The Big Idea
Instead of 24 hours a day, look at life as having 168 hours a week.
Questions I Answer
- Does productivity affect mindfulness?
- How can I find more time in my day?
- What steps can I take to be less busy?
- How can I be more productive with my time?
Actions to Take
- Try using the Moment app on your phone (and use with the family if needed!)
Key Topics in the Show
Understand banking your time is just as important as saving money.
Learn the negative effects of always thinking you’re too busy.
Discover the banking time formula you need to use & evaluate.
Implement the 5 strategies to bank up time that you can use today.
Resources and Links
- Tips on How to Find More Time in Your Day:
- Measure & reflect: Think about where you spend the majority of your time in your daily life. Ask yourself these questions: What are the activities that you do that get you the most results? The results that make you happy. What helps you advance towards your goals? Where can you cut your time waste? Determine what the most important things are and focus on those.
- Automate your processes: For tasks that you do every day, week, or even month, set up automations. For example, we have a four-week automation calendar setup. Each task is assigned to the person who needs to complete it and it will repeat in 4 weeks. This lets you not have to think about it until it’s nearing time to complete again.
- Reduce time spent at your workplace: Reduce meeting & meeting times. Think about asking for an agenda when you’re invited to a meeting, to see if you can determine whether it’s really essential for you to attend. That way, the meeting leader has to clarify what they called the meeting about in the first place. Even if you’re not the team leader, try to streamline your meeting so you can bank up your time.
- Extending childcare time: Even adding on one extra hour can be helpful to you. Use that time purposely for yourself. Get smart about your kids activity time. For example, if your kid is always at soccer practice during the same time each week, maybe you could use that time between dropping them off and picking them up to do something for yourself. See if you can build a little bit of time in there for you to get a few things done.
- Reduce technology use: Turn off your notifications. These distract from the tasks, and it cost you time to get back to work. You may be able to find huge pockets of time in the amount you spend on your phone. Most people are very distracted by their phone – and it takes real conscious work – not to get stuck down that rabbit hole.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 22. Now, if you’ve been listening to season 2, you know that all of these episodes have been about editing and streamlining. So, we’re trying to figure out the clutter and the noise in our life, and get rid of some of that, so that we have a little more breathing room in our day. Right? All of that is leading up to where we are now. Today, we are going to be talking about banking your time. Just like you plan your saving and your spending of your money, I believe that you need to plan your saving and your spending of time.
I want you to think of it like this. Think about how stressful life can be when you’re living paycheck to paycheck and what a relief payday can be during those times. You feel like you’re stretched really thin, you don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills, it’s really, really stressful. Think about how stressful it is though, to live task to task. Back to back. And what a relief it is to have some downtime. I believe you should treat your time just like you do your bank account because time is a commodity. It’s one that is often undervalued.
I believe time is a commodity because it’s finite. Too often, we’re really quick to say, “Sure, I can do that for you.” Or, “I can take on that project.”, without really thinking about the time we have to spend on those things. Even when we don’t want to do them. So, I want you to start looking at investing time just like you look at investing money, and ask yourself, “Where’s the return on investment?” Let me tell you what I mean by that. We would not invest our money in something that didn’t have some sort of reward but, we often don’t think twice about spending our hard earned time. The things that we spend time on can really pay off in terms of benefiting our lives, both now and in the future. Some things though, that we’re investing our time on, and these are the things that don’t really fit our personal goals or priorities. Those don’t lead to any benefits at all so, I want you to think about the return of investment. When you’re giving your commodity of time, you want there to be a benefit in there for you.
Generally, the value and return you’re looking for, is better health, better relationships, maybe reaching your goals, which means realizing your life purpose. So, this is really all about effectiveness rather than efficiency. For example, instead of managing time, where you get two seconds more efficient at every single email, I want you to step back and I want you to figure out, “Are these emails you’re spending this time on, actually significant in the first place?” If not, maybe they need to be put aside and not invest your time in them. Give yourself permission to focus on what’s really important.
