People often ask how I can put out so much content, how I can be everywhere, how I can respond as often as I do. I read a while back that Gandhi said that we all have the same 24 hours in each day; we simply choose to use them differently. If I said no more, I’d have given you my answer.
Most of us have reasons why circumstances get in between us and our goals. We might have to take care of children. We might have to work two jobs. We might have no job (which can be time consuming, if you’re actively seeking more work). These are all valid. And yet, it still falls upon us to understand those 24 hours and determine where we can get the time.
If you were to do an audit of your time, the top areas of “unnecessary time” that I suspect you’d find would be in television and Internet use. Some of us preach that we don’t watch television (I don’t watch TV, for instance), but then we’ll park on Twitter for two hours of conversation, to say that we’ve been connecting and engaging. Some of it is, some of it isn’t. And you know the difference, right?
Find Your Time Sinks
I named two large time sinks (those things that keep you from finding time for your own pursuits), but yours might be something different. Maybe you are an excessive laundry-doer (is anyone?). Maybe you keep your lawn cut down to 1/4 inch and never more. Maybe you comment back on EVERY comment you get on every social network (and yes, that’s a time sink).
Find yours and plug them. Want to hear some of the time sinks I found in my life?
- Laundry. It turns out that it doesn’t cost me much to have the laundromat do laundry for me, and I use that time to do my work, which pays me enough to not worry about it. Saves me 2 or so hours.
- Groceries. Our area has a delivery service called Peapod. I can spend $6 more, and order via the web, and they just show up. Saves me an hour.
- Clubs and Committees. Yes, it’s great to participate and give back. How many are you on? I cut back in this area a lot.
- Random Surfing. This is probably where I got back the most of my time. I have no idea how many hours, but maybe 2-3 a day (which I summarily used to research Google+, but that wasn’t random).
- Process Improvement. We don’t think about this one often, but the more ways we learn how to do our own work better, the more time we have. I save about 2 hours a day when I get things right.
Make an Audit
The way you’ll best learn to find time for yourself is to make an audit of where you’re spending time. If you can be totally and utterly vigilant and write down every little thing you do for two days, I bet you’ll find hours of time that you didn’t realize that you had. And you have to include crisis stuff in that time-finding. We think often that other people just aren’t going through what we’re going through, but that’s not true. It’s up to you to find your own time, even with that in the mix.
It’s amazing how marketers will test out button colors and subject line choices all day, but won’t figure out whether or not it’s better for them to spend 2 hours on TV versus spending 2 hours on career development. Why not test it? See if you can figure out ways to use your time differently, then measure the results of both efforts. We’re not talking “all work and no play” here, but you can certainly learn some things that will make more time for you to enjoy play. Right?
Kill the Obvious Ones
Turn off your email notifications. The little “new mail” demon eats your time. Set your phone to be quiet except for the ringer. You don’t NEED to answer that text immediately. (If you use Google Voice, you can even just turn on “Do Not Disturb.”) Shut all the extra time-wasting tabs in your browser. Unless your job is Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Wherever, leave them closed and jump in only at a few scheduled times a day.
And Keep Your Eyes Open For This
Time eaters sneak back into our days always. It’s up to you to find them. They WILL come back. They WILL sneak around your new habits and suck time back out of your day.
And remember, You Know What To Do.