5 Simple Questions That Can Free Up Hours (Yes, Hours!) in Your Day
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
"I wish I went to the UPS store more often.”... said no one ever.
Think for a moment. How many hours have you wasted standing in lines, completing $10 an hour tasks, stuck in petty arguments, and doing work that doesn’t matter and doesn’t drive you closer to your ultimate vision? How many times have you had to stay late at the office or increase the deadline on an important project “just one more time” so that you could get everything done?
I don’t ask these questions to make you feel bad. Quite the opposite. The point is to inspire you to elevate your habits and systems and realize, “Well dammit! If I’ve been able to accomplish so much with such poor time management, imagine what I can do when I implement better strategies and learn how to make time for what matters most?”
That’s what I’m going to show you. It’s something I call The Billionaire Time Ownership Matrix and it’s guaranteed to help you make more time in your life.
Notice that I didn’t say “find time”. I said, “make time.”
There’s a common misconception among high-performers that you can somehow “find time” for the important things in life. But you can’t. More time isn’t hidden under the bed next to your ab rocker. If you want to get more out of your life and business, you must make time through ruthless but simple self-reflection on how you use your time now and how you can improve in the future.
Related: 10 Time Management Tips That Work
To help you with this, I’ve compiled a list of five simple questions that will help you eliminate 10 hours of work from your schedule this week.
I’ve asked the following five questions to thousands of my clients, from Hollywood actors to 9-figure entrepreneurs to pro athletes to the world’s no. 1 rodeo star (nope, I’m not kidding). And I love seeing the light turn on in their mind when they finally “get it” and realize just how simple it is to make time for the things that matter most.
Let’s do the same for you.
1. What do you hate doing?
Billionaire entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey told interviewer J.J. McCorvey that she hates meetings. Despite being one of the most successful and acclaimed women on the planet, she spends only a few days per month in the office and spends most of her time on her 42-acre estate in Montecito, California (which is two hours away from her HQ).
To stay in the loop, she has her team send detailed email summaries with project updates and important tasks that she can look at on her time.
Think about that. Oprah identified something that she hated and then “made the world play by her rules” saving herself a ton of time in the process. Now, we’re not Oprah. But we can still apply this same principle in our lives to some degree.
For example, I hate taking calls in the morning. For years, I thought, “This is just something I have to do” and wasted countless hours of “Magic Time” (the time of day where I’m more focused, productive, and creative than any other time of day) stuck on calls I didn’t enjoy. Even worse, I wasted a ton of mental and emotional energy dreading the calls the night before: leading to anxiety, insomnia, and burn out.
Today, I have a simple rule: I don’t take calls before 10 am, ever. End of discussion.
Did this inconvenience some of my clients? Yes. Is it something that is absolutely necessary for me to perform at my best and make big moves in my life and business? Yes! All I had to do was block my mornings for my deep work and move my calls to another time of day. This immediately increased my productivity.
So what is something that you hate doing? And, more importantly, how can you eliminate doing it this week so that you can get more done on what matters?
2. What should you stop doing?
Arguing on the Internet. Watching reruns of The Office for the third time. Rearranging your office supplies in an OCD manner. Having meetings about other meetings...
We all waste time on mindless, worthless, and useless tasks that do nothing for you – and that steal time from you. Think about what happened if you removed these tasks from your schedules. Nothing would change for the worse. Your businesses wouldn’t implode. Your family wouldn’t leave you. Your employees probably wouldn’t even notice.
In fact, by eliminating these tasks, you would get better results (because you’d have more energy to focus on the things that matter — and more free time on your calendar.
For example, think about the last time you attended a meeting, event, or coffee catch-up out of obligation because you didn’t have the guts to say “no”. How many of those were duds? Ninety percent? Ninety-nine?
Think of all the wasted time and opportunity cost of those decisions. It’s not just the 30 minutes at the café meeting a stranger who wants to pick your brain. It’s the commute there and back. It’s transitioning out of and back into deep work. It’s the negative emotional state that you carry with you for the rest of the day because you knew that meeting wasn’t going to be worth your time — and you were right.
Ballantyne’s Law (yes, I made this up) states that for every minute you spend on a useless task, you’re actually losing two (if not more) minutes of your day. This is one of the most important points this question must impress upon you.
