“In the realm of time, there is no aristocracy of wealth and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. You cannot draw the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.”
~ Arnold Bennett
Stop for a moment and picture the most successful person you can think of.
What makes that person incredibly successful is that they have learned how to use their time efficiently, so they can form the right habits and execute the right activities that will enable them to accomplish their goals.
The one thing that person has in common with you is that you both have the same 24 hours within a day.
That’s the beautiful part about it.
The moment you wake up, you have a clean slate.
No matter who you were the day before, or what happened, the moment you open your eyes, you have a brand new beginning.
Full control and power to direct your life the way you want it.
You must learn how to use this valuable resource because you can never get it back.
And the even better news is, after several years of experimenting with productivity techniques and tools, I’ve finally compiled everything I’ve learned that can help you become a master of your time too.
Disclaimer: If you were expecting a fancy version of a To-Do list, you won’t find it here.
But you will learn:
- How to get more time
- How to use your time more efficiently.
1. How to get more time
I’ve identified a couple of tips to really get more time out of your day.
Assess how much time you are currently wasting
We live in the age of distraction.
Because of that, we need to pay special attention to what we spend our time on, and to see if we have a gap that we are not aware of.
Next thing is to define the biggest time wasters (activities that you spend time on, which are not contributing to your goals).
Be honest with yourself.
Evaluate how much time you spend daily on activities such as social media, youtube, television, and others.
It doesn’t mean you need to get rid of those activities all together.
It just means that you should be aware of how you spend your time, and where you allocate it.
The point is that you have full freedom to decide where you will invest time at any moment of your life.
Now that we have assessed where you currently are at, we’ll now move to the second important piece…
Optimize sleep and get up early
Oh man, this took me 4 years to establish as a habit. Luckily, you don’t need to go through this by yourself. You can use my learning lessons.
By “optimizing sleep”, I mean that you should find the perfect time you should go to bed each night, and discover the ideal time you should get up in order to maximize energy and health.
Try to hit sleep cycles, which last for 90 minutes (1.5 hours)
It would look something like: 1.5 hours > 3 hours > 4.5 hours > 6 hours
You know how sometimes you sleep for like 11 hours, and you wake up groggy?
That’s because you woke up during a sleep cycle.
On the other hand, have you ever woken up after sleeping for 3 hours and you felt wide awake and energized?
Again, sleep cycle.
For me, establishing a habit of getting up early had the biggest impact on my life, because it allowed me to focus several hours on myself and my biggest goals.
When it comes to getting up early, my suggestions are following:
- Go to bed at the same time
- Get up earlier gradually (If you are currently getting up at 8am, and your goal is 6am, start with 7:50am, then 7:40am, and so on, until you reach your goal, and then work on maintaining it)
Note: you might experience energy drops in the first couple of weeks. But that’s normal until your body adjusts to the new schedule.
Pro tip: if you experience a sudden drop of energy, take a 20–30 minute nap.
Reclaim dead time
Dead Time = time spent on activities that don’t require too much mental effort which you can eliminate at the moment, but can be used more productively.
Example: commuting / working out / buying groceries
Find something you can do while being engaged in these activities.
Possible options include: listening to audiobooks / podcasts / reading books / using apps like Duolingo or Memrise for quick language learning.
The main idea here is to do something that will give you value while performing items that you already are committed to spending time on.
Now that you have found some ways to shave hours off your current time expenditure, let’s go onto…
2. How to use your time efficiently
I’ve done a number of different experiments, and these are the most efficient ones.
You should be smart about how you distribute resources. If you don’t have goals, it’s quite easy to waste time “by accident”.
That’s why it’s so important to purposely allocate your resources so that they line up with your long-term goals.
This is important because if you know what you are striving to achieve, you will be able to direct your attention to it.
Goals work like a lens of a camera.
If you set the lens and focus properly, you will be able to take a clear picture.
If it is out of focus, your picture will be blurry.
When it comes to setting goals, there are tons of guidelines. But here I would keep it simple.
Focus on one year ahead, and set 3–5 main goals, for the most important areas of your life (work, health, social relationships, personal growth, travel, etc.)
Make your goals specific, and phrase them in a way as if you’ve already achieved them.
All you need to do is write down yours and start.
Define high leverage activities
Here you can implement Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule.
This principle states that 80% of results come from 20% of your activities.
To make this easier, I suggest you ask yourself:
If I could only do one thing on that list all day long, which item on the list would add the most value and help me get closer to my goal?
If you could do only one more thing on your list of key tasks, which would be the second activity that contributes the most value to me?
Finally, ask yourself what the third most important task is.
Create a morning ritual (or your “thing”)
An effective morning ritual is an incredible way to kickstart your day.
Your rituals should consist of the high leverage activities you’ve defined above, the ones that help you achieve goals.
If your goal is to start a blog, a high leverage activity would be to write an article every week.
Your ritual would maybe be to write 30–60 minutes in the morning.
Here are several super tips to make your ritual even more efficient:
Drink water (500ml)
Your body just went 6–8 hours without the water, it’s time to renew it.
Get a small win
Do something that will make you feel proud (like making the bed).
Nothing can kickstart your day like working out.
