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Last Updated on June 4, 2019

How to Drastically Increase Your Free Time

How to Drastically Increase Your Free Time

It’s the end of another busy workday, but before you can relax at home, you’ve got to make a 30-minute drive through congested traffic. When you eventually pull up to your home, you open the front door, and then immediately crash on the sofa. You’re completely exhausted.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s certainly a common scenario. But, what makes it even worse, is the fact that it’s unlikely to be a one-off situation. Many people experience this every workday of the year!

It’s no wonder then that the majority of people are feeling overwhelmed by work and stressed by the demands of life. They feel like they just don’t have the time or energy to achieve what they want, and to do things they’d like to do. In fact, I would go even further, and say that most people can’t even find the time to do what HAS to be done – let alone time for family, friends and hobbies.

To give you a couple of examples of this, just think for a moment of the pressures that full-time working parents experience, as well as the many people who are forced to work more than one job in order to keep paying their bills.

Are you one of these people?

If yes, don’t worry, as I’m going to show you some simple ways of ordering your life so you have time left to do the things you really want to do. Take Control of Your Schedule

Just like money – you should have a budget for time.

That’s because time is non-renewable. Meaning you can’t get it back once it’s been spent. That’s why it’s important to understand where your time is going and where you could improve – especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate.

Chances are, you’re spending time doing things you may not need to be doing yourself (delegation), should be doing for less time (prioritization), or could get rid of all together (replacing bad habits with good).

Prioritization

You may be surprised to learn that you consume a colossal 34GB of information every day. And that’s on top of the 50,000 thoughts you generate in the same 24-hour period.

With this amount of mental activity and pressure – it’s easy to see why you might feel overwhelmed by the endless information and data that come your way.

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Fortunately, there’s a simple way to take back control of your mind. And, it involves using something that you almost certainly already carry with you every day… your smartphone.

Yes, your smartphone can act as the perfect memory and organization tool.

Let me explain.

Instead of trying (and inevitably failing) to remember all the important stuff that comes your way, you can let your smartphone take the strain. It can also help you plan and keep track of your days, weeks, months and years.

Until now, you might have only thought about using your smartphone for social media, news alerts, phone calls and selfies! But, your phone can do much more than these things. Especially if you install the right apps.

I recommend installing Evernote on your phone. This powerful app makes it quick and easy to jot down notes and ideas – anywhere, anytime. For instance, you can manually type notes, or you can capture images or even links to webpages. And, searching and finding things in your notes is easy, too, thanks to the clever tagging and categorizing options.

I’ve used Evernote for several years now, and I can honestly say that it’s saved me hundreds of hours. Previously, I used to jot things down in the inherent notepad app. But I frequently found myself wasting time searching through old notes as they were very unorganized and sometimes difficult to retrieve. With Evernote, your notes are stored securely in the cloud, so even if you lose your smartphone – you won’t lose your notes.

The other app I recommend you install is Google Calendar.

This app is available for iOS, Android and any browser.

 If you’ve never used it before, here’s why you should:

  • You can capture important dates, such as meetings, birthdays and anniversaries.
  • You can set reminders and alarms for key times and dates.
  • You can easily view your upcoming days, weeks and months.
  • You can share your calendar with other people, such as your partner or colleagues.
  • You don’t need to spend a cent (it’s a free app!).

Google Calendar has helped me simplify and streamline my day-to-day life. And, I’m sure it’ll do the same for you, too.

Of course, to get the most out of the Evernote and Google Calendar apps, you’ll need to make a habit of using them. (See the habit improvement section below.)

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Delegation

However strong your willpower and however much energy and drive you have – you are just one person. That means you only have a limited amount of time to work on the things that you want to achieve.

This is why delegation is such an important part of a healthy and successful life.

So what exactly is delegation?

I like to describe it as leveraging time from an outside source to give you opportunities to increase your quality time.

Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.

You’re no fan of gardening, but you hate to see your lawn at the back of your house turning into a jungle! So, every week or so in the summer, you head to the shed and pull out your rusty old lawn mower. It’s not great at cutting grass anymore, but with persistence, it does the job. From start to finish, you spend about 2 hours to get your lawn looking half-decent.

