I’m not sure why we ask coworkers how they are anymore. We know what the answer will be: “Busy!”
We’ve normalized “busy” to such a dangerous extent that we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking our capacities are more limited than they are. Remember that trip you said you were going to take? Remember that crazy expensive exercise bike you don’t use? Remember that recital you had every intention of attending? Remember how none of those panned out because you “didn’t have time?”
Spoiler alert: You do have time. You may even have an abundance of time.
All those people who manage to have six children, write a novel, and hike Kilimanjaro backwards (all at the same time) have the exact same amount of time that you do. You’ve just got to free some of it up.
Here are three easy ways to get started.
Do a 15 Minute Audit of Your Day
When I first started at my company as an intern, our CEO encouraged us to break our day into 15 minute increments and take note of how we were spending our time. You only need to do this for a few days before you start noticing patterns you can correct for. You can even keep a time journal to see those patterns in black and white.
There are a LOT of things that steal 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there until, before you know it, you’ve lost hours of precious time. Think social media rabbit holes, needlessly checking email (more on that later), looking for your keys, etc.
If you can make small adjustments to minimize or eliminate these “microdistractions” (not sure if that’s a word, but it is now) you can free up a lot of time for yourself.
Minimize Time on Like Task by “Batching”
Research shows that every time we take our attention off of something, it takes us nearly 25 minutes to get that attention back. Put plainly, multitasking is a time waster.
In his book, The Four Hour Work Week, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris recommends “batching,” which is the practice of doing recurring tasks all at once to avoid having to “ramp up” every time.
Let’s use email as an example. If you stop what you are doing every time you get a new email, you will constantly be breaking your attention (and losing time) throughout the day.
What if you checked your all your emails twice (or maybe only once) per day?
While you unclutch your pearls, let me explain why this works. If it does in fact take 25 minutes to recover from distractions, it will take less time to go through 50 emails in one sitting than it would to go through 10 emails in five different sittings. The switching back and forth is what kills you (25 minutes of recovery x 5 email checks per day = 125 minutes or 2 hours and 5 minutes!). I have started implementing this practice and have been shocked at how much time it has freed up.
Other examples of batching include having a designated laundry day, meal prepping, and checking your snail mail once per week (I do this on garbage day because that’s where most of the mail ends up anyway).
Parkinson’s Law: Crunchtime All the Time
If only there were more than 24 hours in a day you’d finally have some time to relax, right? Wrong. According to a law called Parkinson’s Law, you would just fill those extra hours with work anyway.
Parkinson’s Law says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, you take as much time to complete something as you are given. If you give yourself a week to finish a deliverable, you will take the entire week.
The solution? Set really short deadlines for yourself. Tim Ferris suggests impossibly short deadlines. Try getting the deliverable done in one day instead of one week. Impossible? Parkinson’s Law says otherwise.
A good place to start with Parkinson’s Law is with low-stakes projects and/or administrative tasks (e.g., giving yourself 30 minutes to get through all 100+ emails in your inbox). I bet you’re faster than you think.
I have been amazed at the amount of time that small adjustments have freed up in my life and I am so excited about all of the ways I can reinvest that time into my health, faith, and relationships.
What will you do with all your new free time? Let me know in the comments!