“Where does all my time go!? I feel like I work all day and I’m not sure that I’m getting anything done!”.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs / business owners, your time is at a premium – and more often than not, you feel like you never have enough of it or are not using it properly. This results in working longer and longer hours with work creeping later into the night and into the weekend.
First off – relax into knowing that you are not the only one out there experiencing this problem… AND there are some steps you can take to “take back your time”.
Read on to “take back your time” and be at the source of you living a balanced, healthy, fulfilling life. Note that this article focuses on the work week Monday to Friday. I strongly recommend that you keep weekends work-free to allow time for other important aspects of life, and to give your system a chance to recuperate so you can powerfully step into the coming week.
Time Is Yours
Let’s start with this simple fact that is often hard to accept. YOU determine where your time goes – how much time you work and what you spend that time doing. We so often are victims to time… feeling like we are being dragged around from meeting to meeting, with serving client demands, supporting our teams, and if we are lucky – spending time on fulfilling projects to support the scaling of our company.
I restate – The simple fact is that YOU determine where your time goes. That’s right… no one else has the power to make you spend your time on anything but you!
Once you start taking responsibility for the fact that YOU control where you spend your time, then you can start having a say over where / how you spend your time.
Day Flow / Calendar Blocking
A great place to start with taking back your time is creating a basic flow to your day with calendar blocking. In the absence of creating a basic flow to your day through blocking out your calendar, you have no “skeleton” to schedule your day around. And with the absence of this skeleton, you let everyone and everything else (but you) dictate how you spend your day.
Without this basic skeleton you most likely do not get enough sleep, probably miss meals, don’t have time to workout, don’t have time to focus on loved ones… nor time to rest and relax your system. Sound familiar?! So start with creating a regular flow to your day that works for you by blocking out your calendar to incorporate as many of they key elements listed below.
Key Elements To Your Day
Some of the key elements to work into your day include time for:
- Three meals (breakfast and lunch can be shorter like 30 minutes, and leave a bit more time for dinner if possible like 60 minutes).
- Between 6-8 hours of sleep.
- Between 30-60 minutes of exercise / moving your body.
- Planning / Goal Setting – ideally 60 minutes to play out your week on Monday’s and 10-15 minutes each day to get clear on the key outcomes for each day.
- 2-4 hour blocks of time to focus on specific work related activity.
Supporting Notes on Key Elements
Keep these tips in mind when calendar blocking to incorporate the above Key Elements into your day.
Be consistent with your day flow. Your system enjoys getting into a rhythm. Through calendar blocking you create a consistent sleep / wake time, regular meal times, a regular time to exercise, AND a clear end time to your work day (this is important!). While this is all “true”, you are not a machine – so be flexible with yourself within the context of having a baseline structure.
Efficiency is key with meals… and unless you do some planning here you are probably destined to each unhealthy fast-food options. To support you in having healthy meals that are easy to prepare consider:
- Making sure to plan an hour to shop for food on the weekend.Use a food list app on your phone to keep a list of the things you need on a weekly basis.
- Consider using a food delivery service for dinners like Sun Basket. Click here for a link to 10 food delivery plans.
- If you are in a committed relationship, cook with your partner. This is a great time to connect and do something together.
- Add some entertainment to make cooking more fun. My wife and I listen to the “Today’s Comedy” station on Pandora to support us in letting go of the stresses of the day and have a good laugh together.
As you probably know, all the studies show that getting between 7-8 hours of sleep is critical to your health and ability to function. If you are like me you probably are usually pushing this to on average 6 hours of sleep a night. I am in the process of noticing the difference in my ability to perform optimally, including my general mood – as a function of how much sleep I get. You might experiment with getting 6 hours of sleep per night for a week – and see how you perform. Then 7 hours of sleep per night for a week – and see how you perform. Then 8 hours of sleep per night for a week – and see how you perform. This will support you in having a more objective sense of how much sleep you need.
