Most of us have seen the popular Instagram meme, “We all have the same 24 hours in a day.” It questions how successful figures like Jay Z, Barack Obama, Elon Musk and others, seemingly accomplish so much more than the rest of us when we all have the same 24-hours in a day.
The answer is: time maximization.
You can accomplish more simply by using smart, efficient time management techniques that are maximized for productivity.
I’m not saying if you start managing your time better you’re going to hit next year’s Forbes list. But, if you can squeeze out an extra 10-20% productivity each day you could accomplish significantly more in a year, 5-years, 10-years or your lifetime.
You may not be able to accomplish as much as you’d like in a week, but you can get a lot more done in a year than you’d believe.
In order to get more done, you’ve got two options:
- Add more hours to your day
- Be more productive during the hours you have.
Since there’s obviously no way to add more hours to your day, the only option is to be more productive during the time you do have.
I’ve come up with 8 time hacks that will help you accomplish more in less time. I’ve developed these tricks over many years of building several businesses, running marathons, reading 70+ books a year, traveling 30+ countries and best of all spending a lot of quality time with my family and friends.
If you follow these tricks you’ll start to see your productivity skyrocket in no time.
Tip #1: Start Tracking Your Time
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
One of my favorite quotes is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Have you measured where your time goes all day? If not, then how can you manage it?
Most people think they know where they spend their time, but once you start tracking it you’ll be in for a big surprise.
I thought I had a good sense of where my time went every day and I was quite proud of it. Then I decided to actually start tracking my time by taking quick notes every hour documenting my activities.
I could not believe how many mindless, useless things I spent my time on.
Sure, I was productive, but not nearly as much as I had thought.
My attention was diverted to all sorts of distractions throughout the day.
For example, I was in the middle of working on an important project and then I suddenly wondered how my stocks were doing. So, I checked my stocks.
When I discovered my Facebook stock was up 2.5%, well, then I just had to google Facebook news to learn why.
As I was reading an analyst’s explanation for the stock bump, I saw a story exclaiming “I wouldn’t believe what Kylie Jenner’s baby bump looked like”.
Embarrassingly, I clicked on the headline and scanned the article to find photos of the “unbelievable” bump, but I quickly realized I had fallen for clickbait. At that point, I was curious and still resolved to see this baby bump, so I started to google the photos instead – and that’s when it struck me: I had just wasted an enormous amount of time.
Knowing I was tracking my time and holding myself accountable, I quickly jumped back into my work assignment, and begrudgingly made note of the 15 minutes I had just wasted.
Our mind is like a waterfall of endless thoughts.
Our mind is like a waterfall of endless thoughts. And if we don’t keep it in check, we can easily lose time chasing impulses that pull us in many different directions and take us away from the task we’re supposed to be focused on.
By tracking your time you’ll probably find that you waste a lot more of it than you think. When you start monitoring your daily activities and holding yourself accountable for any time wasted, it becomes easier to avoid distractions and stay focused. And you’re likely to get a lot more done.
Tip #2 Do Important Things First
If you’re like most people, you make your best decisions at the beginning of the day. This is when we tend to be most energized and clear-headed – and it’s when our willpower is strongest.
For example, it’s easier for most of us to make smart decisions about our food choices earlier in the day. You may find that your breakfast and lunch decisions are healthy and then by evening when your willpower is depleted, you may find yourself craving sweets and snacks. (Which is probably why every New Year’s resolution is about the stubborn extra 5 pounds you just can’t shed.)
Throughout the day, our willpower is on a steady decline and it becomes harder and harder for us to make good decisions.
You can picture your willpower as sand in an hourglass, falling steadily as the day goes on. When you wake up and start your day, that’s when your hourglass is full and you have the most willpower available to make good decisions.
Knowing that you’ll make your best decisions early in the day, tackle important things first.
Take advantage of your willpower when it is at its daily peak to make the best decisions and maximize your productivity.
It may be tempting to jump right into checking and responding to email and voicemail messages first thing in the morning. But don’t let those simple tasks consume the most productive part of your day.
Instead, focus on your most critical tasks first. When you start your day, ask yourself,
What is the single most important thing I have to accomplish today?
Or what do I absolutely have to get done? Then sit down and get right to it.
Tip #3: Limit Your Distractions
We live in an insanely distracting world. We are consumed by our cell phone’s notifications, texts, apps, feeds, stats, reminders, emails and SO MUCH MORE.
We’re inundated with advertisers, gadgets, people and things begging for our attention. (In full disclosure this is my 3rd attempt at writing this paragraph because of the distracting Skype notifications that keep popping up.)
Distraction gets us all. But the truth is you don’t need to check your email 100 times a day.
You don’t need to respond to every text message the minute it comes in. Your life is not going to change if you don’t continuously refresh your Instagram feed.
