Have you ever found it hard to identify what the main things really are? Have you had a shortage of time to spend on things you feel are important because you feel busy getting all of your basic tasks done and keeping things under control?
I wrote this post because many people have asked me how I accomplish so much yet still have so much time to write my books, my blog, and create other personal works. I have just as much time in one day as everyone else; I have just worked hard to carefully curate how I spend it by destroying things that don’t serve and adding things that do.
If you would call yourself busy, this post is for you. I promise you there is at least 20% more open time in your calendar that you’re not leveraging. Busy has become a filler word. Busy is just code for, I decided that I have a lot more pressing, important things to do so I haven’t been able to work on that yet. Sometimes it feels like we didn’t decide, it just happened. Busy implies that you don’t have control over your calendar. Busy usually means you are using your time unintentionally, which is kind of a loss, since time is one scarce commodity we definitely can’t make more of but we absolutely can make the most of. The best leaders do. Here are some ways I have found most impactful in eliminating the busy word and finding time to do the truly important things – whether at work or life in general. We’ll start with the basic preparation and progress toward more concrete actions as we go…
7 Ways to reclaim your Time
1 Clear your Space.
Sometimes when we feel like we’re drifting, not making progress, or feel resistance in our day to day, clearing some aspect of our life can really help. Clean space, clean mind is often very true. Just by cleaning my space at home and at work, I often gain clarity about how to resolve an issue or next steps to take forward. Start there. The most productive clearing often starts with just clearing your space.
2 Clear your Mind.
Whether it’s a 15-minute walk or a long weekend away from email, a mind detox can really help to return with new energy and a clean slate for looking at complex issues or challenges. You gain new, fresh perspective about what most important to focus on and what doesn’t serve you or need your time.
3 Gain Radical Clarity about your Responsibilities and Objectives.
After the two preparation steps, here’s where we start to get to the thick of the work to create time. Map out your work scope and time spent on tasks. Become an analyst of how you spend your time. Putting this down on paper or a document, in the form of a Vision Map, brings focus to the things you truly need to focus on. When everything’s just in your mind, it becomes routine. It becomes limiting. It becomes frustrating. There is a power of visualizing things in front of your eyes. You maybe find that you can eliminate certain things from your map and you also may find that important things are missing from your map. You may find you need to delegate more. When someone on my team tells me they’re ‘busy’, I ask them to show me their vision map. Really, can you show me all you’re working on? Maybe we can reprioritize together and clear some time. When they actually see all that is going on, we find there are some tasks to eliminate, some time wasted, and some reprioritizing to do.
4 Question and Kick Meetings.
This is a known one but still often missed. In organizations, meetings become rituals and rituals can become routine habits. However, how much work actually gets done in meetings? Eliminating unnecessary reoccurring meetings to block out sufficient time for your personal work time and work time with smaller groups is important. Every few months (at least), question every meeting – especially ongoing meetings. Is there a meeting you really don’t need to attend? Refreshing your calendar can be the one of the most purifying things you can do.
5 Kick the Commute.
Another hack for clearing your calendar is kicking the commute. Move closer to your workplace or work one or more days from home. We’re all stuck in this “must work from the office mode” still, like we’re in the 1960’s. Phones and video conferencing is real now. I appreciate the importance of working with people in person. Even partners I work with across the world, I visit every few months. It’s important to talk face-to-face and it’s very productive. However, much of the work we can do alone, without having to commute and convene in the same space. If you can trust your team, you can trust that they’ll actually get more done if they save time and energy on the commute. Make your office time and commuting time intentional. I said “for free” in the title of this post but actually you will even save money on the commute as well as open some parking spots for others at your office.
6 Get off Social Media.
I dislike tracking a measuring things in my personal life, so I’m not saying that you need to track how much time you spend on social media. The reality is, if you know that you check one or more social accounts daily, you definitely have some time in there to clear up. Yes, maybe you believe it makes you happy (or sad, however you want to look at it) but what benefit does it really have if you’re not accomplishing what you’d like to be accomplishing in your work and you feel busy? Is it worth it? Turn it off or at least plan to just check once per day. Set an allocated amount of time so you don’t get stuck in a black hole of endless scrolling. Don’t look for answers or connection there. Start doing the work (or replace social media time with spending time on the other 6 tips in this post).
Finally, protect your energy. We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to protecting our energy. If you are a night owl (like many of my friends and business partners) and like to dwindle away on the net late at night for work or pleasure, this may negatively impact your ability to focus and your ability to come into work earlier to get a jumpstart on the work. Trying going to bed an hour earlier and see if you naturally get up a bit earlier. This is taking constructive rest. For a few days or weeks, you may be just catching up on sleep so you may sleep later. Give it a try for a few weeks and see if you naturally rise earlier, have some extra energy, and maybe even get to work a bit earlier and have a bit more sustained focus.
As far as the busy word, I hope that after trying some of these tips you don’t feel so busy. I prefer an action-packed day to a busy day. Managing involves going through the motions. Leading involves intentionally choosing the motions and reinventing the motions that truly serve. Taking ownership of your own time and resources to fulfill your most meaningful intentions is what taking leadership of your work and your life is all about. Being a leader involves continuously questioning, destroying, and creating what really fuels the work.