Many of us don’t have a regular exercise habit for a variety of reasons. Either we don’t enjoy exercising, we can’t find the time to exercise, we are too out of shape to even consider exercising. These are all valid reasons not to exercise. While I have been an avid athlete my entire life, I have still gone through period of exercising and not exercising. Not the case, however, for the past 3 years. Now I exercise for 30 minutes at least 4 out of the 5 mornings of my work week – because I am so present to the positive impact this has on my mood, my ability to sit and focus for extended periods of time, and my overall well being. I happened upon the P90X3 workout program a few years ago and love it. My wife and I do it together in the morning (as I found that if I left it to the evening I often let other things get in the way of doing it). The keys here are find something that (1) fits easily into your schedule without a lot of time overhead; (2) you get a lot of “bang for your time buck”; (3) you actually enjoy doing.
4. Planning Your Week/ Day:
As Brian Tracy (motivational public speaker and self-development author) states, 1 minute of planning saves 10 minutes in execution. If you do the math, you will see that 12 minutes of planning each day can save you 2 hours each day in execution. This is not just personal growth mumbo jumbo. This proves to be accurate everytime I test it out. Planning the key objectives for your week (in all areas including work, exercise, relationships, etc.) not only supports you in being more efficient and accomplishing more in a week in less time, it also supports you in having more of what you want and less of what you don’t want in a week. I recommend taking an hour at the beginning of each week to write down the specific key outcomes you want in each area of your life. Then, each morning take 10-15 minutes to plan the actions you will take to support you in producing those outcomes. Bonus points for creating a 1-year plan, and then what we call “90-Day Games” to fulfill on your 1-year outcomes.
6. Blocking Time for Focused Work
Blocking out 2-4 hour chunks of uninterruptible time each workday in your calendar to focus on project-based business development work is a game changer. The key here is to not allow other things to creep into these time blocks. It takes real discipline to keep these chunks of time reserved solely for business development. Client demands, as well as other lower level distractions (including checking email, Facebook, even messaging platforms like Slack), can easily seep into these time blocks. Don’t let them! Also, pick a specific result to produce in 1-2 hours time blocks to support you in making the most of these dedicated chunks of time.
7. Even Better If’ing Your Calendar
One of the keys to “making time yours” and calendar blocking is to iterate. You’ll never get it right the first time. You need to put a stake in the ground, test it out, and then adjust. Things you want to take into consideration when Even Better If’ing (meaning – it would work even better if…) include:
- What is your ideal sleep / wake time?
- How much time can you stay focused on work before your efficiency starts fading?
- Is it better for you to work out in the morning, afternoon or evening?
- How much work time do you actually need in a week (30, 40, 50, etc. hours)?
- When are you most energized able to do creative, focused work?
Final Things To Keep In Mind
Again, the key here is to test, evaluate, and adjust. If you expect your calendar blocking to work perfectly out of the gate you are setting yourself up for failure, and most likely giving up on the concept of calendaring at all. It took me about a year of playing with what worked best for me to arrive at my ideal day flow and supporting calendar blocking – and I am always looking for how can I make my day flow “even better”.
As a final note – it is sometimes difficult to break old habits for how you go through your day. I am still figuring out how to consistently go to bed on time so I get enough sleep to get up at 6:00a and feel rested! Once you determine a day flow and the associated calendar blocking that you really feel will work for you – stick with it… and be committed to developing the new habits that are required to support your newly created day flow / calendar blocking in working.
Check out my top level calendar in the image below. My basic day flow is:
- Up at 6:00
- Meditate 6:00-6:30
- Uninterrupted business development work 6:30-8:30.
- Workout 8:30 – 9:00
- Shower / dress / breakfast prep 9:00-9:30
- Breakfast 9:30-10:00
- Client facing work 10:00-2:00
- Lunch break 2:00-2:30
- Uninterrupted business development work 2:30-5:00
- Philippine team meeting 5:00-6:00
- Wrap up the day 6:00-6:30
- Transition into evening 6:30-7:00
- Cooking / eating dinner 7:00-8:00
- Relax / make music / hang out with my wife or friends / watch a show 8:00-10:30
- Get ready for bed 10:30-11:00
- Lights out and sleep 11:30-6:00
Raj and the Transformance Team