Highly-Effective Ways to Be More Productive and Maximize Your Time
This is a guest post written by Will Yl. Want to contribute? Check out the 2016 publishing calendar.
I’ve heard so many stories and met quite a few people who work 60- to 80-hour work weeks. When you surround yourself with people who work so hard, it makes the typical 40-hour work week look like a walk in the park. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to relate to people who complain about that anymore. This probably rings true to coaches just starting out, as they often work their regular jobs while buidling their business on the side.
When you're a coach looking to get your business off the ground (many times while working your regular nine to five job), your time gets eaten up quickly.
That is why it is important to work smarter and more efficiently, opposed to just brute-force working hard.
Working hard is a commodity. Maybe 1 in 200 people actually can stomach a 60+ hour work. Yet that’s still 3,562,000 hard workers in a world of 7 billion and growing. Unique is not so unique anymore.
However, you can get a LOT more done by working smarter rather than working harder.
Map out your time
In the past, I have mapped-out my days by the minute to see how and where I waste time. Each time I have done this, it’s been an excruciatingly painful and embarrassing process because of the amount of time I discover I have wasted. Seven minutes on Facebook here and 18 minutes on YouTube there spread throughout the day add up.
Even before social media was around, I experienced similar hidden time-wasters throughout the day that added to hours of time per day and sinkholes per week (up to 20% of wasted time). Perhaps, you’re better at time-management than I am, but I highly suggest you try this out.
Consider this example.
12AM (midnight) to 8:07 AM — Sleep
8:07 to 8:23 AM — Rushed breakfast and getting in right clothes
8:24AM to 8:59AM — Commute to work
9AM to 5:05PM — Work
5:06PM to 5: 27PM — Commute home
5:28PM to 6:05PM — Make dinner, eat dinner, chat with family
6:06PM to 10PM — Check email, leads down rabbit hole, random websites, random entertaining social media and videos, occasional interesting stuff, you tell yourself you’re getting off at 9PM but keep going until 10PM, sometimes you even stay up later to midnight playing video games
10PM to 11PM — A quick trip to the gym takes longer than expected because of small talk, commute time and getting off task on your phone at the gym
11PM/midnight — go to bed
Midnight to 10:49AM — Sleep in extra
10:50AM to 11:45AM — Check the internet, random activities, wasting time, social media, entertainment
11:46AM to 12:17PM — Lunch
12:18pm to 6PM — More Random time-wasters
6PM to 7PM — Dinner
7PM — Midnight — YouTube, the internet, wanted to go to gym but skipped it, some weeks you’ll do something random but cool like a weekly volleyball or soccer meetup, and finally you go to sleep dreading work on Monday.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Of course, there will be variations. Maybe you don’t dread work as much as the next guy. Maybe you’re the business owner or a senior level employee and you work longer hours. Maybe you go to the gym in the mornings or not at all. But do you get the idea of what a typical average person’s life is like?
I suggest keeping track of almost every minute of your day and scoring things by the percent of the day and percent of the a week that you spent on certain tasks. The numbers themselves will really open your eyes.
Many people get away with wasting that much time because they can. However, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you aren't afforded this luxury—at least not right away.
If you want to achieve huge goals or live an incredible life, sometimes you need to sacrifice mediocre enjoyment of a mediocre lifestyle in the present. Successful people do for an extended period of time what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to.
Start with your weekdays
So on average, this guy sleeps nine hours a night. We’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s just wired to require nine hours of sleep a night or more. There’s a ton of CEO’s and successful people who live off three hours a night, but there are also many who live on a healthy eight hours. Arianna Huffington’s book “The Sleep Revolution” asserts that we all need a minimum of seven to nine hours, no matter what. I agree with her.
The point I will prove is that even by being very conservative and having less time to work with, you will still uncover a lot of wasted time in a day. In most of my past attempts to document my routine, I have done the same by giving myself the benefit of the doubt and still uncover large periods to become more efficient.
Small wastes of time add up. Seven minutes might not seem like a lot, but if you’re doing it consistently every single day for the next 40+ years of your life, it adds up. In this example, morning activities can end up rushed, unstructured, unsystematized, drawn out and end up being less efficient than they should be.
Try bulk preparing and cooking simple, but healthy meals once a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you’re not scrambling every day to grab the kitchenware, come up with a recipe, and wash the dishes every day. A similar system can be implemented with what clothing to wear.
Avoid doing unessential tasks
What must you do when you wake up? Breakfast, wash your face, shave, dress and brush your teeth. The risk you can run into is not avoiding unessential tasks and drawing out your “morning time.” If you’re not keeping tabs on this, you could spend 1 hour+ in the morning goofing off because you can since you woke up early. A task that should take 25 minutes has been drawn out to an hour when you should’ve kept it at 25 and spend the extra time more productively.
