Frustrating isn’t it?
Having no time to enjoy the things that make your life worth living. And worse, having your time taken away by things that drain your energy until you’ve nothing left but tiredness and fatigue.
Your time is among your most precious of human resources.
Yet in this day and age, you never seem to have enough of it. You try all sorts of different approaches and listen to all sorts of advice, but still find yourself rushing frantically to do everything you want to. That’s no way to live a life.
The reality is, there are very few quick-fix solutions that can truly help you bring about more time.
More often than not, freeing up time requires you to make significant changes in your routine, habits and lifestyle most of which can feel uncomfortable (at least at first). It may even require you to make sacrifices along the way.
But if you’re resourceful and willing to make changes in your life, it’s more than possible for you can create more time so you can spend it on the things that make you happy.
Let’s talk about how you can do that.
1. When your time is taken by exhaustingly long working hours
We live in a society that praises the workaholic and resents those who simply want to enjoy their leisure time.
We also live in a consumer culture where mass media spreads the insidious message that the more money you spend, the happier your life will be.
Even if this were to be true (which you know it isn’t), in order to spend more money, you have to earn more in the first place. And more often than not, this means working longer hours and sacrificing more of your precious time.
For those who consider money to be more valuable than time, this is probably fine.
But what if you’re the opposite?
What if you value the time you have more than the money you earn? And what if there’s more to your life than working long hours in a job you hate just so you can buy things you don’t need?
If large portions of your time are currently occupied by long working hours, and you’d do anything to take that time back, then the best thing you can do is to change this is to reduce your consumption.
By spending less, you reduce the need to earn more. And by reducing the need to earn more, you reduce the need to work such long hours.
Take a close careful look at your bank statements. Are there any expenses that you feel could be reduced or eliminated?
While some expenses may be relatively easy to cut, you’ll likely find some to be a little more difficult because they bring about a certain feeling of comfort. This includes clothes shopping, entertainment, sugary and fatty foods and many other things bring about comfort and pleasure.
As mentioned earlier, if you want more time, you need to be willing to make sacrifices.
Think deeply about what you truly want to do with your time. Is doing what you love more important to you than comfort and pleasure? And do you feel your heart ache every time you miss the opportunity to do what you love?
If your answer was yes to both of those questions, then you should have an easier time reducing your consumption.
Start small. Begin with the things you can easily eliminate then gradually move on to the things that are a little more uncomfortable.
Years ago, I remember so many times when managers would ask me to work overtime. Knowing that I didn’t want to work, they would try to persuade me by saying “think of the money.”
My reply was usually “I don’t need it.”
At the time, I was working just twenty five hours per week. I had no car payments, no tv subscription, no internet connection (other than from my phone) and I ate out no more than once per week.
I spent my money carefully making sure to keep a small amount of savings for emergencies or events that I wanted to experience. But as a whole, I greatly enjoyed the amount of free time that came with my lifestyle.
Of course, the living wage will differ depending on what country and economy you live in. However, the rule remains the same; to earn more, you have to work more.
While I can’t give you specifics on how to negotiate lower working hours with your employer, I can tell you that by reducing your consumption you will have won half of the battle.
If you’d like to reduce your spendings so you can work less, here are some ideas to help get you started:
• Negotiate cheaper gas, electric and water bills
• Get rid of tv subscription services such as Sky and Netflix
• Reduce (or eliminate) money spent on shopping for pleasure and comfort
• Pay off debt so you can save more
• When possible, walk instead of driving
• Cook meals at home instead of eating out
2. When your time is taken by painfully long commutes
In 2015, the average american spent 26 minutes commuting to work and another 26 minutes commuting home. That’s over 4 hours of travel time every week.
Although owning your own car is very much the norm in most of the developed world, one of the biggest disadvantages of driving is that it requires your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road at all times.
This makes your travel time extremely unproductive.
Long commutes can be a tricky problem to overcome when you want to have more free time. I certainly wouldn’t recommend quitting the only job that’s earning you money.
There are however, two possible ways I know to deal with this.
1. Use public transport
While public transport may not necessarily get you to your destination any quicker, what it does do is free up your eyes, hands and attention so you can use your travel time more productively and more meaningfully.
