TSLH #055: 4 Strategies To Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week

TSLH #055: 4 Strategies To Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week

Read time: 4 minutes


There is one thing in our world that makes us all equal, whatever our culture, background, education, or role and title in a company: It is the amount of time we have available every week.
This amount is fixed and it is exactly 168 hours.
Unfortunately, most people, and most leaders I coach feel that they have a problem with time management. It seems that whatever they do, they lack the time for personal hobbies, physical training, wellness, time with family, and they instead spend more time than they would like working.
The lie here is this: It is not a time management problem that people have. It is rather a self-management problem. Indeed, what most people let happen when they have a so-called time management problem is that they let other people take ownership for their agenda.
I’ll now show you 4 strategies that will enable you to regain control and ownership of your agenda. I guarantee this can easily shave 10 hours of your busy weekly working schedule. 10 hours that you can invest in YOU!
You may think that 10 hours out of 168 hours is not that much. In fact, if you extrapolate, that’s about 520 hours per year!!! Yes, by following the 4 strategies below, you could regain 520 hours or about 22 full days per year just for things that matter to you.
Does that sound like something you want to think about?
I developed an approach that I call T.I.M.E. and that stands for:
  • Take control of your calendar
  • Invest in YOU
  • Master saying “no”
  • Establish strong processes
Here are my best tips for you to implement this model and strategies so you can enjoy more time for yourself and for the things that matter to you.
Take control of your calendar. The first thing you need to realize is that in today’s world, most people including you will have lost control of their calendars. You are not setting expectations with other people, you fall prey to group pressure that urges you to accept meetings anytime, etc.
The secret is that you can be as efficient as ever, if not more, by taking back full control of your calendar and decide what you need to do when, rather than having people make these decisions for you.
Here are my top 5 tips to do this:
  • Block time in your calendar for the things that really matter to you and label them in a way that makes it crystal clear for everyone that this is your own time. For instance, if you want to bring your kids to school, put a time block that says “Bring kid to school”. If you want to spend time with your partner and kids, put a time block that says “Family time”. If you want time for yourself to think more strategically, to work on emails, to read and learn, put a block of time that says “Personal time | Strategy” for instance. You get the idea.
  • Communicate clearly to everyone in your organization about your expectations about how your calendar is managed. Make sure everybody understands what is off-limits and where you may compromise.
  • Plan your day and week ahead of time, by looking at what things you want to accomplish and focus on these things. By doing this, you may reduce the amount of firedrills or urgent things that will disrupt any agenda you set for yourself.
  • Triage the meetings you’re invited to: If there is no agenda, ask for one and challenge the organizer as to whether you’re really needed. You may also consider delegating a meeting to someone on your team who can benefit from it (learning, opportunity to grow, visibility given, etc.) You could even consider quitting meetings you’re in where you see time is wasted and you have no value.
  • Think twice about what you want to do during your free time: Do you really want to sit in your couch and watch TV for the next 2 to 3 hours or would you rather invest the time to read or meet friends? Making these decisions can have a decisive impact on the amount of time you regain for yourself.
Invest in YOU. There are really only 2 ways of using the weekly 168 hours you have at disposal. You can burn a lot of energy (mental, body, etc.) working your ass off, attending endless and sometimes useless meetings or working long hours thinking that something good will come out of it (it may be true in the short run, but what about your health in the long run?) Or you can use these hours to recharge your batteries, create stores of energy that you can then deplete when working. Personally, I prefer the latter option.
Here are my top 5 tips to create a huge energy store:
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of sleep you need. Working long hours without getting the needed sleep will not make you more successful in the long run, nor healthy. In fact, this is probably a sure route to a burnout at some point in your career.
  • Create a morning routine that you enjoy and that will increase your energy levels for the day. It could include meditation, physical activity, reading, listening to music, walking, etc. Whatever fuels you in a positive way.
  • Have a healthy diet: The most obvious guidance here is to avoid refined carbs, ultra-processed food, and focus instead on good proteins and fat.
