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10 Effective Techniques To Cut Your Working Hours In Half

10 Effective Techniques To Cut Your Working Hours In Half

One of the biggest things people in our incredibly busy and fast paced lifestyles today yearn for is free time. Whether it’s to spend time with family, friends, or by ourselves, we all need more hours in the day. Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave work early every day and have more time for yourself without having to sacrifice your pay or productivity? Ah, to have more time to enjoy your life!

If you’d like to know how you can optimize your work life, put in fewer hours a week and still be productive at work, we’ve got a few tips for you. Here are quick and easy techniques that together can cut your working hours in half, affording you more time to do the things you love.

Remember, being productive and efficient is really more about working smarter, rather than working harder.

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1. Plan your day the night before.

Every night before you go to sleep, create a to-do list for the next day. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A list of three to five core objectives that you intend to accomplish the next day will do. Focus on what’s necessary and what will push you to meet your objectives. This way you won’t have to spend hours trying to figure out what’s important and what you need to do next. As Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week advocates, spend 20 percent of your time plotting the things that will bring in 80 percent of the results.

2. Keep your workstation neat and organized.

This should go without saying. You need to keep your workstation neat and organized to ensure you operate more smoothly. Organization creates more time in your day and plays an important role in how much you accomplish. Spend time arranging your desk in a way that you can easily access what you need fast. Get rid of stuff you don’t use and keep only those items that you need and use often. Even if you have to invest a few hours in getting organized, do it. It will pay off in a big way.

3. Come a little early to work.

The early morning hours when it’s nice and quiet is a good time for productivity. Many people say they can leave two hours early if they add an hour at the beginning of the day. Arrive at work early and you will reap similar benefits. Besides, do you really need eight hours of sleep per night? Train your body to only sleep six hours a night so you can wake early before 6 a.m daily and prepare for work. You’ll create more time in your day.

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4. Work your best hours.

Just because early morning is a great time for productivity doesn’t mean it’s the only time. Figure out your most productive time of day and milk it. If you’re most productive 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., work then. If you hit your peak in the afternoon when most people are shrugging off, work then. Don’t feel constrained to work the traditional early bird schedule. Work your best hours to safeguard your productivity. It doesn’t make sense to work when you’re the least productive just because others work best then.

5. Stick to your day’s to-do list.

Many people create wonderful daily to-do lists, but don’t actually follow through and stick to them. Don’t be one of those people. Create your daily to-do list and follow it. Efficiency says to start with the most important or most challenging project of the day first so you can tackle it when you’re the most productive. Make it urgent and get it out of the way then move on to the smaller, less challenging and more pleasant tasks.

6. Focus intently on tasks.

A study examining the practice habits of musicians discovered that a violinist who practices intensely for four focused hours gets more done than those who practice for seven hours but less intently. This finding typifies most other endeavors in life, including work habits. Focus more intently on the hours you put in at work and you’ll be likely to need to put in fewer of those hours. Value your “focus time” at work and be frugal with that resource.

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7. Stop multitasking.

Focusing on tasks intently means no multitasking. When you multitask and try to do 10 things at once, you destroy your productivity and end up doing none of them well. The human brain is not designed for multitasking. Multitasking hinders the brain from processing and retaining information as it should. Often you’ll have to go back and reread or redo something just to complete it well. This wastes time and slows you down. Do one task at a time and stay present. You’ll do it better and much faster this way.

8. Limit interruptions.

Every interruption, however brief, means you have to spend time regaining focus. That is lost time that you won’t recover. Limit your accessibility when working and stop checking your phone every five minutes and your email every 10 minutes. Let people know you are not to be disturbed during your “focus time” at work. You can give them a schedule of “open-door office hours” when you are available to engage with others and respond to issues. This way you’ll protect your focus and avoid distractions.

9. Respond to e-mails in batches instead of immediately as they came in.

E-mail is a big time suck in the office. It can take you hours to compose and answer all the messages in your inbox. Cut the hours you spend a day on e-mails and also prevent e-mail distractions by lumping the messages and answering them in batches instead of immediately as they come. For instance, read and compose e-mails on three set times in the day, such as 11 a.m, 3 p.m and 10 p.m. You’ll notice it will take you significantly less time to clear out you inbox and send all necessary e-mail.

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10. Track your time and repeat what works.

Productivity and efficiency is a matter of experimentation. What will work for you might not work for another person. Therefore, it is necessary that you track your time and know not only how you are spending your time, but also which techniques are helping you save time. When you find something that works, repeat and strive to improve it. In the same breath, review and change what doesn’t work. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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