5 Powerful Tips to Create 5 Hours Per Week Out of Thin Air

168 hours.

That’s the amount of time we all get each week. Not a second more. Not a second less. 

While we can’t create more hours, we can use the ones we have more effectively. And that feels like manufacturing more time to do things that will make a difference in our businesses and our lives.

For a lot of people, the idea of finding 5 hours - just 1 hour per day - can be daunting. So, here are 5 ways you can “create” 5 hours out of thin air.

1. Get off Social Media

I get it. We live in the golden age of distraction.  

It’s tempting to binge the latest show that everyone is talking about and checking our social media constantly. And it’s easy to lose track of all the time we spend liking the latest meme or laughing at some cute animal video. 

Social media may have started with the lofty goal of connecting people.  What it's done is feed pervasive FOMO (fear of missing out) and the idea that we have to be always connected.

I understand why we want to do these things. They’re fun. And they create the illusion of connection.

They’re like candy. They taste great and give us a little happiness boost, but are devoid of any actual nutritional benefit. Like most kids on Halloween, we can’t stop at one. That's how we waste hours a day doing these things.

Don't think you can reclaim an hour a day by cutting down your social media use? I challenge you to take one day to record all the time you spend on social media or watching YouTube. And I do mean all the time. Every time you open an app or new tab mark down the time you spend. 

It’s like when a dietician puts all the food you consume in a day on a table in front of you. When we can visualize the amount it is startling. I guarantee you are wasting more time than you realize. 

I'm not suggesting you delete your accounts and vanish from the digital world. I'm suggesting you moderate your consumption. 

So challenge yourself to cut down bit by bit. You don’t have to be a hermit, but you should aim to gradually limit your screen time.  

2. Be more selective about who you meet with

How many times have you been in a meeting with someone and realized it could have been handled by email?

Studies have shown that the average corporate manager spends nearly two full days per week in meetings. You may spend more or less than that. I'm confident that whatever your number is, it's higher than it needs to be.

Think about your last 10 meetings.

Did you accomplish anything?  How many of them were a total waste of time? 

Go into meetings with a specific agenda or defined goal. If you don’t, you can’t expect the meeting to be a success. If someone asks to meet with you and can't provide an agenda or goal, decline the meeting. That also goes for proposed agendas and goals that aren't relevant or important to you.

When you schedule a meeting,  keep it short, sweet and to the point.  When we tighten up our meeting windows we force ourselves to get straight to the business. You can almost count on 10-15 minutes of “lost time” for every 30 you schedule. Longer meetings bring out our tendency to get into off-topic side conversations and pleasantries.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t spend any time acknowledging your clients and/or employees. Make genuine connections when you can. Remember a business meeting is not a happy hour, so limit the time you spend “catching up.” 

To find those 5 hours by cutting back on meetings, do these three things:

  1. Say no to all but the most essential meetings
  2. Insist on an agenda and defined goal for any meeting you attend (or initiate)
  3. Change your calendar's default meeting length from 1 hour to 30 minutes

3. Set deadlines

Think about the last time you were at a buffet. You see some empty space on your plate and feel compelled to fill it with something. 

The same goes for our time. 

Parkinson’s Law says a task will expand to fill the time available. We do this to ourselves all the time. We let a 30 minute task turn into a 2 hour one. 

Sometimes it's because of our perfectionist tendencies. We keep telling ourselves if we spend a little longer on it, it could be a little better.

This isn't actually true, by the way. The law of diminishing returns tells us that the first hour on a task may get us to 90% as good as it will ever be.  The second hour only takes us from 90% to 92%. And the third from 92% to 93%. 

See how this metastasizes into a huge source of wasted time?

Other times, it's because there isn't a hard deadline - or the deadline is far off in the future. A hard short-term deadline has a remarkable ability to focus us on what matters most. If whatever you're doing doesn't already have a deadline, create one. 

When time’s up, you're done.

Be firm with your deadlines. Even the ones you create for yourself. Do what you have to do to hold yourself accountable to finishing things. 

Done is better than perfect. So do your future self a favor and get things done now so you can move on to what will serve you better going forward.

4. Delegate

I get it. You’re most qualified and passionate about your business. I guarantee you're doing low-yield, time consuming tasks others could do better, faster, or cheaper. 

So let them. 

I've heard all the excuses why a business owner could never delegate tasks. Here are three of the most common...

"Then I'd have to pay someone to do it." 

Look at it this way. Every hour you spend doing $10/hour admin work is an hour you forego the sales and marketing activities that bring in thousands. Not delegating 5 hours of work per week isn't saving you $50. It's costing you thousands.

"It would take me longer to explain it than to just do it."

Maybe that's true - if it's a one-off task that will never be done again. But that's not the nature of most work you should be delegating. The stuff you should be delegating is the repetitive, basic stuff that needs to be done. Sure, it might take longer to explain it the first time. But that investment of time is repaid many times over because you never have to do that task again.

"I can do a better job than anyone else." or "I can do it faster than anyone else."

So what? Let's say the person you delegate to could only do it 75% as well or 75% as quickly. You still come out ahead by freeing that time up for the work you should be doing.

Look at your day-to-day needs. Do you really need to be answering all your emails, handling all the admin work or low-impact tasks? 

No you don’t need to be. 

So get better about letting go. If you are a better delegator, you will be a better leader.

5. Shift your schedule

If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that "going to the office" is far less necessary than many believed. And coaching is certainly a job that can be done from anyplace with an Internet connection and cell phone service. 

Some people like getting out of the house and to an office for work. If that's you, think about the time you can save by shifting some of your "office work" to your kitchen table. Or better, a dedicated workspace in your home.

Anyone who lives in or around a city will average about 2 hours stuck in traffic daily. That’s 10 hours every week you’re wasting doing nothing.

Establish some work-from-home time in your schedule.  Shift your schedule to avoid rush hours. 

Try spending the first few hours of your day working at home. Then, head into the office once rush hour passes. No office distractions and less time spent traveling will easily create 5 hours.

If you're already working from home full-time, there's still opportunity to "find" time in the day.

The comings and goings of partners and children are near-guaranteed distractions that will cost you a few minutes here and few minutes there. It all adds up to significant time each day.

You can establish a firm "Do not disturb" rule. Close your office door to signal "Don't interrupt me unless it's a genuine emergency." This will usually work with a partner. With kids, not so much.

If you've got a house full of kids, see how you can shift your working hours to align with times they are at school, activities, or asleep.

Get to (the right) work

Ok. Now it's time to put one or more of these suggestions to work. If you do, I guarantee you will find at least 5 hours in your week.

Which ones will you do?

Ed Erickson

Ed Erickson is the CEO of Pitch Perfect Digital, a digital marketing agency serving coaches, consultants, and other service providers. 

For more information, visit his website (https://pitchperfectdigital.com)

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