You’re doing work in a way that you have breathing room, so you’re not worried about every second being absolutely optimized. That’s what banking your time is. What I hear from a lot of people, and a lot of my listeners is, “I’m so busy. I have such a hard time finding the space in my day and finding the time.” So, why is it that we’re so busy? What’s interesting is, when researchers research people they always say they’re, “Too busy”, about every single part of their lives. Now, being this busy isn’t really healthy. Being bust actually shrinks your brain. Isn’t that crazy? Neuroscientists have found that the prefrontal cortex actually shrinks when a person feels pressed for time, rushed or caught up in the overwhelm.
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We feel like we are busier now than we’ve ever been in the history of mankind. Globally, we’re actually not more busy than we used to be. We really have more leisure time than ever before. The average hours on the job around the world, have actually been holding steady or going down in the last 40 years. Even though we have more leisure time than we’ve ever had in the history of man, we’re overwhelmed because our time is so fragmented.
Remember switch tasking, that we talked about back in episode 9? That stopping and starting throughout your day, it makes your day feel longer and like you’re using up all of your time. Having plenty of time while getting things done gives you more of a sense of control, which then makes you happy and decreases your stress. So, let’s talk about the time baking formula. Look at your external expectations. So, these are the expectations that outsiders, or people outside of you have. Think about the time that those things take. These are things you’ve told other people that you’ll do. Then I want you to add in the time of your own internal expectations. These include commitments you’ve made to yourself and the goals that you’ve set. Then think about the hours you have available.
Here’s where I want you to make a big mind shift. We tend to think of our time as being 24 hours. Right? We have 24 hours every day but, we need to shift the way we’re looking at our time and start thinking about it. Instead of 24 hours in a day, I want you to think about it in terms of having 168 hours in a week. Now, Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It, and next week’s guest on Productivity Paradox, she likes to call it, “The 24 hour trap”.
We think that balance requires fitting all of our priorities into that 24 hour container. Particularly, Mondays through Thursdays. You already know how I feel about balance. We talk about that a lot on this show. It’s really all about harmony. Even though the 24 hours in your day may not feel harmonious, the 168 hour week as a whole really can be. So, it really is a mind shift. Let me give you an example. This is an example from the book, I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam of Caroline Polk, who’s the Chief Operating Officer for The Blaze. She was having trouble figuring out her schedule because 5 to 6 p.m. was a busy time in the office. She felt this pull to be at home with her kids. She didn’t know what to do. She wanted to leave early to spend time with her kids, and she couldn’t because work was so jam-packed during that time. So, she had to have a mind shift. She had to let go of the script in her head, that a good mom has to be home for dinner with her kids, and that good mom has to put them to bed every single night.
Instead, she changed the way she thought about that and she started her work day later, so she could spend the mornings with her kids eating breakfast. Her husband took the evening shift of feeding the kids and putting them to bed, and on Fridays, she found she could work from home and work a shorter day. Instead of telling herself that this is the way it needed to work, that she should be home at 5 o’clock to be at home having dinner with her family, she change that are round for what actually worked in her life. Her 168 hours, she was still spending that really important time with her family, it just didn’t fit the mold of what she told yourself previously, that it had to be during dinner time.
In general, Vanderkam found that other participants in her time tracking project would have more family time overall, by working past their kid’s bedtimes a couple of nights a week. On those other nights, they would come home to be there for bedtime. The other option was to come home every night at 7:30 so, it’s this ebb and flow where you make the most out of your time. Not every night needs to look the same. Thinking you should do the bedtime ritual nightly falls into that 24-hour
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trap, and it limits your option because then, when you don’t do the bedtime ritual that night, you feel bad. You feel guilty. If you start looking at the 168 hour option, it gets you the long work hours and the time with the things that matter most to you. When we think of it in terms of having these 168 hours, with eight hours of sleep at night, which we talked about back in our last episode, where we talked about sleep, that leaves you with 112 waking hours for the week.
