Time is precious and we all know it. A regular excuse that we all use is simply “I just don’t have the time”. But then, why does it seem that “successful” people always have enough time to do what they want to.
A simple reason is that their organization and perception of time is different.
So let’s look at time as a resource and consider how we can make use of it instead of being used by it.
Let us first consider the amount of time we all share: every day has 24 hours. This means that no matter what happens we are all constrained to organize ourselves in the same amount of time.
There are obvious actions that we will need to handle throughout the day. For instance, we all need to work, sleep and eat. If we consider that work is 8 hours, sleep is 7 hours, eating takes about 2–3 hours during the day and commuting takes about 2 hours that still leaves us with about 4–5 hours for ourselves. I will discuss how to make use of our commuting time.
So what makes the difference comes from those “extra” hours that we all have and how we make use of them.
So here is a sum-up of 6 ways to make time work for us in improving ourselves.
1. Find an objective and understand it
First and foremost, we need to know what we want to do with this time.
This means that we first need to find an objective that will push us, motivate us and always bring us back to it. For instance, if we want to learn language X, then we need to figure out why and make sure the reasons fit with our long-term goals.
We then need to divide this huge task into smaller bites that we can measure. This will allow us to see progress and keep the motivation going. For learning a language, this could be a simple “have a 5 minutes conversation with a native by text”, “read a small news article”, “be able to write about my day in simple terms”, etc.
2. Make use of the 5 minutes here and there
Unfortunately, the free time we just saw above usually doesn’t happen to be available in one time. We have just bits of time here and there, 5 minutes while waiting in line, in the restroom, waiting for someone, etc.
This may seem like nothing but, even just putting a total of 10 minutes per day into something, that will add up to 280 minutes per month (4.67 hours) or 56 hours in a year! This is enough to learn almost any topic to an intermediate level where you would be at ease. This is what Darren Hardy calls “The compound effect“.
Cal Newport wrote a book called “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World“. In it, he describes in great details how multi-tasking actually works against us and how staying focused helps us achieve greater results.
When we are changing often from one activity to another one, there is what Cal Newport calls “attention residue”. This is the attention loss that takes time to allow us to concentrate on the new task we are tackling. As a result, it is important to separate ourselves as much as possible from the rest of the world to be able to focus on one task and make the time spent useful.
4. Use the mornings
Following up with the idea above, one way to simplify this action of cutting ourselves from the rest of the world and make time count is to wake up before the rest of the world starts acting.
If we need to leave for work around 7:30, then waking up at 5:30–6:00am gives us up to two hours available to spend on whichever task we want, without being disturbed. This is a great time to dive into Deep Work and get things done.
5. Create a routine
Unfortunately, without a routine, we end up spending precious time weighing the pros and cons of doing X or Y. We do this all day long at work but this time also allows our brain to make us doubt each decision and start with less motivation, on top of having wasted this precious moment.
We all have a number of routines throughout the day, whether it relates to how we handle our arrival at work, what we do when we come back home in the evening, or even in which order we do what in the morning.
This allows us to act without even thinking and just proceed directly with the tasks we usually do. If that routine were to include tasks to improve yourself and learn X or Y, wouldn’t it make the task easier in itself?
6. Don’t wait for it!
Finally, connected with the above idea of proceeding without wasting time thinking, here is one last technique to proceed quickly with what we want to do: Just do it!
Mel Robbins wrote in her book “The 5 second rule” that we need to stop considering and spending time weighing pros and cons for small tasks. Especially for things like getting up in the morning, we should count-down, 5–4–3–2–1-Go. This allows us to disrupt our brain just enough to push ourselves to do the action (in this instance, of getting up).
Please do try it next time you want to press the snooze button. Just count-down, get up and see that you can start your day on a success over yourself!