I think I made it pretty clear that the concept of “free time” is flawed and that you can do whatever you want with your time so long as you know what your priority is. But there’s still a part of us that wants to understand how we can ever find time to do something or maybe even nothing.
Here’s a list of things you can consider to find more time. It’s counterintuitive, but be patient; there’s a reason why these work:
- Block out time to do nothing. Yeah, nothing at all. Some of our most breakthrough ideas come to us when our mind is at ease. You don’t have to go on a vacation for that. Just wake up early one day and do nothing. Or take a day off and drive over to a coffee shop (with a pen and a paper), order your favorite latte (Americano for me, please), and savor the taste. Fight the urge to catch up on work or anything else that’s been pending for long. And while the experience might feel weird at first, you will start getting creative ideas of random stuff or even life that you don’t want to miss. Record them into your journal or your phone. Keep at it; remember, you don’t have a deadline to miss today.
- Schedule rejuvenation: Sleep in, often. Depriving yourself of sleep is the biggest mistake one can make. I can get by with 4-5 hours of sleep, but 6-7 hours of solid sleep makes a mountain of difference. I can think clearly, and my energy levels are high. I’m able to solve problems efficiently while staying focused and making the right decisions. Penelope A. Lewis, a neuroscientist, even argues that sleep-deprived people have far fewer original ideas!
- Please don’t neglect your family: Our most important relationships are the ones with our family. Now, family, for me, includes our loved ones and the closest friends too. Don’t neglect them even during the busiest of your days. Research has it that our energy, motivation, and mental health directly correlate with our relationships.
- Play. It is not the same as your morning (or evening) workout/training sessions. Play means playing for the joy of it. That could mean hiking, painting, fishing, a sport, or even taking your kids to the park. It’s a great way to recharge your batteries and get back to work with enhanced focus and concentration. I can vouch for this — it’s been a year since I restarted my jiu-jitsu classes, and despite it being a “hard” martial art, the way I feel after a session is just too damn good! Ready to conquer the world!
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks: I’ve covered this extensively in more than a dozen posts on this blog. The most recent was a riff I posted yesterday. Don’t skimp on this — eliminate the nonessentials and focus on what’s truly necessary. Being productive isn’t about doing it all, but doing what matters the most. You’ve got to know how and what to prioritize for that. I evaluate my priorities based on two criteria (I learned this from Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus) Passion and proficiency.
Passion refers to the high level of motivation that you bring to specific tasks. On the other hand, proficiency means that you’re skilled at the job and that this task significantly contributes to your work. So, going by that filter:
Low Passion and proficiency: throw them out or delegate
High proficiency but low passion: delegate
High Passion but low proficiency: delegate
High passion and high proficiency: go all-in
- Learn the power of a YES and NO. Get better at saying No. I certainly have been trying to do this but still have a lot of room for improvement. What I’ve realized is that my YES have repercussions much more profound than I’d initially thought. Each time I say a YES to someone or something, I am saying a NO to something else, which might have been a priority. So, I’ve learned to say NO to most things unless it adds value to my work, career, life, or relationships at large. And of course, even if a decision meets any of these criteria, I still have to make an effort to filter out what’s worthy and what’s not.
- Build rituals and practices into your schedule. A great way to structure your week around your habits (existing or new ones you’re trying to build) establishes a routine. You can have a morning and an evening routine to dictate the things that you aim to do. Or have a morning routine with clarity on what to do once through those morning hours. It’s a great way to systematize a part of your life. For example, I don’t have to think about my mornings anymore: If I wake up on time, I’m reading, writing, and then training. Period. End of story. On days when I wake up late: I training, write, and read. In that order. Executing a routine has a great carry over to the rest of the day, which builds excellent momentum.
I think I can go and write a book on freeing up one’s time, but I don’t intend to do that today. Go over these tactics and see how they work for you. I think I’ll come back for more.