It can be any type of physical activity (a gym workout, yoga, walking, jogging, swimming).
Delegate, Eliminate, and Automate
We usually think that we need to do everything on our own.
We maybe can. But we don’t have to.
Out of all of the activities that you have to do, look at the ones which are not your HIGH leverage ones.Of those items, decide which can be delegated to someone else.
See whether or not you can eliminate something, and in the end, see whether certain activities can be automated.
I used to spend at least 2 hours preparing food every day.
Then I calculated that I can save those 2 hours every day if I bought food in a restaurant and had it delivered instead of prepping it myself.
Having freed up 2 hours, I can now decide on which high leverage activities I can invest it in.
In this case, it’s my writing.
Block Time (or “Schedule a meeting with yourself”)
You should schedule a meeting with yourself based on the high leverage activities you defined.
After that, learn how to protect that meeting with yourself, and use it to focus on activities that will get you closer to accomplishing your goals.
Always start with the first one in the sequence.
Work in bursts
This is actually quite interesting, your time is best utilized when broken into 2–3 bursts.
I find the “Pomodoro Technique” to be particularly useful.
This technique was developed in the late 1980’s as a means for time management.
It typically means 25 minutes of work, followed by 5 minutes of break.
This will keep you relaxed, but also highly effective in those 25 minutes.
Get into the flow
Everybody has “THE ZONE!”
When you are completely immersed when working on something.
I get into the flow when I know exactly what I am working on, and that it helps me reach my goals.
PRO TIP: find music that works for you, it’s one of the best ways to get in to the state of flow.
I am a big believer in naps.
After you finish a big chunk of work, you energy will typically drop down.
If it happens to you, simply find a corner of the office or your home where it’s quiet.
Just close your eyes.
You don’t actually need to fall asleep, but let your body relax.
Have a buffer
If you have an important meeting or a project.
Always schedule a certain amount of time that you can count on, in case something doesn’t go according to plan.
If meeting is scheduled for 3pm, you come at 2:45pm. Just to be safe.
Or if the project official deadline is until 1.7.2018, you can set yours couple of days before, 28.6.2018.
Like a fail-safe.
When things don’t go according to plan, chill
Even if you become an expert in productivity and time management, you will still have a lot of inefficiencies.
This is usually because we often depend on external circumstances.
If I schedule a meeting and someone is late, I just take out my kindle or podcast and make sure to use that time efficiently.
Track how you are investing time
Keeping a time log of your most important activities and evaluating it at the end of the week is an important technique.
This will allow you to see what causes the inefficiency and whether or not you can do it better next time.
Evaluate your results
Once per week, sit down for 30 minutes or so and go through the week.
What was productive? Focus more on that.
What was unproductive? Try to eliminate, delegate or automate.
Bulk up on tasks
Dedicate one day a week to do the following:
- Grocery shopping
- Food planning and preparation
- Apartment cleaning
Say no to meetings that…
…don’t have a specific outcome defined!
On my previous job, I would usually ask what is the meeting outcome, and in the case one isn’t created I ask to be excused until they need me to discuss my area of expertise.
Sometimes it doesn’t work, but for the times it does, you will save time which you can invest in something else.
Say no to email until…
…you’re done with your morning ritual!
PS: don’t check email more than 2 times a day.
Say no to things which are not supporting your goals
Beyond strict tracking of your progress, the biggest thing that will help you stick with your resource allocation is learning to say no and keeping your life as simple as possible.
Remember that you are not saying NO to others, you are saying YES to yourself.
Not every minute of your life should be planned out.
After a productive week of work, reward yourself with a lazy couple of hours or even a day.
Something of a cheat day.
Develop a night ritual
At this point, you’ve had the most productive day.
All you need is a closure.
Benjamin Franklin always asked himself:
“What good have I done today?”
Think about the amazing things which have happened.
Do a tech detox (i.e. enter “Amish hour”)
An hour before you go to sleep, turn off your laptop, phone, and all electronic devices.
Talk with your partner or read a book, and get yourself ready for the next day, by defining your priorities, and what you will wear and eat.
Building these rituals took me several years, and even today I am continually optimizing them to make sure that I am aware of how I spend time.
Yes, every once in a while I watch a movie or two, but I always find my way home, just like Lassie does.
I know I can never get back time, so because of that, I make sure that I am doing my best to use it efficiently and become better every day.
The reality is that you won’t be able to do it perfectly, and you shouldn’t strive to.
You have to think about the little things. Things you can control. You can control when you wake up, what you do first thing, second thing and so on. All I think about are those small things. When you do them, that’s it, all other things are no longer in your control, and you don’t have to worry about them.
Test out any of these techniques, and you will see a huge spike in your results.
You will see how much more you will be able to achieve once you start getting more time and optimizing how you spend your time… and then the achieved goals will start lining up, one after another!
Remember, consistency is the key.
Benjamin P Hardy is the bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work, which explains the profound impact your environment has on your behavior, mindset, and success. He is an organizational psychologist, speaker, entrepreneur and a father to five kids.
(The author has created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a PEAK-STATE, immediately. Follow this daily, your life will change very quickly. Get the cheat sheet here!)