For the past week, I’ve been exploring some new techniques to rearrange my time so that it is used most effectively. This follows my realization in What’s Most Important? (my previous entry) that time will become my most valuable resource.
I have several goals:
1) Make my time at the office of maximum effectiveness, as I want to be in the office no more than 8-9 hours a day. (No more 12-hour days every day, please.) Putting the same amount of work into an 8-hour day as I had in a 12-hour day seemed hard, but I’ll tell you how I successfully managed to do it.
2) Free up some time to exercise for 1/2 hour or more at least 3 times a week.
3) Get rid of side projects that were taking up my weekends so I could have weekends free to read, brainstorm, hang out with friends, go shopping, and catch up on TV and movies.
I started reading The 4-Hour Workweek, which is an interesting book that I’ve seen mentioned on several blogs lately. I expected a bit of an ego trip from the author, Timothy Ferriss, and there was a bit of ego there, but what I found most interesting were the radical changes he made in his life that simply weren’t obvious to most people (including me). For instance, he sets aside 1 hour every day to read and respond to email, and keeps his email client shut off the rest of the time.
I implemented a variant of this, deciding to keep my email client off during the day except for predefined times that I would have it on. I was moderately successful: I immediately noticed my productivity spiked, but since I didn’t set aside a time to respond to email, some emails did not get responded to. I’m going through this weekend and responding to them, but that is obviously sub-optimal. Next week, I intend to set aside a time every day to respond to emails and ensure that all emails from that day are responded to on the same day, as well as just reading them and sorting my inbox.
The biggest change I made was inspired by Timothy’s book, however, and this improved productivity dramatically: I stopped reading blogs at work. That was a huge difference. I didn’t realize how much time reading blogs took. Timothy points out in his book that “batching” saves an incredible amount of time. That is, instead of taking 5 minutes 20 times a day to read email, you can “batch” and do the same amount of email reading and responding for 1 hour. 5×20=100 minutes; 1 hour=60 minutes.
Reading blogs, for me, turned out to be the same way. I typically now read them at night when I get home — I can read them more effectively once a day instead of 10 times a day. Plus, most blog posts aren’t that time-sensitive. I sorted my RSS reader into two categories: Daily and Occasional. I put all the blogs I wanted to read on a regular basis under Daily. I put everything else (mostly news aggregators like TechCrunch) under Occasional. I stopped reading blogs at all when I was in the office, and also asked my friends to email non-work-related blog entries to me on my Gmail account instead of IM’ing them to me. I read the Occasional blogs only when I have plenty of extra time.
Those 2 changes allowed me to squeeze about 2 extra hours out of my day. I’ll continue to work on other time-saving changes. But 2 hours was enough for me to move on to the next phase of my plan…
Today I signed up for a gym membership at a local gym. I’ve listened to lots of friends who talk about gym memberships and the most common reason the memberships fail is that the people sign up for a gym membership with no set plan of action. I didn’t want me to be a gym membership failure, so by the time I walked in to the local gym today, I knew what I wanted: a reasonable monthly rate; to do Pilates; and to have a personal trainer do several sessions with me to get me up to speed on all the machines and design a workout plan that I could do effectively. I also committed to myself to pay for additional personal training if at any point I felt like I was falling off my goal of exercising at least 3 times a week. Finally, I know that gyms are fairly negotiable up front, but once you sign, you’re in — so I went in knowing I wanted to negotiate.
The gym I went to offered a free month of Pilates training (cool!) and 4 free personal trainer sessions if I signed up for a 1-year commitment and paid $65 monthly and a $75 signup fee. They also offered free daycare, and I didn’t need free daycare, so I negotiated another 4 free personal trainer sessions instead (that’s about $265 according to their list prices, by the way.) Included in the monthly fee is unlimited use of the gym and nice pool, plus free group workouts every day. I looked at the group workout calendar and immediately determined that I would be best served by signing up for the “core strengthening” session twice a week. I figure the 3rd time every week will be what the personal trainer wants me to work on solo; if that doesn’t work, I’ll reassess later.
I have just allocated $855 for fitness over the next year (plus any workshops I decide to do, like continuing Pilates, tennis, or dancing lessons), so I need to be committed to this. I am open and flexible to design a fitness plan that works for me, but I also know I’ve spent some money now, so I must follow through and work diligently on achieving my fitness goals for the next 12 months. I plan to go in at 9 or 9:30AM 3x a week (this means getting up earlier than I am used to.) I’m pretty sure this will work. I’ll keep you all posted. 🙂
I talked about goal #3, eliminating side projects, at length in my previous blog entry, so I don’t have anything new to report there. I’ll keep posting more time-saving tips as I find them.