How to Create Time

Written by Scott March 1, 2011

 

How to Create Time

Creating Time for the Important

“Misspending a man’s time is a kind of self-homicide.”

~Edward F. Halifax

How much spare time did you have last week? What’d you do with it?

If your answer was “none”, you’re not alone.

For the last couple weeks I’ve been fly fishing in Patagonia with my father.

When he first told me about the trip I didn’t really have time.

So I created it.

I used the below to create 2 weeks of free time to spend on the important. Both my businesses were stronger when I got back.

Listen up.

Excuses are too easy to find.

Ask people why they aren’t doing something that truly matters to them and you’ll likely get one of two answers: Money or Time.

Both are excuses that can almost always be dealt with if you properly adjust your priorities.

Let’s take world travel as an example.

Travel seems to be at the top of most people’s list of what they’d do if they had the time and money. It also happens to be the single best invention I’ve found for finding your path and living you own life. So then why do so many people do it as infrequently as they do?

Time and Money.

Those who list money usually have not gotten creative enough. In many countries it costs much less to exist than in the States, and with how easy it can be to get creative with frequent flyer miles, an occasional international (or domestic) trip can be nearly free (Frequent Flyer Master and Travel Ninja are the best resources I’ve found for understanding the seemingly confusing process of booking free trips and seeing the world).

The money excuse is often a priority issue. Could you have afforded that trip if you didn’t buy that luxury car, the slightly bigger home or that new wardrobe? That’s what I thought. For a few weekends of aggressive partying in San Francisco, one could live happily for a month in Argentina. Let’s be sure we have our perspective straight.

But, time is the biggest excuse of all.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I will travel the world when I retire
  • Work is too crazy to find time to work out
  • Even if I had an intimate relationship I could not give them the attention they deserve
  • I want to start cooking and eating healthier, it’s just so much easier to eat out
  • I have an idea for a business that I am dying to launch once the timing is right

All of these say the exact same thing: I don’t have enough time. This leads us to massively overusing the most dangerous word in the world – Later.

Anything you aren’t doing now won’t get done.

I have news for you. The timing is never right.

Do you really think life will get less complicated later? Let’s get real. If you don’t have time for it now, you will not have time for it later. We have to create it. If it means enough to us, we can find the hours.

Dreams too far in the future never become reality.

One of my best reminders of this is The Alchemist, which I brought on my trip to Patagonia. It was my 5th time reading it. There is no better story of living your destiny. People tend to dream big but their dreams are so far out into the future that they never feel the urgency to get to work on them. Hence they always stay in the future. Remember, dreams are only powerful to the extent that they can be converted to reality. That involves work today, not tomorrow.

“Dreams without action stay dreams”

~Christine Pulley

We need to create time. We need to develop the practice and live it. Monster ideas and experiences will follow.

Here’s how to do it…

Stop doing things that don’t matter.

When I was out fishing I didn’t check Facebook or Twitter or much email (and anything I did need done, I outsourced) – Patagonia is a little lite on wifi. The world did not end. I can’t stress this enough. If the average person stopped doing things that didn’t matter (too much email, news, tv, social networks, etc.) they’d have at least an extra 6-8 hours a week. That’s a full day’s work. What would you do with yours?

The problem is these things are too easy to do. They take no motivation or inspiration to tackle. We default to them. They give us instant gratification. But as is the case with most any immediate gratification, the long term effects are usually the opposite. An hour checking out who’s messaged you is fun, but a day or a week wasted in social networks feels awful. Then we are even less likely to do what matters. Our focus gets killed.

Trade what doesn’t matter for what does.

Instead of checking email first thing in the morning (the biggest silent killer of dreams I’ve seen), how about you do the things you know are most important? These are different for all of us but generally they involve creating things. You know what they are.

If you don’t do them now then they will get pushed to the end of the day or the end of the week and not only will they not get the time they deserve but then if something else urgent and important comes out of nowhere (like a date with your wife, kids soccer game, a friend or colleague in town to catch up, a good day of snow in the mountains or a lights-out new business idea you can’t wait to develop) you’ll push it off because you still have your big projects to complete. Clear your plate of the important first thing. You’ll be energized.

Doing what matters is scalable.

Six weeks ago my father called me and said “you know that fishing trip to Chile and Argentina that we’ve been talking about for the past six years? Well two spots just opened up…for next month.” My first reaction was there’s no way I could make it happen on such notice. Then something hit me. Save my wife and health, there is really nothing more important than spending time with my dad (or any family member for that matter). That realization made the trip a must.

Since I had prioritized what mattered in the months prior and did the same leading up to the trip, I was able to fill a month’s worth of what I needed to do into two weeks. I wrote three articles in advance, got in touch with clients and outsourced anything else time sensitive to my assistant or my loyal and awesome business partner. I simply front-loaded the important.

