How To Get More Time In Your Life

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I rush around all day, every day trying to get as many things marked off my checklist as possible.  I’m constantly stressed.

  • Gotta get that run in!
  • Have to spend more time with my wife!
  • Forgot to call that customer back!
  • We’re out of diapers.  Honey, I’m putting the baby in a pull up and praying for solid poops!

People alive today have the most leisure time in human history.  Why is it that we’re also busier than ever?

Anyone else feel this way?

One time a friend accidentally left his kid at my store and drove home.  We thought it was pretty funny but we understood.  He had three kids after all.  He’d be back.  Possibly with a black eye from his wife, but he’d be back.

Part of me likes the fast pace.  There’s a thrill in the rapid heart rate, rushing to and fro, getting stuff done.  I feel important and satisfied on the outside.

But there’s a lot I’m really just avoiding.  Important things.

If you’re like me, most of the things you get done are urgent but not important.  You’ve seen the chart, right?

 

Urgent_-_Important_Matrix

 

  • Box 1 is urgent and important stuff.  GET IT DONE NOW.
  • Box 2 is not urgent but important.  It tends to get lost because it’s not urgent.  PLAN TIME TO DO IT.
  • Box 3 is urgent but not really important.  These are usually other peoples’ priorities.  Email may be the biggest time waster in this box.  I am seriously considering hiring a Virtual Assistant in India to do a lot of this stuff for me.  AVOID.  OR DELEGATE TO INDIA.
  • Box 4 is not urgent or important.  I don’t personally put leisure time in this box because we all need to unwind a bit.  I think the important thing is to avoid too much leisure time.  Like checking my score on hotornot.com.  (That one was hard to admit)

So I’m always looking for ways to save time.

This is especially true for workouts.  I used to go for a run at lunch.  But I stunk so bad even *I* couldn’t take the smell the rest of the day.

When I was training for a triathlon in 2013, I swam with a group at 5AM twice a week.  Sometimes I’d be so tired that I’d fall asleep in my car before work.

I’m still not the best at time management and I admit I’m not very organized.  But I’ve become a lot better.

Here are the things that work for me.

1) Standardize Your Day

Have you ever heard the term “decision fatigue?”  Some people call it Ego Depletion.  Think of all the little decisions you have to make each day:

  • What should I wear?
  • What should I have for breakfast?
  • What should I do first when I get to work?
  • What should I make the kids for dinner?
  • When should I work out today?
  • Should I run easy or do a tempo run?

A big reason we feel so stressed is because of all these little decisions we have to make all day long.  It mentally saps us.  We then tend to make bad decisions.

This is actual science speaking.  Judges tend to make worse judgments later in the day than earlier in the day.  Humans and other animals (even dogs) have less willpower after sitting through a mentally draining task.  Which is probably why I’m always most tempted to make cookie dough or a double Amaretto Sour at 9PM.

A key here is setting up systems so you don’t have to make as many decisions every day.  Some tips:

  • Have the same breakfast every day
  • When you put away your clean clothes, arrange them into outfits so all you have to do is pull the next outfit out in the morning.  This works for dressers and hanging racks.  Also, get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in a year.
  • At a restaurant, ask a waiter for suggestions rather than wading through a huge menu.  This is also how I discovered the Strawberry Cheesecake & Caramel Jackhammer at Andy’s Frozen Custard.  It. is. Amazing.
  • Put a list of your family’s favorite dinners on the fridge and rotate between them

 

fridge

Johnson Family Dinner Rotation

 

2) Check Email and Facebook Three Times Per Day (Max)

Email and Facebook are my biggest time wasters.

What’s the first thing I do when I get to work?  Check email!  And whose priorities are in my inbox?  Other people’s priorities.

When I am able to limit myself to checking email just three time a day – first thing, at lunch, and before I go home – I am so much more productive.  My friend Calvin used to pride himself on being the fastest email responder he knew.  Less than 2 minutes on average.  That’s because he wasn’t doing anything else else!

About every three months, I remove the Facebook app from my phone.  And become so much more productive!  But I eventually get weak and add it back.  What can I say?  I have a weakness for pics of Crossfitters with pee stains from working out so hard.  (It’s a badge of honor – don’t judge.  And since I poop my pants, I really can’t judge.)

Also, the Crossfitters can laugh at me for the photo below.

 

crossfit

Tell you what…I’m removing that Facebook app again now.

3) Plan Your Day In Advance

About a month ago, I started using a note card organizational system I heard about from Peter Attia and I LOVE IT.  Photo below.