It’s not just the time spent doing, it’s also the time spent thinking about, transitioning to and from, scheduling, and so on. Add that up and stopping all these useless, time-robbing activities could save you 15 hours or more per week — not to mention a ton of mental space when you eliminate this clutter.
Stop saying “yes” to every shiny object and opportunity that comes your way and start ruthlessly protecting your time. Think about how many hours would that save you each week? Imagine how much less stress you’d have, and how much more free time you’d have for your family and fitness, or to focus on the projects that could double your business.
3. What is not your job?
Bedros Keuilian, CEO of Fit Body Boot Camp, told Early to Rise that once lost a $2,500 sale because...wait for it... he chose to fix a sprinkler on his lawn and handed the sales call off to an assistant.
This is an extreme example of doing things that are not your job. But it doesn’t stop there. Running to the UPS store, fixing the printer in your office, answering all of your customer service emails, uploading content to social media, and even buying your groceries and preparing your meals is not your job.
Imagine Warren Buffett skipping a board meeting so that he could mow the lawn. Or Sarah Blakely spending an hour setting up the new conference room TV. Or Bill Gates packing boxes to move Microsoft’s HQ, or worse, packing the boxes at home to move house.
It would never happen, right?
This “Not my job” mindset doesn’t make you a bad or selfish person. It simply makes you someone who has aligned their actions with their priorities. It allows you to be more effective in your business while giving you plenty of free time to enjoy the finer things in life.
Oh, and it allows you to contribute to the economy and create new jobs by paying other people (who just want a way to make ends meet) to do the work that doesn’t drive your life forward.
Sit down and make a list of how you’ve spent your time over the last two workdays. What did you do that someone on your team was hired to do? What activities do you (irrationally) refuse to let go? What chores are you doing out of guilt that you hate, should stop, and are not your job?
Be the Oprah of your business. Start doing the things that only you can do. Imagine how far you could go with this Empire Builder approach to your time.
4. What are your distractions?
Be honest, what time sucks are you personally responsible for in your life? Is it Fantasy Football? Online Shopping? Happy Hours? Hangovers? YouTube motivational videos? Twitter political rants? Listen, we all have distractions. Yes, even me.
My friends may call me the “World’s Most Disciplined Man”, but that’s only because they don’t see me compulsively “killing time” on Instagram every night before dinner. Sure, my monkey mind justifies the behavior. After all, I make most of my money selling on social media so, “It’s ok to check it again...and again...and again.” But I know this distraction doesn’t serve me.
And I’ve taken strategic steps to overcome it and reclaim that time. How?
Well, writing this article and getting public accountability is one thing that keeps me away from temptations. But there are plenty of strategies you can use to eliminate distractions and get control of your time and life.
You could go cold turkey, skipping out on the Fantasy League this year, or giving up drinking for 30 days. You could also play the punishment game, that if anyone catches you liking a Facebook post during 9-5 work hours that you owe them $20. Even better is to spend some time in self-reflection and examine what you are running from and why, and figure out how you can lean into your distractions and turn that time into accomplishment.
5. If money were no object, how would you fix these problems?
When you sit down and give this question real thought, the answers will shock you. You’ll quickly realize that most of the solutions to your biggest time and energy sucks need no money -- or less than $50.
Instead, the solutions will require you to make hard decisions. You’ll need to have difficult conversations (like telling your spouse that they can’t interrupt you 50 times a day over trivial matters), ask for help, and become a better leader. You’ll need to find, hire, and train good people to take over for you and, I’ll be honest, it won’t be easy at first. As the saying goes, “Old habits die hard.”
And when you start to take control of your life and time, you may struggle with feelings of guilt and shame. But stick with it. Empires aren’t built by picking up milk at the grocery store or spending 5 hours a day in the kitchen (unless, of course, you happen to be a gourmet chef). They are built by doing the things that you and only you can do...and doing them to the best of your ability.
“I try to surround myself with people who really know what they’re doing, and give them the freedom to do it,” Oprah said in an interview. The secret to her success (and your future success) is in plain sight. If you are underperforming, overwhelmed, and know that you are capable of so much more, I’ve just handed you a Golden Ticket to 10 hours of time that you can leverage into your next fortune.