That sounds like a lot more than you thought. Am I right? If I tell you, you don’t have 24 hours in the day, you have 112 hours each week. That feels like we have so much more room to breathe. Am I right? Now take that 112 hours, and I want you to subtract the amount of time you need for self-care. That’s things like exercising, and eating, things like that. Then, you want to make sure that those external and internal expectations are not exceeding the time left in your day. They should not take over the time that you’ve allotted for self-care. You want to be able to keep your commitments, and not compromise. Don’t forget related time cost or maintenance activities. Things like commuting, extra work, helping with homework, going to meetings, answering emails, and things like that. Once you have those numbers, you can start to make cuts, so you’re not constantly racking up a time debt and feeling, well, guilty.
You’re no longer setting yourself up to fail. When you look at your time, this 112 hours, and you start taking out those self care commitments to yourself, those external and internal commitments, and you start figuring out the time that you really have, you’re going find that you’re going to be able to bank up a lot more time than you actually thought you had. Then, when you’re planning future commitments, think about it like, “Saving to buy a car”. You want to buy a car and you know how much it’s going to cost, so what do you do? Do you just go buy the car or do you start saving up? Do you start putting away money each week in each month until that date where you have the money you want to buy your car? It’s the same thing with your time.
When you’re thinking about taking on a new commitment, think roughly about how much time it’s going to take. Pull up your calendar or your planner, and see if the time is actually available for this. If there’s not room, then either you make two choices. You can either not make the commitment, or you’ll need to get rid of something that’s a lower priority. Just like when you’re saving for a car, you might have to stop spending money on something else that’s a lower priority, because you’re trying to save. You want to bank up your time. Does that make sense? So let’s talk tactics, and let’s try to find some pockets of time into your packed schedule that you really can bank up. How we going to do that? Well, I have 5 ideas for you so, let’s go through those really quickly because I’d like you to start thinking about banking up your time starting today. The first one is to measure and reflect. Start off by thinking about where you spend the majority of your time in your daily life. What are the activities that you do that get you the most results? The results that make you happy. What helps you advance towards your goals? Where can you cut your time waste? When you’re measuring and reflecting, you can realize that you can’t do it all. Everything is not equally important. Determine what the most important things are and focus on those.
What are the things that you and only you can do well? If someone else can do the other things, you might want to try delegating or outsourcing them. We talked a lot about this concept back in episode seven and eight. So, if you haven’t listened to those, or if it’s been a while since you heard those, I would encourage you to go back and give those a quick listen. Tip number two is to automate your processes. If there
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are tasks that you do every day, or every week, or even every month, then try setting up automations to make them get done without having to think about them. For example, we have a four-week automation calendar setup. Each task is assigned to the person who needs to complete it. The tasks repeat every 4 weeks, so if it’s a task that gets done weekly, it repeats every single week. If it’s done once a month, it repeats once every 4 weeks. When it’s done, we check it off and we don’t think about it again, until it pops up on the task list again.
What’s nice about this system, is because we’re not thinking about it all the time. “When do I need to do this task?” Or, “Oh no. This task is coming.” Because we’re not thinking about it all the time, it takes far less time, and that’s time you’re able to bank up. So, that’s tip number two. The third thing you can do is try to reduce the amount of time you’re spending at your workplace, on things that are time wasters, and the biggest one in my opinion, is meetings. So, try reducing your meeting times or if possible, stop going to unproductive meetings all together. Now, I know you might laugh and think, “That’s not possible.”, but have you tried? Have you tried saying, “No” to some of these meetings? Think about asking for an agenda when you’re invited to a meeting, to see if you can determine whether it’s really essential for you to attend. That way, the meeting leader has to clarify what they called the meeting about in the first place, and then you have concrete reasons to say why, maybe you can’t attend the meeting, because you don’t have relevant knowledge or expertise to contribute, or you won’t be affected by the outcome of the meeting.
