Look, I quit my job at the end of 2017. After nearly a decade of corporate excels and hierarchies, I wanted out. The timing was right. Suddenly I had all the time in the world in my hands. Your most valuable asset! My most valuable asset. Something money can’t even buy. Unfortunately, we all need to earn money, no?
Well, this post is all about how I squeeze out time. You know, like those mustard tubes. It’s really magical and quite easy to do. Especially if you’re on a sabbatical, time is everywhere. Wrong. You see, people ask me (for years), how I manage to accomplish so many things and that they would love to be able to do the same. I’ve often heard both inside and outside of work things along the lines of “I don’t have time for this”, or “I can’t find time for that.”
Whenever I hear these types of remarks I tend to have this inner giggle. Why? Because I have no time either. What I do do is make time. I use to sleep 4-5 hours on average. I’d be working on something till 0200 in the morning, then I’d go to bed, wake up at 0600 and head to work. Today I sleep an average of 6.5 hours. Regardless of when I go to bed, on average our oldest son will walk into our room around 0630 and motivate me by saying “Daddy, I’m hungry. It’s time for you to get up now. Let’s go make breakfast.”
You see the thing about “not having enough time” equates to the excuses we make consistently. I’m just as guilty as anyone else.
Staying motivated at doing something is one thing many people struggle with (If you do, then you are going to want to read my mini-guide on motivation). Especially in this ever-on world, we tend to get distracted very easily and if you are like me, you have a hard time focusing. You know it’s like a roller coaster ride. One day you’ll be super excited to hit the gym and the next day goes along the lines of asking yourself why you are even doing this? What’s the purpose?
So what’s the magical formula I mentioned earlier when it comes to squeezing time? How do I do it?
Here a few pointers:
If you learn to properly set goals, you’ll be one step closer to success. Begin so by setting yourself weekly goals. Sunday evenings, take the time to sit down and write just ONE thing you want to accomplish until the following Sunday. Once you have done that, WRITE it down and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every single day. Our brains are wired interestingly and seeing your goal in front of you day in and day out will ease the pain you need to go through to achieve that specific goal.
I learned how to best manage my time efficiently over the years. I use to be a huge procrastinator and put things off to last minute. That pressure seemed to make me move things quicker, but I was always frustrated that I had never utilized my time better, rather than pushing everything out last minute. Learning how to manage your time is crucial both in your professional and personal life.
When I became Chief of Staff at Hewlett-Packard, the first three to four weeks were shaky. I just moved into a high profile role, and albeit having a “hand-over” the company was heading into a crucial period. I remember my direct manager telling me that she wasn’t sure whether the decision to move me into this role was a good one or not. My response was “I learn. I deliver. And my pace is efficient.” Within two months of my starting that role, I took over responsibilities that went above and beyond. What it came down to was understanding and managing my time within the role effectively.
Utilize every moment and learn to be in the moment. There are times when I quickly flick out my phone to take a note of something while we are at the playground, however, playground time is family time. Knowing when you can do what will be essential learning for you in squeezing out the most of your time.
Try and find someone that will hold you accountable for what you need to get done. That can be your spouse, a family member, a trustworthy friend or a coach. Heck, even if you need me to hold you accountable, then reach out to me right now! This person will help you stay on track and provide the discipline you need in case you get stuck or fall behind.
When it comes to work-related activities my brother and my wife keep me accountable. They make sure that I have completed what needs to get done and they are the ones I bounce off tasks so they know what is currently on my plate. The same is true vice-versa.
The same goes for biking. I love road biking and in order to make sure I keep at it, we have a local group that heads out weekly. Hence, the guys in this group, primarily one good friend, keeps me accountable to make sure that I go riding as I should.
Be realistic. Hustle.
If you whine about the fact that you don’t have enough time, well then one of these points is something you need to be looking at and being realistic is one of them. Sometimes that may mean staying up late after the kids go to bed so that you can study, read or work on something you have wanted to do. Sometimes that may mean canceling plans with friends because you know that the additional 3 hours will make a huge difference in delivering your end result. The same goes for everything.