An example would be the person who woke up an hour early and therefore slowed down his routine by giving himself time to watch television or check personal emails while proceeding through his essential duties. He could have instead spent the same time plowing through his morning duties and then any extra time on his #1 most productive task or project.
Use your commute time wisely
There are certain blocks of time that are unchangeable, like sleep and your commute time to work.
If you can dramatically cut down commute time, it can save you a lot of extra time over the course of your life. Studies have shown that people with shorter commute times feel happier. A 20- to 30-minute commute may not seem like a lot, but it adds up. If you are a coach that works out of your home and you don't have a commute time - That is great!
One way to partially remedy a long commute is to listen to audiobooks and courses in your car or on your phone. This will help develop your mind. Look for topics that will help you grow your coaching business like marketing and sales strategies or podcasts geared towards life coaches. The Life Coach School Podcast with Brooke Castillo and the Coaching Success Podcast are a couple examples.
Not many people do this and it’s an easy way to get ahead. Famed businessman Brian Tracy says that studies the average person spends the equivalent time of a college semester in their car. That’s time that could be invested to put you ahead! I call this concept making use of lag time.
Don't waste your free time on mundane activities
This is what I like to call the "lost hours." This is the blatant block of time that you have no excuse for. This is where you can maximize your productivity!
Yet most people really feel like they get home from work, spend only a couple minutes on the computer or TV, and all of a sudden it’s time for sleep. Why is this the case? Entertainment like videos, movies, TV shows, or video games has a tendency of making you experience a state of flow that makes time fly by. It really can seem like you just sat there and it’s only been 15 minutes when it’s really been 4+ hours. Additionally, some platforms, especially TV and YouTube, act in a way where despite sucking you into an addiction, you don’t feel happier and it’s not as enjoyable as it’s perceived. Studies have shown that people who watch TV for at least one hour feel less happy. It literally sucks your energy.
With a 40-hour work week, if done right, you have at least four or five of free time EVERY WEEKDAY to maximize on, even if you’re being fairly unproductive with the rest of your time.
Most people are wasting three to six hours every weekday. That’s insanity!
I’m not speaking from my high horse either. I have been there. There have been plenty of cases where I literally ate dinner, went on my computer for a tiny bit of fun time, and then realized 5 hours had past. It was time for sleep yet it felt like only 15 minutes had passed. I really couldn’t remember any accomplishments I had achieved during that time.
Maximize your weekends
Now, let’s examine weekends. Weekends are a bit different because they are perceived to be the time that is almost deserved to be allotted to free time. However, if you are building your coaching business, you will have to put in some extra work and will most likely be doing so on the weekend.
Yet most people waste weekends as well. Have you ever had the feeling like your 2 days off felt like they flew by and you never really got much done? Even the fun, entertaining, and relaxing things that you had planned really zoomed by like you barely had time for them? I have too.
Let’s see what we can do:
The long-term view:
I just want to stress again that a long-term view is important. As Richard Branson says, if you can find a career that you love, work and play are the same thing. You will never feel pressured to maximize the fun time, you will not dread work, you won’t get burned out, and the small percent of time you spend trying to enjoy yourself outside of work won’t feel so crappy and be gone so quickly.
While you’re at your job, work towards a better lifestyle and career in the long-term.
If you’ve already got that covered, great for you. How can you make it better?
Richard Branson was told by an entrepreneur that thanks to his guidance, he had doubled his revenues. He was expecting praise back, but Richard immediately responded with “Well, did your life get any better as a result?”
The lesson is that metrics like more money is not the only thing you should measure success by.
The danger with weekends is that it’s almost assumed that it’s supposed to be wasted. That’s how people waste them usually. Ask yourself, "How you can maximize them most effectively?" Perhaps that means having fun but doing it in organized, measured chunks so you don’t get too off track.
Many entrepreneurs and CEO’s work seven days a week. Although it’s not always ideal, one thing you can take from that is that they have some structure on weekends that will keep them on task and efficient to a certain extent.
Letting your time wander or go without tracking it to a certain extent could mean it’s lost.
Gary Vaynerchuk said that he lives twice the life of an average person. I firmly believe that is true. Most people are not cognizant of the time they waste. You can literally recapture hours of a day if you're careful enough with it and do two or three times more than a person gets done in one day. But remember: it's not always by just brute force working harder. It's about tracking, having systems, and working smarter.
It's not always about working yourself to death. It's about being aware of when you are goofing off or doing something fun so that you value the precious time you have on this earth and use it as effectively as you can before it runs out.
Reading this whole thing shows that you actually care about this stuff, which already puts you above most people. Many people don't even care to improve, let alone try. Thus, it makes it easier to progress. I congratulate you! Some of the strategies here if implemented will definitely put you further and further ahead. Many people don't even know about some of this stuff.
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Will blogs about the top productivity and self-help tips based on science. You can sign up for his free email newsletter at willyoulaugh.com