call.

Hack # 4 – Have a time management system

Dr Stephen R. Covey in his timeless bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, says that time management is a misnomer. It is actually managing ourselves. It is about choosing to spend time on activities and tasks that are important to our goals and priorities. A great tool is the 4x4 matrix of Urgent vs. Important.

Take a look at your time audit sheet for the day. Chances are it is filled with things that are in quadrants I, III and IV. Quadrant II is the one that needs most attention as it is filled with activities and tasks that will help you achieve your goals

The key skill to build is to say “No” to activities in quadrants III and IV, and to say “Yes” to the ones in quadrant II. Very often quadrants I and III are filled by others – your boss, the customer’s needs, your kids errands and so on. If you have to focus on filling your day with quadrant II activities then you have to learn to start saying “No” to less important stuff…!

The humble calendar is another great weapon you have in managing your time better. The calendar is not just for work appointments and conference calls. Add your important personal activities to your calendar as well (there are ways to integrate work and personal calendars). That way you will be forced to spend time on what’s important, at least until it becomes a habit, and others will not block your time when you have blocked it for yourself.

Add time for meditation, for exercise, for family time with kids. Set up reminders to call family and friends so you don’t miss out on important events and milestones in their lives. Also your kids’ school functions and important events.

And the key to these hacks working for you is to build discipline around them. They are easy to use and should be easy to make into a habit. Good luck…

“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”
– Stephen R. Covey