Doing what matters on a daily basis can easily scale into days and weeks of extra time in a matter of months. It will blow your mind.

Expect the unexpected.

Stop being surprised when something unexpected and urgent comes up out of nowhere. It’s going to. It always does. That’s life. I have no sympathy for people who miss a deadline or are late because ‘something came up’. Unless you are brand new to life or literally had a moment’s notice, you should know better by now. Plan on at least a couple hours of each day being wasted on something you didn’t see coming. Be ready for it by having the important stuff done.

Make it life or death – because it is.

Tim Ferriss has a powerful exercise that goes something like this:

**Don’t just read the below steps. Take 3 minutes and do them.

1. Imagine you just got back from the doctor and were diagnosed with a heart condition. The doctor said that to avoid any further complications you must cut your workweek from five days down to four. What would you cut out to get this done? How have you been wasting your time? What would be on your “must do” list?

2. Now imagine you went back to the doctor and your condition had gotten worse. You have to rest for at least half of your work week. If you don’t, you are very likely to have a fatal heart attack. What would you work on for those 2.5 days?

3. A week later your doc tells you that you now only have one day a week or you will literally die. Any time above an 8-hour workweek will kill you. You must stay on your back for the rest of the week. No getting around it. What would you spend your eight precious working hours on? What could you stop doing? What must you stop doing in order to do the important? What could you have someone else do (i.e. outsource)?

4. Live accordingly.

I believe Tim’s exercise ends with you having only 2 hours a week to spend on work, but I think you get the idea. Take the above exercise seriously and the worthless things you waste your hours on will float right to the top. Make this exercise a weekly or a monthly practice. Time wasters won’t have a place to hide.

Wasting time will kill you.

While the above is just an exercise and it’s quite unlikely a moment of overworking would cause immediate death, in principle it is right on. Filling your day with things that don’t matter is condemning yourself to a slow death.

Your dreams begin to fade into impossibility and eventually disappear. Without dreams it’s easy to lose hope. Once that’s gone, the mind has little left and falls into complacency. Before long you’re sleepwalking. Then it begins to chip away at your physical health. Soon death actually does become a reality.

If people knew death was a week away if they did not create time for the things that made life rich, most of us would create the time. Simple as that. But as with most of life’s silent killers, you can’t really feel the pain until it’s too late.

Doing nothing is where Everything seems to happen.

I used to fear long trips and time away from the office. I was afraid of not getting anything done for a week or more on end and the catch up required when I returned. It took a few adventures to realize I was fearing my biggest source of inspiration.

The most important ‘work‘ happens while out exploring. That’s where the ideas come. That’s where your mind actually gets to think.

While in Patagonia I didn’t make a single sales call, write an article or talk with a client, but my business got stronger. I came back with an energizing vision for my site’s new brand (more on that soon), a dozen new article ideas and worked through our fund’s biggest obstacles for the year to come – having a dad who’s also my core strategist doesn’t hurt much either.

On paper I didn’t get anything done, but by now I know better.

If you don’t create time to stop, reflect, live and enjoy, it’s easy to think you aren’t missing much since every second is filled. I assure you, you are.

Think for a moment. Do you allow yourself time to pursue what matters?

Only one answer is allowed. Take it seriously.

A challenge for you – The 4-day work week:

Treat next week as a 4-day workweek. Monday is off limits for work (you could pick Friday instead, but taking the time off in the beginning of the week ensures that your work from earlier in the week won’t bleed into your day off). It’s a little Parkinson’s Law: the time a task will take is directly proportional to the time available to complete it. Go about your week with only four days to do what matters. See what happens.

If you must, take a personal day from work and spend it with your husband/wife, your kids or yourself out in nature, without your phone or internet. How will you structure your four days to be sure the right things get done?

Congrats. You just created time. Now enjoy it.

How do you create time? Whether you agree with the above or not, please share your experience in the comments (a little friendly disagreement never hurt anyone). I take comments very seriously and respond to every one.

Education Update: A Bootcamp for bloggers who want to go Pro – Registration closes in 2 days

Registration just opened for a a kick-ass blogging bootcamp, The Art of Blog Seduction: How to Draw Subscribers to Your Awesome Blog, put on by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. These bootcamps have become my sole source of pro blogging self-study in the past year. I credit them for taking my subscribers from 100 to over 3,200 in 10 months and going from $12/month in revenue to nearly $2,000. They are awesome. Leo has also become a good friend of mine in SF and I greatly respect his work.

It runs from March 6th to April 2nd and registration closes on Thursday, March 3rd.

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn