I recently did some client research to help me develop my new coaching package. One of the questions I asked was ‘Would you like more time for yourself?’ Unsurprisingly, more people answered yes than no. Let’s face it, life is busy, especially when you run your own business. And when asked what got in the way of making time, ‘things to do’ was the common answer.
Today I want to cover 5 simple way to free up time without having to abandon everything off your to do list.
When you’re working, actually work
One client of mine told me they simply couldn’t leave the office on time because they wouldn’t get all their work done. I asked them to run through their normal day. It took them about 90 minutes to actually start working. Imagine if they had completed work in those 90 minutes. It would make leaving on time much easier
When running my consultancy, I got 5 days’ work into 3 days simply by putting my head down and working hard when I was working. Sure, it might be less fun, some people will say you’re being antisocial, there might be some awkward moments when people want to talk to you while you’re working, but will you care when you have a 3 or 4-day weekend?
Additional tip to help with this – wear headphone when you work. You don’t have to play music (although if you like music while you work I love this playlist) but just having them on will stop people bothering you.
If you work from home and don’t have to worry about people interrupting you, I would recommend trying something like the Pomodoro Technique to help you focus. And don’t multi-task.
We all know that multi-tasking reduces our ability to focus. Less focus means less productivity, and therefore more time required to complete an activity. By deciding on one task at a time and focusing fully on it you’re most likely to get it done more quickly. The quicker it is done, the more time it will free up.
Know how you work best
Do you know when you’re most productive? Do you structure your day to fit that? I always thought I did, but got a stark realisation when I implemented a new eating plan at the beginning of the year. For the plan I had to eat within 30 – 60 minutes of waking. What In discovered though, was it was taking me 90 minutes to just get out of bed. I would have a cup of tea, browse social media, maybe read my book all before I got started on my day.
Now if that is how I wanted to spend my morning that is a-ok. That’s why I have my own business, so I can work how and when I want. But I am most productive in the morning. Any work I do in the morning takes me about half the time it would if I tried to do it after lunch. So, why would I waste that valuable time pottering when I could get twice as much done for my business, and then use my ‘slower’ time to do those more easy-going tasks?
I’m now doing all the same task, in a different order, and this is creating more free time for me to do other things I love. I’ve also found if I buckle down in the morning, then I actually stay motivated for longer than if I am slow to start my day.
You might be the complete opposite though, and be a night owl. If that is the case don’t force yourself out of bed in the morning. Enjoy the leisure time, and then crack on after dinner.
Say no to yourself
When you work for yourself you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck for you to get things done. And if you work from home you can also see all the other things that need doing. Unless you impose boundaries in your business they won’t exist. This includes saying no to yourself. That could be saying no to spending your afternoon reading a book rather than doing work, or equally saying no to sitting at your computer all day without taking time for yourself. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks “I’ll just wash up, then I’ll start…” If you were in an office you wouldn’t be able to wash up, so treat your business the same way.
Don’t let it go to the other extreme though, of always working. Making time for yourself is equally important. It can feel like you need to be online all the time, or present for your clients all hours to answer their questions. Thinking “I’ll just send this email before I go to bed” is as bad for you as allowing personal tasks to take over your work time.
By not putting boundaries in place for yourself, you’re opening yourself up to procrastination, overwork, neglect and self-sabotage. It’s also much harder to say no to other people if you can’t say no to yourself.
Do a time – cost audit
Do you actually know how long you spend doing tasks? For a week try recording what you do, and when you do it. Include all the other things you might not consider, like chores, travelling, watching TV. Thing tend to take much long than you plan they will. You might schedule an hour to go to the gym, but by the time you’ve travelled there, got changed, worked out and showered, you’re actually looking at 2 hours.
Knowing how long things take you to do will allow you to more realistically plan and structure your day. This reduces the stress from running around constantly behind, which make you more productive, which links nicely into point 1.
Once you know how long you take to do something I want you to add a cost to it. To do this, you need to work out a rough hourly rate for your time. I would recommend you calculate a ‘as-is’ cost (based on your current income) and a ‘to-be’ (based on the income you want.) You take that income and divide it by the number of available hours you have in a year to do things. I worked on a basis of 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, 48 weeks a year (3,360 hours).
If you earn £60k a year divide that number by 3,360 and that give you a cost of £17.85 per hour. You can use that number to start calculating what it costs you to do something, and if that cost is worth it. With your ‘to-be’ number you can also see what you could be aiming for if you invested in the right support and tasks.
Cleaning as a great example of this. Cleaning the house would take me 5+ hours a week. Hiring a cleaner cost £10 an hour and was done in 3 hours. Using the above number, that is the equivalent of £90 for me to clean, or £30 for a cleaner to do it. While they clean my house, I am investing that time into doing things I want to do. For you it could be investing in a Virtual Assistant to free you up to do the tasks that get you closer to your financial goal. Or even just free you up to do a hobby you love.
Adding a cost to your time adds another element, and motivator, for you to make changes. It helps you see the value in your time.
Note: I don’t do this to make you feel you need to be earning/bringing in income in all those hours. The hours spent on yourself or with friends and family are priceless, so cannot be quantified in the same way. This is simply a way of creating another metric for your time.
Hide your phone
The final tip is to hide you phone. Now I’ve actually turned off most notifications on my phone I don’t know how my social media posts are doing or who’s emailing me unless I decided to check. This reduces the distractions and stops multi-tasking. The only notifications left on are for messaging services. And if I know someone has messaged me I automatically reach for the phone before I’ve had a chance to think about whether or not I want the interruption.
Being on our phones is so automatic now. Waiting in line? Get out your phone. Travelling for work? Browse Facebook. Any pocket of time we have, we spend it on our phone. Imagine how much more time you would have if you just didn’t get your phone out in that time. Sure, often this is time that isn’t fully free, but think about all the other positive things you could do in that time. I had a friend who wrote a whole novel while travelling to and from work. Imagine if she had spent that time on Instagram???
This also feeds into point 1. When you’re working, work. Don’t let your phone distract you, or pull your attention away, as it will cost your productivity.
There are 5 ways you can free up your time. Wondering what to do with that free time? Well I’d always recommend you have a hobby. Or you can use the time to have a good conversation with your partner. Finally, you could reach out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Or come over and connect with me in my awesome community.