I tell my wife to make sure she is realistic about her videos on youtube and that she posts on a specific day, but knowing that she doesn’t do all the work the night before. The quality will be terrible and the result equally bad.
In other words, be realistic with what you need to accomplish whether that’s editing a video or writing your Master thesis. You are going to need to put in that work and when you put in that work is a matter of time management and realistically looking at the time you will have available until you hit that given deadline.
Find a habitual time slot. If you struggle with making time because you work a full 9-5 and on top of that you need to prepare breakfast, bring the kids to school, head to work, pick the kids up again, have some family time, eat dinner, go to bed, maybe hit the gym, etc, then find a slot and stick to it. In other words set a productivity schedule where, regardless of what comes, you know that this specific time on this specific day is your hustle time. Its the moment you work your heart out at fulfilling your dream, hobbies, and goals. Turn that from a habit into a ritual.
This is where I believe a majority of us fail. You need to learn to know what is what and when. Cut out all the distractions. Things like watching TV or trying to multitask at work and then ending up doing nothing productively. If you can learn to master the art of cutting out the noise, then you are already one giant leap ahead. You’ll see your productivity soar.
Look, there is nothing wrong with watching TV from time to time. I do the same. I try to do so while doing something else like static riding or working out. Sometimes I’ll listen to podcasts and at other times I just need good vibe music while working out. Combine and multitask efficiently at the right time in the right place. If you can move out the distractions that keep you from achieving your desired state, you’ll already have won a significant personal battle.
List it. List it. List it.
I’m a huge fan of lists and I believe everyone needs to list it. I use Wunderlist (sad that Microsoft bought them up), to keep organized of all the things that I need to get done and by when. It’s my go-to app to quickly jot notes and tasks (including groceries) that need to get done and once complete its fulfilling to tick the box.
I recommend you do the same. Jot a list and check it off. Henry Ford once stated that “nothing is hard once you divide it into small jobs.” How true is that? If you have ONE thing set out for this week, see if you can make a list and break it down into easier to-dos. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it’ll become. On top of that, I believe lists keep you focused.
This coincides closely with accountability, but in order to squeeze time and go after what you want in life, a mentor may often help you ask yourself the right questions in regards to what you need to do. A mentor motivates you. To me mentoring is about offering the mentee the right questions for them to ask themselves in order to figure out the what and when. It’s not about going to a magical oracle and getting all of lifes answers. And trust me, I’ve mentored people who thought I was the answer and didn’t get it, and I’ve mentored people who I’ve seen flourish. A good mentor will help you realize the importance of your time and what you need to do.
Time is your most valuable asset. Outsourcing is a major advantage to help you squeeze the time out of any tube. I outsource quite a bit.
And think about it. What comes to your mind when you think about outsourcing? It’s huge. You’re probably stuck on thinking about the costs of outsourcing. Well, stop making freaking excuses about money. Today you can outsource nearly anything and everything. A babysitter, housekeeper, cleaner, someone to program something for you, grocery deliveries, food delivery. Those are all examples of squeezing the time. They may cost you a bit, but weigh it out. Would you rather work out and watch your favorite youtuber or would you rather vacuum the house? Your call.
Know the when
By now, your thinking of all these different things and how I must be on 5 red bulls a day to make total use of time. No!
It’s a matter of knowing “when.” By that I mean, you need to figure out when you can do what. There are times where I feel like my mind is at 100% creativity and I need to work, but my kids are home from school and it’s playtime. Sometimes I’d rather just sit and watch an episode of the walking dead rather than work on my Masters.
The thing that matters most is to be mindful and be in the moment. Enjoy your family and/or personal relationships. Renew your energy from time to time. Renew your creativity and then get your hustle on.
Squeezing out the time is all about the combination of making it all work. Like a puzzle. You can choose to make excuses that you don’t have the time, but trust me. YOU HAVE THE TIME. You can read 20minutes a day. You can workout 30 minutes a day. You can work overtime and be home late one night. It’s all about finding that balance, the “right” whens.
That being said, go be productive and make it happen!