Stop telling people you are busy

Busyness seems to have become a National art in Nigeria. People consider it a sign of affluence and success when a person says they are too busy to attend an event or when they show up two hours late using the excuse that they were busy. Sadly, this culture of being busy does not always translate into increased productivity. Being busy and being productive don’t always go hand in hand. If you are one of those who finds life has become too busy for you and would like to regain some time for yourself, please read on. The following steps will help you gain more time a day to do the things you want.

Ask yourself why you need more time?

You can’t start looking for something if you don’t know why you seek it in the first place. Why would you like to have more time for yourself? Is it so you can spend more time with your family, get more sleep, dedicate more time to your side hustle, write a book? Whatever the reasons, write them down. This will let you evaluate what you want to do with your time and decide if it’s worth it.

Keep a time log

How many hours a day do you spend watching tv, on social media or just being idle? Unless you have kept a time log, chances are you don’t know. Try keeping a time log for two weeks. A time log is meant to be a simple record of all the 24 hours in a day and what you were doing during that time. For example, if you were sleeping from 12am till 6am, you’d write 12am – 6am: sleeping. If you lay in bed from 6am till 7.30am doing nothing, you’d write 6am – 7.30am: idle. You’d continue in this vein accounting for every minute of the day. The first time you keep a time log, be prepared for a shock when you find out how many hours you spend in unproductive tasks each day. You will never tell anybody you are busy again.

A piechart showing percentage of time allocated to tasks
Which tasks take up the bulk of your time?

Set hard limits on Non-negotiable tasks

What are the things you absolutely want to do every day. Is it get 8 hours of sleep per day? Spend 3 hours of quality time with your family each day? Exercise for 30 minutes every morning? Write these things down in capital letters and underline them. They are the tasks you are determined to have time for no matter what happens.

Delegate appropriately

Chances are there are activities that you are spending time on that could best be done by someone else. Do you like doing laundry? If you don’t and can afford to, pay someone else to do it for you once a week. If there are tasks at work that could be performed by a subordinate, build their capacity so they can take over that role. This should free up valuable time for you to do the things you should be doing. If you are afraid of a subordinate screwing things up, ask yourself, how much is an hour of my time worth? Is it worth it spending that hour on this task when I have a much more important task I should be doing? The more time you invest in your subordinates, the more capable they become and the less time you have to spend watching over their shoulder.

A bee holding up a stick of honey
If you have to be busy, make sure you are doing what matters

Have a routine

It’s easier to perform repetitive tasks when you make a commitment to do them the same time every morning. If you jump out of bed as soon as the alarm clock rings and do some quick stretching exercises, your body adapts to the routine so you have to spend less mental energy to get started every morning. Similarly, if you block out a time period during which you focus on only one task at the same task everyday, it gets easier over time. For example, if you used the hours between 7am to 8am to write every morning, you could well be on your way to writing that novel you have been churning around in your head for the past few years.

Set distraction free hours

Talk to your family. Let them know you do not wish to be disturbed during a certain time of the day because you want to work on a private project. If they see how serious you are, they will respect your distraction free time. If you would like to spend more quality time with your spouse, agree on a fixed time every week during which you both turn off your devices, watch a movie, go out or just enjoy each other’s company. Your relationship will be healthier for it.

A sign attached to a tree. It reads "This is a distraction. Ignore it and get back to kicking Ass
Keep your eye on the goal

Make time to rest

In your journey towards improved productivity and efficiency, always make sure you make time for small breaks during the day and get plenty of sleep at night. It’s tempting to work nonstop through the day but you pay the price in reduced efficiency, energy and lower health. Get plenty of rest before you work yourself sick. Rest is an integral part of personal productivity.

To recap:

  1. Start by writing down why you need more time.
  2. Find out what you have been spending your time on.
  3. Write down the things you absolutely must have time for.
  4. Get someone else to do tasks you don’t need to do.
  5. Create a daily routine that incorporates the things you want to get done.
  6. Designate device free hours.
  7. Rest

How do you get more time in a day? If you have other productivity techniques that have worked for you, why don’t you share them? Let’s have a conversation. If you try the suggestions above, I’d also like to find out how they have worked for you. If you need more help freeing time for tasks, get in touch too.

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