Unlike when driving, which is extremely demanding of your time and attention, when riding buses or trains you’re free to read books, check your emails or even just use the time rest both physically and mentally.
Do a search for buses routes and trains in your area. Would it be possible to reach your longest commutes by public transport instead of driving? If so, why not give it a try and see how much time you can save by being productively on the move? (It might also save you money).
Of course, depending on where you live, public transport might not be as accessible. For example, many areas throughout the U.S are suburban making it very difficult to travel without owning a car.
This is usually down to an arguably outdated model of city planning where houses are isolated and built miles away from the city itself. These areas tend to have very limited access to public transport and are typically too far away from facilities to walk.
If this describes your situation, then there is something else you can consider…
In my early twenties, I was working part-time while living with my parents. One of the biggest challenges that I faced was that my home was located quite far away from my job.
And because all of my shifts finished at 10pm, this made traveling to work complicated and time consuming. Getting home was a struggle since there was no public transport (other than expensive taxis) and it took me about an hour and a half to walk home on the few occasions where I did (bare in mind I walk faster than average).
And since I didn’t own a car, my options for transport were limited to cycling.
I’d ride my bike for roughly one hour every day that I was working. While I coped pretty fine with this, eventually it began to drain my time and energy.
Soon after, my hours increased from part-time to full-time. However, instead of using my new increased salary to buy a car (like just about everybody told me to do), I moved out of my parents house. And chose my location very carefully.
I moved into a small single bedroom flat that was within walking distance of my job. This allowed me to reduce my commute time from one hour, down to less than twenty minutes per shift.
My new home was also within walking distance of almost everywhere I needed to be (which allowed me to free up even more time) and had access to bus routes and a train station which made traveling to other towns easy even though I didn’t own a car (I still don’t by the way).
Does this sound like a drastic measure to take? Maybe to some, but to me it was the best solution and I don’t regret my decision.
In the end, it comes down to how much you value your time, how much pain you feel from not having enough to do what you want to do and how far you are willing go to change that.
3. When your time is taken by the noise of the world
The world has become a noisy place full of stimuli and distractions. Some even believe the ability to focus in a world of distractions to be one of the most important (yet rare) skills of our time.
Distractions can come in many forms such as social media notifications, emails, unexpected phone calls, interruptions from other people and anything else that pulls your attention away from what you’re trying to devote your time to.
At first glance, most of these seem quick and harmless. But when you face distractions in great numbers throughout the day, the impact they can have on your time can be devastating.
During work, being distracted usually results in tasks taking longer to complete than necessary. At home, distractions can make it difficult to savour the things that bring you joy.
However, in both your work and personal life, the end result of being distracted is almost always wasted time.
If distractions are a big problem in your life right now, here are two things things you can do.
1. Commit to focusing
Make a conscious effort to reduce distractions.
The amount of time this can save you when you’re able to get things done much quicker cannot be overstated (not to mention the amount of stress it can relieve you from).
Here are some things you can do to get started:
• Silence your phone and leave it in another room when you need to concentrate
• If your phone has a Do Not Disturb function, schedule it to activate automatically during hours which you don’t want to be contacted
• Adjust the notification settings for the apps you use so that you receive less distractions throughout the day (or better yet, turn them off altogether and check your email and social media periodically)
• Hide any physical items that might be visually distracting
• Never have the television (or any other background sounds) on when doing things that demand your concentration
2. Wake up while the world sleeps
There are very few times in the day that are quieter and more peaceful than early in the morning.
Even if you only wake an hour earlier than usual, that’s potentially seven hours per week you’re claiming back that you can devote to something more meaningful.
I personally like to wake up between 5AM and 6AM.
A big part of what makes this possible (besides my motivation) is that I take action to ensure I get decent quality sleep.
Here are some things you can do to improve your sleep to make waking up early easier;
• No caffeine eight hours before bed – While caffeine may help your brain work more efficiently, it does little to help you relax and wind down.
