When is the last time you were bored? When we sense boredom coming on, we tend to pull out our phones and get lost in the screen. In today’s world, there’s no question that we’re using all our spare time, even if it’s simply browsing the web or playing mobile games. The question we need to be asking is, are we using our time well?
The specific answer to that question should be different for every person. However, don’t we all want the same things in life? We want to be fulfilled, loved, and to live a life with minimal regret. For me, I want to maximize the time I dedicate to working, so that I can be as successful as possible without having work spill over to the time that I want to spend with friends, family, and on activities that I love.
When I reflect on this and how it differs from my current reality, it’s clear I’m not using my time as effectively as I could be. As I go over the last few weeks in my head, there are a few reasons why I’m not optimizing my time:
1. Pure Distractions: During working hours, I can get distracted on non-work-related things. I think the biggest culprit for me is YouTube. During lunch, I’ll sometimes pull up a video for a quick mental reset. But, more often than not, this mental reset often lasts too long, and leaves me feeling brain-dead.
2. Not Prioritizing Effectively: I’m intentionally working on a lot of different things. One of my fundamental beliefs is when you’re an entrepreneur, it’s worthwhile to leverage several smaller bets to diversify income and job-security. Not to mention, I get a lot of enjoyment out of this type of building. However, the most important challenge I have is prioritizing my time across these different projects. What amount of time does each project realistically need every week, and where can I spend that time to provide the highest return? This question isn’t as easy to measure and to solve. The core problem is that I haven’t built guidelines outlining the various projects I’m working on, nor the potential return and time investment required.
3. Working in a Distraction Rich Environment: As soon as I don my noise canceling headphones, I’m in work mode. I can be in a subway, on a plane, in a coffee shop, or even in my office – it doesn’t matter where I am, I’ll be able to “lock in”. I’m lucky that I can make any environment distraction-free. However, I’m very susceptible to getting distracted while working. For example, I continue to invest in building a following on Twitter and through this email newsletter. While building a personal brand is important, more important are the types of people I meet through these initiatives. However, the most ironic thing about Twitter is that you don’t build a following by consuming content. You build a community by sharing. However, if I go to twitter to share something, I’ll end up scrolling the feed for a few minutes. This quick dopamine hit does nothing to further my ultimate goals. In addition, while working on my laptop, I’m constantly bombarded by emails, slacks, texts, requests for help, and the only way I can get pure work time is to board a cross-country flight where the Wi-Fi is out.
You may be reading this thinking I’m certifiably nuts. Trying to optimize my life to 100% productivity is a sure sign of insanity. Maybe you’re right. But I think there’s a clear distinction. If you ask most people how to become “successful”, they’ll tell you to work hard and put in a lot of hours. This is true to a certain extent, but I don’t want to spend my life working from 7am-9pm to reach my goals. I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal life and non-work goals to become “successful.” To limit my work to a more reasonable 8am-4pm schedule, I need to make those 8 hours as efficient and productive as possible. I need to use leverage and efficiency to make-up for working 6 hours less daily.
I’m constantly reminded about how much can be achieved through consistent, efficient work by various leaders in the business and nonprofit space. When you combine the concept of leverage with consistent and efficient work, the results can be shockingly positive. Although Elon Musk is known to work 18-hour days and sleep on the floor of his factories, he’s built an impressive portfolio of world-changing businesses over the last ten years. There are countless other examples of individuals achieving far more than people think is possible through focused work. Maybe it’s a small business owner in your town that owns the HVAC and plumbing business while being the town mayor. Maybe it’s your favorite twitter pundit who manages to entertain hundreds of thousands of followers while building a portfolio of 8+ businesses around the world. Regardless of the example you find, it is possible.
As I look at the next two months, my schedule is remarkably busy. Apart from 15 weddings, it’s an important point in time for WeHero. If I’m not careful, I can imagine that bleeding over into all parts of my life. So, what am I going to do to measure and test how possible it is to improve my efficiency and time usage?
1. Leverage Cold Turkey Blocker to completely block all “distraction” sites. My starting list will be YouTube, Business Insider, and CNN. I’m going Cold Turkey (no pun intended) because even the shortest dopamine hit could derail me. I’ll plan on adding new sites as I notice them being more of a distraction than an asset.
2. I am going to put together a complete review of the different projects/tasks I’m working on and decide how much time a week I should be spending on them, and the essential tasks I need to be doing. My goal is that this time allocation will be a firm rule. If a business or project demands more time than I’ve allocated, I need to understand why that’s happening and then correct it. Time spent does not equal return! That’s the most important thing for me to remember in this exercise. I’m also going to complete weekly goals on Fridays which will focus on outlining the most important initiatives for the upcoming week. These need to be completed before any other non-essential tasks come up.
3. As I continue working to build my community on Twitter, I don’t want to get sucked into consuming content, so I’m going to leverage Apple Notes to create and plan my tweets. I could use software that allows you to plan tweets, like Tweet Deck and the like, but Apple Notes works just fine for me, and the price is right.
4. I pride myself on being available to support my team through a Servant Leadership Mentality. However, I’m starting to realize that although servant leadership works well as you onboard and train employees, it may harm your employees’ growth and cause the business to be overly reliant on you. I say this for the sole reason of making myself more comfortable with becoming harder to get in touch with. I need to be doing more focused work and to do this effectively, I’m going to work on minimizing distractions on the computer. This will involve closing Slack, batching emails, and silencing the various tasks that come in throughout the day.
This post has ended up as a mixture of my philosophy on work and time, and a self-critique of how I’m performing (or, as it turns out, underperforming) as I mange my time. Like all my posts here, this is how I grow. I write to reflect and then use these posts to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. Hopefully, when I reflect on this in September, these initiatives will have resulted in the improvements I’m looking for. As always, thanks for following along.