  • Practice positivity. My take is that there is a gift or opportunity to learn for every setback we have in life. Instead of being a victim or lament about a situation at work or in your life, think instead about the gift that is offered to you by the situation: What learning or knowledge do you get from the situation? What can you do differently next time the same situation happens.
  • Never stop learning: Use time to read, talk, watch videos, listen to podcasts, train, because the more you learn, the more you stimulate your brain and you create energy that you can release later at work. Henry Ford famously said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Master saying “no”. You need to understand this: Other people control your time and your agenda because of your inability to say no. This is not only you, this happens to everyone, myself included. It’s very tough to say “no” to someone, especially someone in a position of power like your direct manager or a senior executive in your company.
The thing to understand is that it’s OK to say “no” as long as you do in a professional way. It’s not about saying a blunt “no, I won’t do this!” It’s more about saying “no, I can’t do that for this reason.” Here are my 5 best tips to say “no” in a way that will empower you and give you full control of your calendar:
  • Say “No, I can’t do this now, but I can do this by this time because I will have availability.”
  • Say “No, this is not my priority at the moment; however, if this is important for you, I can do it, but please help me understand what I need to de-prioritize first.”
  • Say “No, I can’t do this; however this person on my team is interested in such topic and would provide them with a good opportunity for growth and learning. Ask them.”
  • Remind people of your commitments in your agenda (e.g. your personal time, your family time, etc.), which will usually make them retreat.
  • Remind people of their own lack of accountability, especially when they are asking for something urgently. A nice sentence to use here (with a word of caution, you might not want to throw this out blunty to your manager!): “Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
Don’t forget that everytime you succeed in saying “no” to something, you actually say “yes” to the things that matter to you the most. It’s a very valuable strategy to use!
Establish strong processes. My strongest belief in having full ownership of my time and agenda is that it all starts with setting strong processes to which I abide. These processes could be models/structures I follow, or specific steps I take every day to protect my time. Here are my 5 best tips to establish strong processes for you:
  • Leverage all the options of your email software: My top 3 advice are to turn off notifications (you’re not annoyed every other minute by a window popping up to tell you that an email has landed in your inbox), to work offline (check your emails only 2 or 3 times a day), and to discard any email where you’re not asked to do something (I move all emails where I am cc’ed in a separate folder and rarely read those).
  • Consider using an organization model like that described by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done”. I addressed some of his tactics in one of my earlier newsletters.
  • Use time management processes that allow you to focus: For instance, the Pomodoro technique, or the “eat the frog” technique. There are tens of techniques you can adopt to use your time in a way that is efficient for you.
  • Disconnect from work once you’re back home. If you work from home, create a discipline around when you are on and when you are off and use your partner as an accountability buddy to keep you off when you said you should be off.
  • Don’t start your day reading the emails you received during the night. This will put you under stress if you see anything that requires immediate attention. Remember that immediate attention does not mean within the next few minutes (unless you’re in a job that deals with life threatening situations of course). Relax and think about the times when we did not have mobile phones. Everything was waiting until you were in the office. It should not be different!
Remember, although you may feel that 168 hours a week is plenty for you to enjoy your free time and hobbies, the reality is that most of us are crouched over our laptops and mobile phones for an insane amount of time. In fact, several surveys show that people can spend up to 70 or 80 hours a week working, simply because they can’t disconnect from work once they leave the office (which today may be a home office, fair enough). Think about this. People spend their evenings reading work emails, answering them at nights, thinking that they might miss something big. Don’t be part of that rat race. Instead, take control of your time!
I wish you a great read. I’ll see you next Saturday!
TL; DR (Too Long, Did not Read)
4 strategies to shave 10 hours off your work week
  1. Take control of your calendar.
  2. Invest in YOU.
  3. Master saying “no”.
  4. Establish strong processes.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

1️⃣ Work 1-1 with me to step up as the authentic leader you aspire to be.

2️⃣ Hire me to help you build a high-performing team.

3️⃣ Start with my affordable digital courses on Mastering Difficult Conversations for Leaders and Goal Setting