But, as I mentioned, gardening is not your thing. And quite frankly, having to regularly cut the grass has become a painful chore that eats into your free time on the weekends.

There is a solution to your problem…

You could choose to hire a professional gardener, or even a neighbor kid to help out–you simply need someone who could come every week to cut your lawn and look after your flower beds, etc. Not only would this save you the hassle of doing the work yourself, but it would also give you a few hours of extra free time a month. You could use this for whatever you fancied, perhaps learning a musical instrument, writing a book or just for meeting up with friends and family.

Of course, it’s not just gardening you might want to delegate. Think about delegating things that fall into the following three categories:

  1. Tasks that you don’t enjoy doing – perhaps cleaning your car or preparing your tax returns.
  2. Tasks you shouldn’t do – you might enjoy fixing your washing machine, but it’s likely to take you much longer than getting an expert to fix it quickly.
  3. Tasks you can’t do – for example, if you want to set up a website for your business, but you don’t have any technical skills, then you’ll probably want to hire a website developer.

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to delegate, then start delegating it!

It’s at this point that you’ll begin to see the tangible benefits to your life. You’ll have more energy, more time, and you’ll also feel freer and happier than you’ve done in ages.

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Habit Improvement

We all have habits – some good and some bad!

However, you may not have thought about just how much bad habits can cause you to waste time.

One quick example of this relates to the start of the day.

If you wake up with an alarm, do you get out of bed immediately when the alarm goes off, or do you hit the snooze button (perhaps several times)?

Snoozing might seem like a good thing at the time, but it’s definitely a bad habit. Even if you only snooze for 10 minutes in a morning, that’s an hour a week that you could use to practice your hobbies or even to help build your career.

Fortunately, snoozing is just a habit. And, habits can be changed.

Let’s see how it’s done…

First, you need to understand how habits are formed.

Picture in your mind when you learned to drive a car. At the beginning, it was nothing short of nightmarish. The pedals, the mirrors, the maneuvering, the parking! After your first few lessons, you probably thought of giving up. But, your determination was strong, and you persisted with your lessons. And, a couple of months later you were rewarded with a successful driving test pass.

While the lessons you had were certainly helpful, the real reason for you becoming a proficient driver was the power of habits. Just think how many times you practiced changing gears, reversing into parking spaces, etc. The first few times proved embarrassingly bad, but as you persisted, you became better and better – and eventually the required skills and techniques became habits for you.

This is how all habits are formed: the constant repetition of a specific behavior.

Of course, once a habit has been adopted, it’s very hard to break (just think about the difficulties people have quitting alcohol or cigarettes).

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But, there is a way to do this…

Instead of trying to break a habit, work on replacing it with something more positive.

For instance, coming back to snoozing, if you force yourself to get out of bed when your alarm goes off, you could then use the next 10 minutes or so for some gentle exercise. Now, this would probably be a very difficult thing to do for the first few days. But, keep going, and not only will it get easier to replace your snoozing with exercise, but after a few weeks, it will become a habit for you.

In other words, your old, negative habit will have been replaced by a new, positive one.

Reclaim Your Time

So now you know the secrets to drastically increasing your free time.

Use your smartphone to improve your time management and to schedule your tasks, and replace your time-wasting habits with productive alternatives.

All that’s left is for you to begin taking action.

As the famous proverb states:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Take yours now!

Featured photo credit: Photo by Zach Betten on Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever The Lifehack Show: Overcoming Anxiety Through Personal Agency with Dr. Paul Napper How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide) What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) When You Never Stop Learning, These 5 Amazing Things Happen

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

Want to know the good news?

No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

Absolutely!

But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

“I’m not smart enough to…”

“I don’t have enough experience to…”

“I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

  • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
  • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
  • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

But this isn’t true!

If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

Ditch the Dwelling

Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

Easier said than done, right? Try these:

  1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
  2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
  3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
  4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

Be Patient about the Process

No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

2. Connect with Your Purpose

One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

Find Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

3. Find Strength in Unity

The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Recruit Some Cheerleaders

If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

Form an Accountability Group

Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
  • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
  • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
  • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
  • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
  • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

Tying it All Together

Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

But here’s the bottom line:

A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

More About Mental Strength

Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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