The yellow card is for tasks I need to do at work.  The pink card is for tasks for home.

In the morning, I pull the most important things from each card and transfer them to the daily white card.  Then I just try to get all those things done that day.

This system makes sure I plan time for those important but not urgent tasks.

 

note cards

 

A few other tips:

  • Schedule your workouts for the week on Sunday.  It’s ok to modify later.  Just plan it now.
  • Make it a game.  There are plenty of “gamified” apps out there, but one I’ve experimented with is irunurun.com.  You set weekly priorities and check off how many times you do each activity.  The program then gives you a score for the week.  Here’s a screenshot from my irunurun dashboard.  Not sure if I’ll stick with it or not, but it’s fun so far.

 

irunurun

 

4) Say NO

This is the hardest tip, but the most liberating by far.

I’m still bad at saying no, but I’ve become MUCH better this year.  I dropped a long standing board member role for my triathlon club.  I found an assistant to put on a race that was sapping my time.  It’s been great.

A lot of us are programmed to say yes.  We’re people pleasers.  Fortunately, saying no just takes some practice.  It’s fun!  Here are some examples:

  • “Mr. Johnson, would you be willing to volunteer for this fundraiser?”  NO THANKS!
  • “Hey Eric, can you help our group with putting on this 5K?”    NO!  CALL RIDGE RUNNER SPORTS!
  • “Can I schedule a time to talk to you about this new product?”  NOPE.  TALK TO ANTHONY!
  • “Eric, I need you to sit down when you go pee”   HELL NO, LISSA!

(Just kidding on the last one.  Lissa got me to sit down to pee a long time ago.  Everyone knows who wears the pants in our family)

5) Set A Timer

How many times have I started a project and suddenly it’s three hours later?  I’m either doing one of two things: staring cross-eyed at my computer or realize I just watched all the Sugar Boy videos again.

Too many times to count.

I can’t focus for very long.  60 minutes tops.  Better is 30 minutes.  I now set a timer and make myself get up and stretch or walk around.

After the break, I change to a different project and come back to the original later.

I even set a timer for bed.  It’s actually going off right now.

That’s it.  My top 5 tips to get more time in your life.  What are your key time saving tips?  I’d love to see ideas in the comments.

I have a new “author” Facebook page where these posts will go to from now on.  I’ll also post related tips and content there rather than my personal Facebook page going forward.  Feel free to like the new page.

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I Believe In You

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My boss, Amy Livesay, ran in the GoGirl 5K in Springfield yesterday.

With about 1/3 mile to go, she was running neck and neck with a 13 year old girl.

At this distance in a 5K, racers generally start sizing each other up for the final sprint.  Amy was steeling herself for a big fight.

13 year old girls can sometimes be really tough.  Sometimes a lot tougher than 13 year old boys because they mature faster.  They are deceiving too.  They’re usually really skinny and don’t look fast.

Then this girl turned to Amy and started to speak.

What?  No one talks at this point in a 5K.

And the girl said, “You can catch that lady ahead of us.  I believe in you.”

Stop and let that sink in.

That 13 year old girl represents the best of what we can find in running with others.

This is now my favorite running story of all time.

As a father, I think what I love best about my kids is their innocence.  We always assume that growing up brings with it a certain degree of jadedness.

Does it have to be like that?

Why can’t we all be like that 13 year old girl more often?

I think part of the problem is the news.

Imagine you were an alien from outer space watching our news.  You would probably think the human race was a lot more horrible than it is.

And you’d probably bomb us out of our misery.

We forget about all of the amazing, tiny joys in our days.

Yesterday afternoon I sat in our back yard while my boys were flying their little kites.  I started to get antsy and considered going for a book to read.

But then I asked myself how many chances will I really get to see them do this?

When I’m 70, do I want to remember a book or two little boys circling our yard, falling, laughing, and having fun?

My wife and I have a running joke about police officers.  From time to time they pass us at high speed on the highway.

I always say, “they’re probably hurrying to help someone.”  She gives me a smirk and says, “yeah right.”

We’re a good team.  She’s street savvy and reads people well.  She’s also a great negotiator but sometimes doesn’t give people a chance.

I tend to trust people more.  Sometimes they really come through.  Sometimes I get taken advantage of.  Ok, I get taken advantage of a lot.

I’m not saying either perspective is better, but I prefer mine.

I’m happier living in a world with (mostly) good people.

People like that 13 year old girl.

 

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