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3 Simple Hacks to Unlock 5 Hidden Hours Each Week

3 Simple Hacks to Unlock 5 Hidden Hours Each Week

“I just didn’t have the time.”

People say it without even thinking. It’s by far the number one muttered excuse for not getting things done. What people should really be saying is… “I didn’t make it a priority.”

There are hours and hours of hidden productivity in all of our lives, no matter who you are. And I’m not talking about doing things like working 80 hours a week, sleeping less, or anything else that is going to take away from your health and slowly kill you over time.

I’m talking about a few simple hacks you can use to free up extra time in your life by getting more stuff done that matters. Because at the end of the day, those things that you say “I just didn’t have enough time” to, are things that are supposed to be priorities for you.

This is a simple explanation of what I call, The Productivity Blueprint.

First, Eliminate

What activities in your life have absolutely no value, or an incredibly low amount of value? Think about it. There are a lot of low value things that we do, such as watching TV, but for some people that brings them joy and helps them relax, so I consider that valuable. My advice for recreation is to focus on the stuff that brings you the highest amount of joy, and maybe let the rest slide a bit.

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Past a certain point, some types of recreation might not provide value at all. They might just be “something to do.”

What I want you to do is completely eliminate the things that you do in your life that have no value towards your priorities (that are hopefully time-based). These may be things like:

  • Reading trash magazines
  • Watching excessive amounts of television (Especially the news. It’s called The Internet.)
  • Spending an excessive amount of time browsing the web and social media (except this article)
  • Talking on the phone (some people are literally addicted to this)
  • Deleting 50 emails a day (just unsubscribe)
  • Excessive driving (commuting outside of rush hour can easily save you an hour a week or more)
  • Looking for stuff (just get organized!)
  • Figuring out what to do next (you should always work from a list)
  • And more…

My advice is to be aggressive with yourself. Really question your daily routine. Even the most productive of us, myself included, have our time wasters.

By practicing just a tiny bit of elimination, you can often grab 2-3 hours a week, by doing this alone.

Then, Automate

After you’ve gone through the elimination step, you’ve inherently told yourself that everything else that you do is somehow important.

In the automation step, you’re going to take advantage of technology to streamline your daily life.

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The absolute best thing you can automate is your personal finances. The world of paperless billing and automated transactions can save literally 5-10 hours a month.

If you’re still in the paper world even with a single bill, think about how much time you spend walking that paper trail, for ONE thing:

  • Walking to the mailbox
  • Opening the envelope while trying not to cut yourself
  • Fumbling through the pages of a bill you don’t want to see anyway
  • Finding your checkbook and dusting it off
  • Traveling back to 1998
  • Moving the cat from your desk
  • Writing a check
  • Finding an envelope to mail it in
  • Searching for your stamps in a drawer of other useless junk
  • Figuring out how to fit your bill and check securely in the return envelope
  • Moving the cat again
  • Sealing your envelope
  • Writing the return address on the envelope
  • Mailing the envelope

And I probably left out some steps… not to mention the distractions you will no doubt encounter along the way.

I don’t know about you, but that would take me like 45 minutes at least. Most of it would be remember how to write a check.

But consider the paperless route, and paying that bill automatically from your account. Here’s the process.

  • Do nothing

Yep, that’s it. Doing nothing in this case produces the exact same result in infinity less time, and you only have to set it up once.

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If you’re a real technophobe, set up an alert for when your bill is paid. That’ll take you 30 seconds max to read in your email.

The real beauty here is that this time saving strategy works to your advantage every time you pay that bill. So you’re not just saving time once. You’re benefiting every time you would have to pay that bill.

There are other ways you can automate your life as well, including:

  • Having non-perishables delivered on a schedule through Amazon Subscribe, eliminating trips to the store
  • Configuring automatic updates and virus scans on your computer
  • Setting up automated filters in your email to keep it organized it for you
  • Using a call screener on your phone to eliminate unwanted phone calls
  • Get automated appliances to manage your home for you

Using technology to automate your life can easily save you 2-3 hours a week, even on a small scale.

Last, Outsource

Everything left over that you can’t either eliminate or automate, is a candidate for outsourcing, which means having someone else do lower value tasks for you. It’s a money for time trade in most cases.

The easiest way to figure out the things you can outsource is to ask yourself one simple question – “What can’t someone else do for me?”

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This literally means to put the things at the top of your list that only you can do, such as working on a project that only you have the knowledge to complete. For example, no one could write this article for me, at least not how I want to write it.

Other lower value items like housework, yard work, daily errands, and other tiny remedial tasks that can easily be routine-driven and systematized (yes, that’s a word), etc, can be completed by someone else.

If money is an issue, question what you’re spending your money on as well. It’s often a lot better to free up time for important tasks than it is to have a few more extra bucks here and there.

Outsourcing effectively can gain you a massive amount of time, several hours per week on a small scale, and even in the double digit realm on a larger scale.

Conclusion

By following the hierarchy of Eliminating, Automating, then Outsourcing, you can easily grab an extra 5 hours each week, if not much much more, to complete your high priority projects.

You’ll never be able to say “I just didn’t have enough time” again.

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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