It’s commonly known that the one commodity you cannot have more of is time — once it’s gone, you ain’t getting any more of it. But that’s only partly true — you can find a lot of extra time if you look in the right places. Want more time to spend with your family, to exercise, to pursue your life dreams? Want more time to make more money or work in your garden or to just read and relax?
You have that time; you just need to claim it.
First, think about how many hours you spend online these days. There’s a host of ways that people spend their time online: email, blog feeds, Twitter, IM, online forums, newsgroups, stumbling across new sites, eBay, Digg, Netscape, Reddit, Meebo, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr … the list goes on and on. Which online activities are your biggest time consumers? A time audit might be quite surprising.
Now think about how much value these sites and activities really give you. Is this really what you want to be doing with your life? Or are there other things that are more important to you, that are a better use of your time, that you wish you could be doing but just don’t have the time? Claim that time — redesign your life so that you have time to do those things.
- Design your perfect day. First, wipe your day clean. Your schedule is now blank. Now design your ideal day — what would you do in the morning, afternoon, evening? What great activities would you place there to fulfill you, give you value, and produce the most amount of money for the least amount of time worked. The sky’s the limit: exercise, leisure, education, creating a new business empire, creative outlets … whatever you want.
- Now find the time. What activities could you cut out so that you have the time to make this ideal day a reality? Most likely, cutting out online time and TV would do most of the job. For the hours where you are going to do work, be sure that you are focusing on the most important and valuable tasks that you could be doing, so that you get the most value out of your work hours.
- Go on an email diet. You could free up huge amounts of time by being less connected, and having less online distractions. Instead of checking your email 20-30 times a day, and having your IM or Twitter on, turn these things off and check email twice a day. Schedule those times, and let people know that those are the times you’ll respond to email. It won’t be easy, but if you focus your energy on changing your online habits, you can do it. Focus on what you want to be doing instead. Don’t let yourself be sidetracked. This diet might apply to not only email, but any other time consumer, online or off. Kick the habit!
- Make your dreams a reality. With all the free time that you’ve found, you now have time to make your ideal day come true, and to pursue your dreams and your passion. Stick to your schedule, go online less, work less but on more productive tasks, and you’ll now have time to do everything you always wanted to do. In fact, with this plan, you could become much more productive with fewer hours worked!
- Focus on the big tasks … really focus. By identifying which tasks produce the most income or value for you, you can work more on those tasks to the exclusion of all others. Most of the rest of the tasks on your list aren’t necessary. Drop them or delegate them. And when you do work on those big tasks, work with intense focus, eliminating all distractions, not allowing yourself to switch to other tasks. Don’t multi-task — work with focus and you can complete your tasks faster.
Your dreams can become a reality, if you can eliminate the unnecessary and work on the important. That will mean you’ll suffer some withdrawal pains, but trust me, the rewards are well worth it.
Read more posts by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, including popular ones on Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, Double Your Productivity, keeping your inbox empty, clearing your desk, becoming an early riser, and the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.