If you want to be more productive – limit your distractions.
An easy way to do this is to turn notifications off, have updates happen less frequently or best yet, DELETE DISTRACTING APPS FROM YOUR PHONE.
I became much more productive after identifying the 3 apps that were my biggest time wasters. I’m sure you have time-sucking apps in your life too. You know the ones I’m talking about – the empty-value apps that have you endlessly scrolling while you sacrifice your precious time to the omnipresent digital vortex. Delete those suckers. It’s empowering. You’ll thank me later.
Listen, I know what you’re probably thinking, “ I can’t possibly delete those apps, I NEED them!” Okay, fair enough, but even if you need them, you’ll spend far less time re-downloading them later, than you will being distracted by them throughout your day. So, really, you have no excuse.
Delete those suckers. It’s empowering.
After your brave act of deleting your troublesome apps, you’re likely going to find yourself subconsciously opening your phone to access them, only to realize the horrible truth: they’re no longer there.
As you put your phone away, perhaps feeling a bit silly, realize two important things: 1) life will go on and 2) you should be focusing on what you’re supposed to be focusing on, stupid.
Then, pat yourself on the back for having the courage to reclaim your time by deleting those apps in the first place, and acknowledge that you are a master of your own productivity.
Tip #4: Zoom Out, Then Zoom In
Do you ever have days where you feel exhausted from working so hard but honestly don’t have any idea what you accomplished?
Sometimes, we get so caught up in busy work that we end up completing a whole lot of actions, but we don’t actually make any progress.
A rocking horse performs a lot of actions but doesn’t make any progress.
Don’t be a rocking horse.
I’m just going to throw some chilling news right at you:
Most of what you work on does not matter at all, not even a little bit.
I know, I can’t possibly be talking to you, right? Everything you do and work on is SO important.
We tend to get defensive when hearing this kind of statement because our ego refuses to let us believe that our work is not important.
One of my favorite best-selling authors and motivational speakers, Gary V says,
“99% of what we deal with every day in business doesn’t matter. If you religiously follow the few core business philosophies that mean the most to you, everything else will naturally fall into place.”
What that means is, most of those mundane little tasks that you hustle on every day don’t amount to squat. They don’t contribute to your Big Goals. They’re just filler.
Zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture, ask yourself “How is what I’m working on right now advancing my overall business and life goals?”
If it’s not, consider how you can scrap it completely, delegate it to someone else, or lessen the amount of time you spend on it. If it does, then go right ahead and proceed with full focus.
You have to start by getting your values and goals down to lay down the flag. Only then can you focus your energy on capturing it.
If you stay stuck in the trees you’ll never get out of the forest. Before approaching any task, zoom out far enough to see the entire forest, and then zoom in to find a pathway through the trees.
Tip #5: Automate and Delegate
There are so many ways to automate your life and delegate tasks to save you a TREMENDOUS amount of time. Every day I’m blown away by how many solutions exist to help us automate and delegate ordinary, annoying tasks that normally require significant time and mental focus.
Nowadays, many of these tasks can be done seamlessly in the background with little or no effort on our part.
Start by identifying routine tasks that regularly require your time and attention.
Spend a few minutes making a list.
Some ideas include buying groceries, doing laundry, washing your car, getting a haircut, booking a hotel, calling customer service, sending invoices, sending flowers… and on and on.
Next, review each task and determine if it can be either automated or delegated.
A task that can be automated will be one that can be completed in a systematic way by using technology. A task that can be delegated is one you can assign to someone else to do for you.
Opt to identify ways to automate tasks first, and if it isn’t possible then delegate them to the least expensive person qualified to do the job.
I’ve been able to automate so many simple tasks and the time it’s saved me may seem trivial in the short-term because I’m only shaving off a minute or two here and there, but when you look at it in the long-term I’m able to add hours back to my months and days back to my years.
Here are some examples of tasks that are extremely well-suited for automation:
- Have your favorite airline automatically check you in for your flight by changing your online profile settings.
- Set up automatic grocery deliveries through Instacart on a weekly basis for all your favorite items.
- Put every bill you have on autopay.
If I can’t automate a task, then I look to delegate it to someone else whose hourly rate is less than mine. I start by figuring out what my time is worth, and then I delegate any task I can to someone whose time is less expensive. As long as they’re capable of getting the job done right, this method is a win for productivity.
Don’t make the mistake of delegating your strongest competencies and best attributes. The point of delegating is to free you from less important tasks so you can focus on the higher level tasks that require your expertise.
In today’s connected world finding someone to delegate to is easy. There are countless freelancers around the world who are willing to work for you for pennies on the dollar.
Websites like Upwork.com will help you find inexpensive freelancers who will gladly complete your mundane tasks for you. Even if you want to hire locally, you can usually find someone who is willing and capable of completing the tasks you need help with at a cheaper rate than your own.