• No liquids two hours before bed – Even after falling asleep, it can take over an hour for your body to actually enter a state of genuine rest. Make sure this process is not disturbed because you need to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
• No food two hours before bed – Digestion is one of the most energy demanding activities of the body. If you go to sleep after eating a large meal, you may think you’re resting but in reality, your body is working overtime throughout the night digesting the calories you’ve consumed. This usually results in you feeling exhausted when you wake up the next morning.
• No screens at least one hour before bed – Prolonged exposure to screens late in the evening can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. If you need entertainment before bed, try listening to something instead.
• Have a wind down ritual – Having a wind down ritual helps your mind and body form a healthy habit of rest. If you do only one thing to improve your sleep, make it this.
One last thing, is that I wouldn’t recommend just setting your alarm an hour earlier than usually and hoping faithfully that you’ll be able to get up.
Chances are, you’ll reach over and just hit the snooze button before dozing off again.
Your body has rhythms, routines and habits that take time to alter. On the other hand, by gradually bringing this change into your life, you can greatly increase the chances that you’ll follow through.
To begin with, set your alarm just fifteen minutes earlier. Since getting up fifteen minutes earlier is much easier than one or two hours earlier, you should be able to accomplish this fairly easily. At the same time, make sure you also go to bed fifteen minutes earlier to compensate for any loss of sleep.
Do this for at least a week. Once waking up at the new time becomes comfortable, set your alarm another fifteen minutes earlier and repeat the process until you feel happy with the time you’ve taken back.
Once this becomes a habit, you’ll find many benefits from waking up early. You can think clearly and work with great efficiency and you’ll never have to rush through your mornings again!
4. When your time is taken by activities that don’t make you happy
There will always be an infinity of different paths to take in life with so many different things to devote your time to. With this, comes the sad reality that you likely won’t ever have enough time to do absolutely everything.
This makes learning to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t make you happy a crucial skill to learn if you want to spend more time on the things you enjoy. In fact, every time you say ‘yes’ to something, you are actually saying ‘no’ to an infinity of possible ways to spend your time.
If your time is currently devoted to activities that don’t make you happy, then the only way to take back that time is to politely say ‘no’.
Your time is limited and should be focused on the things that make you happy. Recognise what makes you want to get out of bed early in the morning and what drains your energy making you want to sleep in.
Likewise, recognise when large portions of your time are currently being devoted to activities that give you momentary pleasure but very little long term happiness. So many people utter the words; “I don’t have enough time” while the average american watches five hours of television per day.
If you’re not sure how to identify what makes you truly happy, the quickest way I know is to imagine your future-self, ten years from now and how you would feel having not done the things you love.
How much pain would you feel from your inactions?
How much regret would you have to carry on your shoulders for the rest of your life?
And were all of the other things that got in the way truly worth it, even if they felt good at the time?
The pain you feel from missing out on pleasurable activities is usually miniscule. But the pain that comes from missing out on something meaningful, can stay with you for a very long time.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid all instant gratification. We all need rest, relaxation and comfort from time to time.
Recognise what’s pleasurable and what’s meaningful. Give what is meaningful priority of your time and treat what is pleasurable as a reward for your efforts.
If you feel that your time is currently taken by things that aren’t making you happy, here are some suggestions for how you change that;
• Cancel memberships with clubs that no longer bring you joy to be a part of.
• Politely turn down invitations to socialise with people who you don’t enjoy being around. Use that time for yourself or be with the people you want to bring value to.
• Spend less time on pleasurable activities and be willing to endure the discomforts that are often attached to the things you love.
• Consider if the things you’ve been dedicating your time to are making you happy or if they’re draining you. Even if you’ve dedicated most of your life to this thing, if it’s bringing you nothing but pain and no joy, it might be time to seek something new. And remember, it’s never too late to do this!
No amount of money can truly buy you more time. What you do with your twenty-four hours is a choice only you can make.
Will you choose working long hours in a job you hate, being stuck in traffic, chasing distractions and all the things that make you feel dead inside?
Or will you choose to do the things that bring you so much joy and fulfilment, that you can’t help but smile?
Craig Link is a minimalist and technology enthusiast with a passion for finding and sharing practical ways to live a simpler life with more time, money and energy for what’s most important to you.