If you wanted to build a new house (assuming you know what to do with a power saw and nail gun...), would you start cutting lumber and pouring cement without:
- A blueprint?
- Ordering the proper supplies?
- Putting together a game plan of what needed to be done in which sequence?
- Knowing your budget?
- Figuring out if the land you were building on could support the structure?
...and about a dozen other factors?
Of course not!
When I'm working with my clients and students, I always start by asking them to define their motivation -- their "why."
In fact, I'm going to ask you to do the same right now...
Take a few minutes and think about WHY you want to be more productive, efficient, balanced, motivated. If you had two hours of spare time today, what would you do with it?
- "Spend more time with my kids"
- "I would work on developing an online presence to solidify myself as an expert in my industry. I would also try to figure out how to make some side income."
- "I would work on getting my chaotic house cleaned up & in order."
- "Sleep. Read that stack of books next to my bed. Watch TV guilt- free. Go on a date with my wife. Get to the doctor for my nagging injuries."
- "Focus on creating a great sales funnel for my company"
- "I would devote an hour to finish my book, 30 minutes to produce content/articles as paid work & 30 minutes to spend one on one time with my girls"
- "Spend more time with my wife and with close friends to re-strengthen once strong relationships."
So now that you have a purpose... the next question is "How can I get this 'free' time each day?!"
I used to think the answer was one of these:
- Make BIG sweeping changes! (This usually worked...for about three days)
- Completely switch-up the way I work AND radically adopt complicated productivity systems overnight (This also worked...for about 45 minutes)
- Get inspired. Get motivated! And try to really improve my willpower! (This one worked perfectly...until someone cut me off in traffic or I went on vacation or I woke up late or... you get the point)
So much for plans!
Enter the Financial Wizard
Actually, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got about time management came from a financial wizard, who asked me this "trick" question.
Would you rather have:
- $1 Million in cash right now...
- 1 penny that doubled in value every day, for 30 days?
Most people would take the million. It seems so much more than a little tiny penny.
And for the first 27 days, you're looking pretty smart because the penny would only be worth a fraction of the upfront cash.
But on day 28, you hit a tipping point where all those pennies add up and make the guy who opted for the upfront cash look like a real doofus.
And on day 30, that lousy penny that you probably wouldn't even go out of your way to stop and pick up if you saw it in the middle of the sidewalk is now worth over $10 MILLION!
Through the power of compounding interest...otherwise known as incremental improvements.
So what does this have to do with time management and helping you get "extra" time each day?
If you want to free up two hours each day, you have to start small. Here's what I mean...
> Can you free up 1 minute of time today?
>> What about 2 minutes tomorrow?
>>> And then 4 minutes the day after that?
See what I'm doing? You don't have to make big scary changes in order to get massive results. Or as John Wooden, one of the most successful basketball coaches of all time, put it:
"When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. Don't look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement, one day at a time, as the only way it happens. When it happens, it lasts."
Once I really absorbed this fact, my approach to time as a limited resource really changed. And I realized some of the big mistakes I'd been making.
Three Big Mistakes
Mistake #1: Going for the "Big Drastic Shift" instead of small, consistent improvements.
Mistake #2: Radically upending the way I approached my day, thinking the more "complex" (i.e. complicated!) the system, the more it would help (when the opposite is true).
Mistake #3: Trying to barrel through obstacles by way of sheer willpower and figuring that if it didn't work, I just wasn't "good enough," (instead of finding ways to make change that didn't depend on how much sleep I got the night before or what phase the moon was in).
Like a lot of people, I thought I just had to figure out the big stuff and the little stuff didn't matter.
But it's actually the opposite...
When you figure out the little stuff (minutes), the big stuff (months and years) takes care of itself.
Two Simple Questions
Here's something that you can do right now and get immediate returns from. Just write down your answer for these two questions:
- What's one way you can save (or free up) 1 MINUTE of time today? Just one, little tiny block of 60 seconds.
(It can be silly, realistic, creative, mundane... but it has to be something you could REALLY do to save/free up 60 seconds TODAY.)
- Remember the power of compounding? Now that you know how to save one minute today, how can you free up 2 MINUTES tomorrow?
Commit to putting those time saving ideas to work, and then just like the million dollar example... once you have the right strategy with the "pennies", you just keep moving forward, day by day, and magic happens.
Do that consistently, and soon you'll become a "time millionaire."