The more you can automate and delegate your tasks, the more you’ll be able to stay focused on the larger, more important items that need to be accomplished.
Automation and delegation are highly-effective tools for increasing your productivity.
Tip #6: Triple Task, but don’t Multi-task
Be a triple tasker. This is not to be confused with being a multi-tasker, a term I hate so much it makes me cringe every time I see it on a resume.
Our brains aren’t designed to multi-task. You are not able to focus on two things at once.
Try it. Think about what you ate for dinner last night and your plans for next weekend. You’ll find your brain bouncing back and forth between the two ideas, but you’ll never be able to focus on both at once.
When I say triple tasking, I mean accomplishing at least 3 of your goals at the same time. I don’t mean concentrating on three different things, but rather creatively combining 3 or more tasks in a way that allows you to complete them all successfully.
How is this possible?
Well, your first task is your primary focus and will get the bulk of your attention. The second task will be something you do that doesn’t require your attention. The third task is something that is happening in the background.
Here’s an example, when I used to charge my Tesla at a supercharging station, I’d sit in my car and listen to an audiobook. So I’d accomplish two of my goals: finishing a book while charging my car.
Then it occurred to me, I could triple down and make meaningful progress on another goal without having to spend any more time on it. Instead of listening to my audiobook in my car, I could listen to it on my earphones while running around the block – all while my car was charging. By tripling down, I was able to charge my car, finish a book, and meet my fitness goals.
With some creativity, you can discover many ways to accomplish 3 goals simultaneously and do them extremely well. Here’s another example, my girlfriend and I spend quality time together (relationship goal) walking around Downtown LA (fitness goal) while passing out water to homeless (philanthropy goal).
Be a triple tasker.
Tip #7: Learn to Say No and Be Direct
Constant requests for your energy, money and time can be draining. And as you become more successful you’ll find more people asking even more of you. There is, however, a simple way to respond to these demands. Learn how to say “no”.
Saying no in a direct and concise manner will not only save you time but will also help you structure your life around the commitments you actually care about. Don’t build your life around obligations you’re not interested in.
Don’t build your life around obligations you’re not interested in.
You can’t possibly make everyone happy all the time. It may be difficult in the beginning, but it’s much easier to deal with the initial discomfort of saying no then it is to deal with the regret of having obligations you don’t really want.
It’s OK to say NO.
It is okay to say no. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend, boss, or family member. If someone gets upset at you for saying no they probably weren’t your real friend to begin with (and saying “yes”, really wouldn’t change that).
Steve Jobs once said,
“I’m actually as proud of the things I haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”
Imagine if he had said yes to the first iPhone design or the first iPod design – these products would not have come close to changing the world as they have today.
In order to have anything really great or be great, you have to be able to say no countless times before saying yes.
In saying no to the things that you don’t want to do, you free yourself up to be more energized, productive and focused on the things you do want to do.
Tip #8: Time Blocking
When you block your time, you intentionally determine what tasks you’re going to focus on and when. Rather than a scattered, unplanned approach to completing your tasks, time blocking allows you to optimize every minute in your day and be more productive.
Don’t waste your precious time contemplating whatever comes to mind. Instead, block off time to think through new ideas and tackle specific issues. And during blocked off times, commit to focusing all your effort and energy into accomplishing the tasks you’ve defined.
For me, using multiple calendars to remind myself what I should be focused on works best. Outside of my regular calendar for meetings, I have a second calendar that tells me what I should be focused on.
In my office, I’m constantly saying “Let’s set up a time to talk about that”. If I shifted my focus everytime a new conversation or idea came my way, I would never get anything done. What’s more, setting up a specific time to talk about things lets me devote my full attention to them, rather than giving superficial consideration in the moment.
This approach gives you time to gather your thoughts and involve all the necessary people who need to be a part of the discussion. It also reduces mental exhaustion of switching between so many different topics.
In 2013 when Elon Musk was asked how one of the most productive guys on the planet divides up his day, he said by ”working at SpaceX in Los Angeles on Monday, then flying to the Bay Area on Tuesday night to start work at Tesla on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to SpaceX on Friday.”
He had specific times that he focused on specific companies and commitments. And I’d be willing to bet each minute spent at each company is also clearly defined, with specific tasks requiring his undivided attention neatly blocked out on his calendar.
When I block off time to focus on a certain task, it doesn’t matter if my cell phone rings, my girlfriend is guilting me for attention, or my dog is scratching at the door. Unless my house is burning down, I block my time with a fortress wall so I can do what needs to get done. I recommend you do the same.
These 8 time hacks may take a little practice to implement into your life, but once you do you’ll benefit from increased productivity and ultimately – more success. Experiment with different ways to incorporate these ideas into your daily routine and discover what works best for you. The key, above all, is consistency.