I was recently interviewed for Marie Claire for ‘Techniques To Maximise Your Time – And Your Potential’. The article touches a very important point. If you don’t maximise how you use your time, you won’t be able to see what you can do at your full potential. We sometimes think we are not capable of doing something, but the fact is that we haven’t really tried and the reason we are under-achieving is not due to our capabilities but to the way we waste our time. Procrastination and laziness can really hold you back from reaching your potential.
Maximising our time doesn’t mean you should function life a machine for the full working day. Just imagine if you’d work at your full potential for two hours each day. Doesn’t sound like a big ask, does it? Imagine you’d use that two hours a day to work on your dream or to create a side project that could over time become your second income. Imagine if you’d do something that would make a difference for just two hours a day!
Sales and marketing guru Perry Marshall says 20% of what we do yields 80% of the results. This applies to everything in life, not just business. I’ve tried to become very aware of this principle and bake that 20% – ie working at my full potential – into every working day. In essence it means I’m dedicating two uninterrupted hours doing things that are going to change my future outcome.
What should you work on to change your future outcome?
Practise becoming aware of your choices and make sure you work on things that will change your future.
This concept applies whether you enjoy your current career or not, if you are at home with kids or if you have a business. We must ask ourselves every day – are we working on things that are going to make us happier, healthier, and richer in the future.
So what do legos have to do with this?
Quite a bit!
I suppose if you don’t have kids the concept of legos on the floor is unfamiliar, but you can replace it with any everyday chore at home or in the office. Emails. Meetings. Company gossip. Parent-teacher-association meetings. Buying birthday presents to your kids’ friends. Any mundane task.
One of the best techniques to create that two hours is to ignore things that are not critical. I simply ‘walk over legos’. I work from home so there is a great temptation to keep picking up toys and clean the playroom every day. I don’t. I tell my kids to do it, and when it’s not done, it’s not done. I simply don’t care. If I’d keep picking up lego I wouldn’t get my own stuff done. Simple.
Instead I batch.
Once a week there is a massive effort to put the house in order. Pick every single lego. Arrange all toys into their correct place (cars in the car box, characters in the character box and so on). Same goes for all other tasks. I allocate one hour each day to get through my emails and that one hour is not in the morning when I’m most productive. I simply check any urgent messages and leave the rest for the afternoon.
Same goes for meetings. I batch my meetings into Tuesdays and Thursdays when I’m in London. Seldom a meeting is so urgent that I’d change my weekly schedule for that.
I batch my shopping. I batch buying presents for my kids’ friends. I do one massive Amazon order about twice a year and have a box full of appropriate toys and birthday cards. Think about it. How many times have you done a mad rush into the stores in the last minute to get something for a party? How long does it usually take? 1 hour? Multiply that with 30 birthday parties and you’ve lost almost four full working days in a year!! It takes me 3 minutes to get my kids ready for a party.
It was Tim Ferris who introduced me to the concept of batching. If you haven’t read the ’4-hour work week’, I warmly recommend it. (Our review of the book is here.) Tim has also compiled a comprehensive list on batching in his blog.
Batching requires some planning. Here’s to get started:
1) Make a list of all the things you can batch.
I batch the following:
- food shopping, clothes shopping, kids’ presents shopping, kids’ clothes shopping (all online)
- travel planning and booking
- emails, meetings, social media activity, blogging
- banking, paying bills, planning finances
- work, focusing one part of a project at a time
- meeting with friends, phone calls
2) Batch batches together.
I often double batch all home related ‘batches’, such as food shopping (online), buying presents & clothes (online), planning travel (online), planning school activities (online) and do them all in one go.
3) Allocate 30 mins to 1 hour slots for each batch in your calendar.
You should try to minimise the time you allocate to non-critical things in order to maximise the time you can allocate to things that matter.
4) Make sure you complete
You must make sure you finish the whole batch in one go, otherwise you loose time in re-starting and trying to remember where you left it last time. Doing an unfinished job means you will end up doing it again and spending twice as much time on it!
5) Create your own metaphor for batching
Mine is ‘walking over legos’. This helps me to remind myself to focus on what matters. Legos don’t matter.
What’s your metaphor?
Hope this concept helps you to get more done this week – and put more of your potential into good use! Do share your tips on batching, or any other efficiency tips you use to get stuff done.