We all have the same amount of hours in a week, how come some people can get so much more done with it?

In the recent poll I made on twitter, ~50% of people said that they spend 7-15+ hours watching video content online per week alone! And they responded via twitter, so they probably spend too much time there as well…

At the same time, we are all starved for time, either to build our projects or to spend quality time with our families. In this post I will introduce you to my 3 step process for freeing up time and suggest practical tools you can use.

I’m not a world productivity expert, but I handle a full time job and several side hustles and spend years reading about and experimenting with various productivity tools and techniques.

Step 1: Find where your time is going

To optimize your time you need to understand where it’s going.

Our memory can be very deceiving and make us think that we spend much less time than we actually do. The real data can be quite shocking. I would encourage you to commit to tracking your time for a week or so, to see where it actually goes.

You can go old school and use a journal or a calendar or you can use tracking technology.

Your phone likely tracks app usage already. For your computer it’s probably a bit more complicated, but you could get stats too, for example using a browser extension.

Step 2: Evaluate your habits and alternatives

Once we know where our time goes, we can make decisions about what changes to introduce.

Here is my FAQ framework for evaluating habits, for each habit check for:

  • Fit: How it fits your goals
  • Alternatives: If more effective alternatives exist
  • Quantity: Do you do it too much

We will try to eliminate the habits that don’t fit, swap out the ones that have better alternatives and see if we can limit the quantities of the ones that are useful, but we do too much of (and have diminishing returns).

Fit: is it aligned with your goals?

If your goal is to build a successful startup, then what activities are aligned with this goal and which aren’t?

Example of activities aligned with a goal above:

  • Learning skills necessary for your business, like marketing, new framework, etc
  • Working on your product
  • Getting excited by interacting with people with similar goals on twitter

On the other hand, here are some examples that are not aligned with that goal:

  • Watching a soap opera you don’t even enjoy that much on netflix for 20h per week
  • Consuming a lot of random subreddits

If you want to make time for your meaningful work, these types of activities that don’t fit are the best ones to cut out.

Alternatives: can something else be more effective?

We all have some activities that feel productive and aligned with our goals, but when you look at them closely are not very effective and we could replace them with alternatives.

If your goal is to learn, you could be watching a lot of free youtube tutorials for beginners or you could be taking a udemy course or reading a book on the subject. If the tutorials never get deep enough, then your learning probably isn’t effective. It’s a good candidate to replace with a alternative.

Or maybe your goal is to relax. You could be watching a exciting netflix series or reading a fiction book. Exciting series is entertaining, but not that relaxing and prevents you from falling asleep quickly.

If you decide that the alternative is better, you might want to do a swap and for that you will have to limit or cut out the existing activity.

Quantity: are you doing too much of it and have diminishing returns?

We all get carried away sometimes. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. a 15 minute activity can turn into a 3 hour session and then accumulate 20 hours per week!

Watching 2 netflix episodes per week can be relaxing and great fun, watching 20 episodes is excessive.

Similarly, youtube can be a great place to learn or to get entertained, but it can really suck you in.

For that it’s great to have limits.

And if you can’t stick to your limits maybe you should cut it out entirely. That works better for some people.

Step 3: Use tools to limit the suboptimal habits

Changing habits is simple, but not easy. If you are looking for ideas you can take a look at this article by James Clear or read books like Hooked or Atomic Habits

It might be hard to fully eliminate the triggers of your habits such as stress or boredom, but you can make engaging into those habits much harder.

If possible uninstall distracting apps, this is usually most effective as it makes it much harder to access if the app isn’t readily available.

The problem is that most apps have a mobile version equivalent that you could still access even if you deleted the app.

But there are ways to block that too.

Wellbeing timers

Alternative to uninstalling is to set time limits on the apps after which they become inaccessible. On apple you can set screentime both on mac and iphone, on android there are similar timers.

Browser extensions

If you want to cut out certain websites, there are extensions you can use for that, like blocksite (has limited free version) or freedom.to.

The problem with those extensions is that they inject custom code to track you on all sites.

If you want to have a more moderate approach and like the timer functionality you can use Limit by freedom, which is a free extension that also works on all sites you visit.

Limit extension works very similar to the wellbeing timers, it’s very simple. The problem is that since it’s pretty basic, it’s also very easy to disable and well, then it doesn’t really limit you.

If you spend too much time watching video you might instead consider to use the free watch limits chrome extension.

It’s similar to Limit by Freedom, but watch limits was specifically designed to solve the problem of watching too much video. It also doesn’t run on all the sites (only video related ones) and you can make it harder for you to make overrides to make yourself accountable.

Time savings will compound over time

Whatever changes you will make, remember that things add up quickly and compounding can help you take off. Even an hour a day can make a huge difference and make or break your goals, so good luck!

Please share this article if you found it helpful!