How to be a Time Pro and Create 20 Extra Hours Every Week

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Improve Online Efficiency / Productivity / Taking Action
How to be a Time Pro and Create 20 Extra Hours Every Week
A Time Clinic for Creative Geniuses

I think it's safe to say that we could all use a little extra time each week. Especially to open up to time
to work on our creative projects. Without a check on how many things are grabbing our attention and keeping us occupied, it's becoming easier than ever to feel
overwhelmed and in need of more time.
But what if you could 'create' 20 extra hours each week?
What effect would that have on your life?
The good news is, it is possible. The bad news is that it will take some effort, at least at the start but I'm going to guide you along the way...
PRELIMS
Before we even spring from the starting line, there are some things you can do to get you ready for creating time. You'll likely crush some wasted hours with little effort, just by doing these.
Make a proper decision to protect your time, like a warrior. Making this decision consciously is a big move.
Have a mission, major goal or purpose to get excited about. Having this will be the ultimate time-management tool, because when you know what you're aiming at, you prioritise the right things, and drop those things you don't need.
Fix your focus. Having focus means doing things efficiently, which means creating time. Meditation, hands down is the best for improving focus and concentration.
Do less. Decide to do less. Just making the decision can be very liberating (and time-saving).
STARTING BLOCK
Let's start with the low-hanging fruit of creating time for ourselves. These are things you can do that, for most
people, are nice and straight-forward... Low-Hanging Fruit
Do a 10-minute brainstorm, writing down everything non-productive that you spend a LOT of time on each week.
Divide the list into 2 columns. The first saying: 'Couldn't do without', and the second: 'Don't really need'
Couldn't do without. Don't really need
Stop doing those things on the 'Don't really need' side of the list, one by one. Simple, but doing this will be an excellent start.
Let's now move on to our ONLINE world...
Online
Reduce email-checking and writing to TWICE per day, if at all.
Turn off any email or message alerts of any kind.
Restrict web surfing to one hour max daily, or cut it out completely.
Web apps that block sites after a time-period are really useful for this. Disconnect from the Internet. Work offline whenever you can, such as for writing and other work that doesn't require a connection.
Now to look at some every day general time suckers that we can work on eliminating...
Everyday
Quit an unhealthy vice. This includes alcohol, drugs, excessive sugar and smoking. Time will be saved indirectly through better health, energy, focus and productivity, not to mention time lost to actually indulging in these vices, including hangovers.
Be ruthless with your television and film-viewing. Like web surfing, this is one of the biggest time-drainers known to humanity.
De-clutter your surroundings. Environment is crucial and has a string effect on the clarity of the mind. This is good for focus, productivity and time management.
Be aware of long conversations with friends. A deep chat is great, but take note of those that go on, and on!
Don't be afraid to leave social events before the very end
Keep the same objects around the house in the same place. This saves you having to remember where things are.
Think twice about the media. Whether you like it or not, most of what we hear or read in the media is either purposefully negative or nonsense. Consider how leaving out a chunk of it could benefit your time.
Design your routine. Routine is boring, but borrowing from people who set them can make a big difference in your ability to make more time.
Do several errands at the same time. Do things, like cooking meals, in batches.
Quit filing stuff. Just transfer everything you can to digital, get it in the cloud/online, and make sure it's searchable.
Create a schedule, and document all your plans. Planning your time will really reduce wasted time. Use one calendar that is clear and easily-accessible.
Be strong, and say no to unnecessary requests by others.
Alrighty, hopefully this has been some hearty food for though about chopping wasted time and making more. Let's now turn our attention to the working world...
Work
Set a maximum working day. Designate your working hours sensibly, and stop working when you reach full time.
This works at the micro-scale too, by setting a max number of minutes for completion of a piece of work.
Writing a list in the evening if the day before work of what you need to get done, in order of priority, numbered 1-5. When you start the next day, make sure you start with number 1 first. Don't stop until the task is complete, or until your allocated time to do so has ended. Avoid meetings, and cut them short if they're not going anywhere.
Have a think about any work you could delegate. is anything worth paying someone else to do in order to create more time, which would otherwise be worth more than the cost of the delegation?
Take more breaks as you work. Your renewed energy will have a strong effect on your productivity during each working burst.
FINISH
This is a lot to think about at once, so take each block and work on incorporating it into our life piece by piece. Just acting on one will see great improvements.
20 hours is approximate, and some of you may be able to create even more.
Many of these tips are seemingly obvious, but without action on them, you won't receive the benefit of doing them. Enjoy the free time!
As always, I encourage you to sign up to the 'tops for creatives' newsletter, and if you can share this post on social media, I will be very grateful.

