Making More Time: How To Buy An Extra 2 Hours This Week
“Time is the only capital that any human being has,” said Thomas Edison, “and the only thing they can’t afford to lose.” It’s our most precious commodity but, no matter your status, privilege, or account balance, time is something we all want more of, but just can’t get.
Especially as a business leader, time can feel like it’s working against us. Like there’s never enough of it in the day to accomplish what we want. It’s easy to let responsibilities and obligations snowball out of control and to become buried under an insurmountable to-do list. But no matter how long your list, there’s only 24 hours in a day to get it all done.
Here’s the good news: I know a simple way to make more time for yourself.
How to dig yourself out of the hole
From underneath that mountain of tasks that are on your plate, it’s hard to see the way out. To reclaim your time, you need to take some radical action!
Write down and categorize everything you do in a week
For a busy leader, it might feel crazy to spend precious time looking at what you should be doing, instead of just getting out there and doing it. But for this one week, that’s exactly the radical action you must take.
Do an inventory of everything that’s on your to-do list, and all the little things you do that don’t even make it on the list. Seriously, write it all down–from walking the dog to major project deliverables.
Now, take a look at your list and mark all the low-skill tasks. Awesome, these are the cheapest and easiest to move off of your plate.
Next, find and mark your lowest-impact tasks. To help identify these, consider what would happen this week if you just didn’t do them…or what would happen if you never did again?
For example, if you don’t look at your email for a day, the world won’t come crashing down around you. Same goes for tasks like going to the bank or post office; doing expense reports; and checking spelling, grammar, or formatting.
However, anything customer-facing should not be on your low-skill or low-impact list.
Identify alternative ways to accomplish low-impact and low-skill tasks
If you’ve been honest with yourself (have you?), then you now have a healthy list of tasks that are either low-impact, low-skill, or both.
Your next radical action for the week is cutting these time-sucking tasks out of your life for good. You don’t have to cut all of them out permanently, start by choosing three of each.
There are multiple ways to get these tasks done without sacrificing your time. For each of the six tasks you choose, decide which alternative way you’re going to implement:
Delegate to existing employees
Just not doing it at all
Resetting expectations for those who you owe something to
Congratulations, you have now made two extra hours for yourself this week–and every week!
But we can do even better: Reprioritize
Now that you have more time and a shorter to-do list, you’ll be able to gain a better perspective, too.
Chances are, for much of what you’re doing, you haven’t considered why or how you’re doing it for a long time–or maybe even ever. Look at everything that you and your team are doing to assess if it’s aligned with your goals.
Speak to your people
To get insights on how tasks align with goals, don’t just speak with managers, talk with the people who are actually executing. Then, depending on how big your organization is, ask for an inventory from their managers of how much time is spent on each activity.
Download a copy of this Time Stock Take Template to track and assess the time being spent and its alignment with your goals.
Make a permanent change
Use the Stop, Start, Continue exercise (explained here) as a framework for decisions. Consider how each activity you documented relates back to the results you’re trying to achieve. If an activity doesn’t fit your goals, consider if it really needs to be done. You’ll likely be shocked by how much time is being spent on tasks in every department that don’t actually need to be done.
Stay on track
Freeing up two hours is awesome. But to make sure you don’t end up spinning your wheels again, you need to maintain focus.
Stick to an ongoing process that protects your most precious commodity: Time. Go through the process outlined above at least quarterly. Keep your team on track by holding a weekly team meeting using this process, which includes an action register of what’s changing and the activities that are in progress.
Improving time management and productivity is like leading a healthy lifestyle; you either do it now or you say you’re going to do it tomorrow and never do it. Do it now.
Like Edison says, you can’t afford to lose any more time.