You can try that tactic. Try helping set expectations for how long the meeting will be. Even if you’re not in charge of a meeting, you can help keep it on track by focusing on the objectives. You can ask, “Can we take a minute to get clear on the purpose or the topics of this meeting?”, and then you can even try using a timer that’s visible, so everyone at the meeting is held accountable to keep you on track. It’s really these little things that you can start implementing, even if you’re not the team leader, to try to streamline your meeting so you can bank up your time. The fourth thing you can do, is if you’re using childcare, you can consider extending your child care time just a little bit. Even taking on an extra hour, and then use that time purposely for yourself. Get smart about your kids activity time. For example, if your kid is always at soccer practice during the same time each week, maybe you could use that time between dropping them off and picking them up, to do something for yourself. One of the moms in Vanderkam’s book used soccer time, to go grab sushi and wine with another on of the soccer moms. So, start thinking creatively about what you can do when you’re taxiing kids around, or if you have childcare. Start seeing if you can build a little bit of time in there for you to get a few things done. The fifth one, I think is the biggest one. Our biggest shiny object offender, technology. So, whether you think you do or not, you probably have a little more leisure time at work than you really think, but you’re maybe spending it on things like BuzzFeed, or Pinterest, or Huffington Post. Try consider using that time a little more purposely instead.
Turn off your notifications. We’ve talked about this one a lot. These distract from the task at hand, and it cost you time to get back to work. You may be able to find huge pockets of time and the amount you spend on your phone. Most people are very distracted by their phone, and it takes real conscious work, not to get stuck down that rabbit hole. Am I right? I know it’s something that I’ve struggled with too. Consider downloading an app, that tracks your phone usage. Now, I use Moment, which has a free and a paid plan, and throughout the day the Moment app runs in the
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background. What it does, is it totals up the amount of time you’re spending on your phone, and it records when you pick up your phone so you have the timeline of each day. It shows you what time you picked up your phone, and how long you used it each and every time. You’re going to be really surprised at how often your picking up your phone. Trust me on this. What you can do, is you can set a limit for yourself. The app will tell you when you’re close to your limit or when you’ve gone over your limit. A notification will pop up every few seconds, telling you to put your phone away for the day.
One of the things that I love, is you could even set up family phone use tracking, so you’ll be able to see when your family is using their phones, and if they happen to quit the app to stop tracking, you can even restart the app from your own phone. This is a big one for me, as I’m trying to teach my son Jack, good technology habits. While I have him at home, he’s 14, he’s really, really big on using his phone a lot, and I’m really trying to train him to limit that time. One of my favorite things about Moment, is the stats. These begin to show up after a few weeks of using the app. One of the best stats is at the very bottom, and this is where it tells you how many days you used Moment, and how much you’ve reduced your phone time. For example, I’ve used moment for 79 days. In that time I’ve reduce my daily use by 9 minutes. Saving me six hours total, since I installed it. Six hours, just by eliminating 9 minutes a day. That time adds up.
This is time where I was just finding that I was picking up my phone, giving it a quick check, maybe checking out an email really quickly, checking in on social media. When I’m not doing that, I’m spending my time on something else in my day. Six hours worth of my time, and that’s pretty significant. So, that’s five tactics you can use to start implementing, banking your time today. If you have any questions about it, I’m going to have a lot of information in our show notes, which you can access at inkwellpress.com/podcast. Just go to episode 22, and I’ll have information about the Moment app, I’ll have information about the five tactics we just talked about, and how to figure out how to bank up your time. You’ll find that when you’re focused on the essentials, you’re going to be getting your best work done in far less time, because of that focus. This is where you begin to bank up your time.
Now next week, I’m really really excited because we do have Laura Vanderkam joining me as a guest. She is the author of, I Know How She Does It. We talked about her information a little bit today and I am absolutely thrilled to have her on next week, so make sure you tune in. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how you’re banking up your time. Feel free to shoot me an email or you can connect with me on social media, under the username @inkwellpress. I’m on Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, and I’d love to see you there. Until next week, happy planning.
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton has been called the best female productivity keynote speaker by audience members time and time again. She speaks on stages, is a best selling author and podcaster who focuses on time management, goal setting, finding purpose and helping employees find meaning in their work.