The Author

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

12 Comments

  1. Katie Wood says

    This is incredible! Just the advice I needed since I’m currently rubbish at managing time. And so fun to read through too! 🙂

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks for the comment and support, Katie! Let me know how you go 🙂

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks Deanna. You said it! Multi-tasking doesn’t work. In fact, it doesn’t exist. We’re always doing one thing at a time. If, through ‘multi-tasking’ we aren’t allowing ourselves much time to do either (or all) tasks at hand, we do them poorly.

      Admittedly my illustration of guy on running machine looks like multi-tasking, but the closest to it that I talk about in the comic, is batching tasks (one after the other but around the same time) like emails, or errands.

      So batch tasks, don’t ‘multi-task’!

  2. Daw Rui says

    Amazing article Alex! Helpful and encouraging as always, most of this advices seem to be a great way to fight procrastination and time wasting with clear concepts. I’m so agree with the importance of designing work routines and focusing on the essentials “Separate the wheat from chaff”…

    Great infographic, its content and layout!

  3. islanddesign says

    Alex this article has affirmed that i’m on the right track! I started a few months ago by making a conscious decision to make what Michael Hyatt calls “my ideal schedule” and blocked out time for specific tasks each day and I can’t tell you how much this freed me from the time-sucking phone calls and meetings that don’t go anywhere and leave me stressed about not doing my work! Maybe I will write a Blog post in answer to yours one day – showing how your suggestions do work 🙂

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks! I would definitely like to hear some of the ways these ideas have worked for you directly. Do send me an email.

      • islanddesign says

        I will! BTW, I just started following you. I think I read an article you wrote for shutterstock.com – Good stuff!

  4. islanddesign says

    HI Alex, you asked me to share some of my process here. I hope this is useful to your readers 🙂

    1) Like I mentioned I started by blocking time on my calendar for specific types of tasks each day. For example, my day starts at 8am with email and Social Media from 8-9, then 9-11 is for phone calls – follow up phone calls, appointments I need to make or contacting potential clients – if I don’t spend the entire time on the phone then it gives me more time to put into my work.

    – I am up by 5:30am every morning that allows me to do my devotions, exercise and eat a healthy breakfast before I get to my desk at 8am

    – I have 7-8am blocked out for “Education / Writing” (haven’t been consistent with this one)

    2) About 3 weeks ago I disabled email notifications on my phone which removed the temptation to check email every 5 minutes when I am away from the computer which means I can focus on the meeting or event I am attending. I now check email and social media 3 times per day (8am, 12:30pm (after my scheduled lunch) and 5:00pm – I occasionally will go into email when I get notified about an email I was expecting on my desktop)

    3) Client meetings I schedule on Fridays or late afternoons. This allows me to concentrate on my creative work when it counts. I had to do this because I found myself struggling to get things done throughout the week because of meetings.

    4) I stop at 5:30pm each day to review the day and plan for the next. I do this on paper! I found that writing things down helps me with planning and organizing my thoughts and this planner in particular is good because I have an entire day per page http://goo.gl/GmS1i3 – I make notes throughout the day especially from conversations I do have. – I list everything I need to do both for work and personal and then just go down the line and knock them out. If I don’t get to something it moves to the next day. (The planner is also compact so taking it out with me to meetings isn’t a hassle)

    5) One really helpful thing I do is every Sunday evening I take one page to do a “brain dump” of things to do the upcoming week, review the previous week and clear my head.

    All the best!

    Karen

  5. Pacster Mt says

    Neat article Alex, I identify with a lot of your advice since I’m currently combining my day-job running my Design firm, with attending Dev Bootcamp to become a javascript developer. I experienced the process sort of in a reverse engineering manner: dedicating 4 hours a day (20 hours a week, indeed) to learning new skills forced me to be very selective with my time. The most helpful habits I developed since: don’t check e-mail before 12pm (and focus on creative work intensively during the first hours of the day); and use those small, prioritized lists you suggest as a script -and performance indicator- for every day.

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