You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again:
Time is our most valuable resource.
No matter who you are, how many resources you have, or what you are doing with your life, we all share the same 24 hours in the day. There is no escape from this fundamental truth. At least, not in the foreseeable future.
Given that sobering realization, there are 2 ways we can deal with this:
- Complain about it and continue using it as an excuse to not get things done. (*Ahem* I used to do this all the time)
- Acknowledge it and make a conscious choice to measure, analyze, and optimize our lives to get more done in the limited amount of time that we have left.
Since there are quite a few things I want to get done in this life (like this for example), I choose the 2nd option.
If you chose option 1, I strongly encourage you to STOP reading this post immediately. It might shake your belief system to the core, and it doesn’t sound like you’re quite ready for that. Instead, check out the latest viral video on buzzfeed.com.
On the other hand, if you chose option 2, grab yourself a healthy snack (carrots anyone?), because the next few blog posts will bring you one step closer to time management nirvana.
But before we Peter Pan our way off the cliff, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.
Not All Time is Created Equal
This is important, so I’ll say it again.
Not all time is created equal.
Things like mood, time of day, environment, and other external factors have the power to impact the quality of our experiences, in a very big way.
To help illustrate this point, I am going to share with you the 5 classifications I have created to describe the different time contexts that I experience.
Let’s do this!
1. No Extra Time (1NET)
What is 1NET?
I first learned about this concept from Tony Robbins. As far as I understand it (and please correct me if I’m wrong Tony), it essentially involves optimizing an activity you are already engaged in to include an additional activity (or activities) to get more done in the same amount of time.
For example, here you can see Tony walking on a treadmill while answering emails. The point is, he’s already going to be answering emails, why not also walk and get some exercise in the process?
Another example is listening to audiobooks while on your daily commute. I do this all the time by the way, and am undoubtedly a happier, smarter man as a result. Thanks for the suggestion Tony!
Where does 1NET usually take place?
- Waiting in long lines
- Doctors appointments
- Cafes downtown (if a meeting got cancelled and I already left my apartment)
Note: short waits in lines are not ideal for getting much work done, because by the time I get in “the zone” the wait is over and I have to stop what I’m doing. However, those short waits are perfect for my daily tracking activities (like my Diet Log and Life Balance Log), since they are very modular and don’t require a lot of thinking.
When does 1NET typically occur?
This is by far the most flexible aspect of NET time, which is what makes it so powerful. It can literally happen at ANY MOMENT. For example, on some days 1NET will occur in the afternoon while on the way to a client meeting. On other days, I’ll find myself in 1NET later in the evening. Which begs the question…
How can you tell when you’ve slipped into NET time?
It’s quite simple really. You’ll probably start to feel bored, or find yourself checking your phone for the 3rd time in a row, only to find that “no new emails” have arrived. In other words, you aren’t doing anything useful, but you could be. Make sense?
Which activities are good examples for 1NET?
- Blog writing & editing
- Mindstorming (a form of brainstorming that will remove almost any mental roadblock)
- Composing important emails or text messages. Yes, texts are important too!
- Scheduling meetings or handling other logistical issues
2. Morning Coffee Time (2MCT)
What is 2MCT?
Alright, so the cat’s out of the bag. I’m a coffee person. That means every morning, like so many others in the developed world, I fill a Cup O’ Joe, and start the day with a little extra dose of caffeine. It should come as no surprise then, that 2MCT refers to that sacred time after waking up and before “officially” starting my day. Yes, for me the ritual itself is sacred. Don’t believe me? Look at Mariel Hemingway’s tweet in response to my post.
What’s important to note here is that I do this every morning anyway. This makes it very similar to 1NET, except for 2 key differences: 1) I am usually even more focused than during 1NET, and 2) I am always on my computer while having coffee. After all, with 1NET I am usually out and about, working from my smart phone. Nostalgia moment: Remember when the only thing you could do with your phone was make a call? *Sigh*
Where does 2MCT usually take place?
Fortunately for me, 99% of the time I am not rushing out of my apartment in the morning. This is just one of the many perks of being self-employed and not being a slave to the 9-5 culture! Because of this, 2MCT takes place in my kitchen, and I rarely ever skip it.
When does 2MCT typically occur?
About 10:00 am – 11:30 am. Why so long? Because I’m also having breakfast! And as you’ll soon discover, I’m also getting a lot of work done.
Which activities are good examples for 2MCT?
- Checking personal finances
- Recording earnings in my freelancer earning log from the previous day (my longest-running and most useful Excel tool I’ve ever created)
- Re-categorizing transactions in Mint.com (the best free way to manage your personal finances. And they didn’t even pay me to say that!)
- Answering emails that I’ve marked as “Requires Action” (more on that in my post How I Reach Inbox Zero in Under 5 Minutes Every Day)
3. Low Focus Time (3LFT)
What is 3LFT?
This should be pretty self explanatory. During Low Focus Time I cannot engage in complex, creative, or cognitively-driven activities. In other words, I can’t focus very well. Thank you captain obvious.
Where does 3LFT usually take place?
95% of the time this takes place at home, but every once in a while I’ll be out at a cafe at night with my computer, and it happens there. Thanks for making that possible NYC!
When does 3LFT typically occur?
No matter how much I’ve tried to fight it over the years, after the sun goes down, my productivity takes an absolute nose dive. Interestingly enough, even if the sun is still up (as it is in the summer months) I still lose my ability to focus after 5 or 6 pm. There have even been times when I’m unable to focus during the day because I’m pre-occupied or excited about something else. In other words, Low Focus Time can creep up on you when you least expect it.
Which activities are good examples for 3LFT?
- If I have any sort of manual repetitive task (of which there are very few in my life to begin with), this is the perfect time for it
- Video editing for my online classes
- Creating prospect lists for my Excel Dashboard Services (the world of information dashboards will never be the same!)
Tune in next time when we review the last 2 time contexts.
And yes, I am saving the best for last.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this parting thought, inspired by Bassam Tarazi’s blog post The Lie Behind Carpe Diem:
“Don’t live everyday like it was your last. Instead, seize at least one moment, daily.”
What moment will you seize today?
3 Replies to “The Ultimate Time Management Hack that Took Me 5 Years to Create – Part 1”
Another great post Shir … Seriously useful, simple ideas.
Glad you like it! Wait til you see the time tracking tool I’ve created in Excel to analyze the different time contexts 🙂