This is my favourite – when people ask me, ‘How do you have so much time and how do you manage time to write blogs, books, train for 18 days on average, research with impossible challenges, contribute code to the open world, run two successful businesses, continuously mentor hundreds of professionals and yet have all the fun in the world?’
I cheat; I buy more Time, that’s how! And I am going to share with you some ways of doing it:
Five ways to buy time
Yes, there are ways to buy more time. And here are some of the ways:
1. Do things faster
You can buy time with speed!
A) Mental training
I know this sounds obvious. But if you will, just take a moment to consider what you have done today. Did you really do it with full focus? The difference between doing something with full focus and doing something with half-baked focus is the time it takes to complete.
Try this: Turn on a random TV channel with loud volume and read 10 pages of a book. Clock it. Repeat the same in a quiet place with full focus. And clock it. The greatest distraction for most people is not the TV on the outside but the TV on the inside, that is, playing back all the problems, what the boss said, what your friends are doing, and so on. If you can learn to pause this TV on demand (pictures, sounds, and self-talk), I believe your productivity will double, and you will have at least twice as much time as possible in your life.
Consider a young girl trying to fill a water bottle using a tiny irregular shaped tumbler. There are couple of challenges to this than the obvious increased number of repetitions to complete the process: The water may spill and there is extra time spent on cleaning the spilt water on the floor, and so on … I know it sounds silly; no one does that! Or maybe not! If you look around, you will find so many people using incompatible tools for the task at hand. And you may recognize that immediately, while they may not. Now, think about this; this may be true to you as well. Maybe the tool you are using to do the tasks that are more time-consuming for you looks silly to someone else. Remember, if all that you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail. And you may complain about the time it takes to hammer a screw, when you shouldn’t be in the first place.
C) Environment and sustained focus
Every time, you shift your attention and get back to the task at hand, there is always an overhead. For most people, it is measured that to get back into the peak state after an interruption it takes about 15 minutes. So, let us say you are doing a work for 60 minutes. According to the flow theory, you are at your peak state for 45 minutes if you have zero interruption. What happens if you have 2 interruptions for 2 seconds each? You are at your peak only 14 minutes (Subtract 15 + 15 minutes to get into peak again). So, it appears like you lost only a couple of seconds, but you have actually managed to burn 31 minutes out of 60 minutes into thin air. So, what are you choices? Either learn to fix the environment so that there are no interruptions or learn and practice to get back into flow clean and quick. If you are a New Code NLP–trained practitioner, I highly recommend the Alphabet Game for this.
2. Be ready anywhere – Ubiquity
Just take a log of your week. How many times have you felt bored and remained idle? Were you waiting for someone, something and did nothing during that moment? If time is so precious to you, how come you exchange time for ‘idleness’, ‘boredom’? Most people do so because they are not equipped and prepared to convert any moment into an opportunity to get things done. Here are some of my techniques to keep myself productively engaged even when it appears like I am stuck in the middle of nowhere.
I am always prepared for the work I want to accomplish. For example, if I have to edit a book I am writing, I ensure that I carry a copy of that book in my bag all the time. This helps me to quickly review it when I am waiting for someone. In fact, I carry with me all the things I want to learn as small snippets, either on phone or hand written texts, which I can read and utilize even when I have 1 minute. I remember when I was in high school, I won a competition called the SALT at the district level. It had to do with memorizing scriptures. And I topped my school. How much time did I spend on it? A lot. How much time did I take away from other activities to spend on it – ZERO! How is that possible? Well, it is because I was well prepared to utilize every moment of boring time. When the teacher is late to the class for 2 minutes, I am reading it. When my mother is on her way to pick me up, I am reading it. When my friends tell me, ‘Antano wait for us here, we will be back in 5 minutes’, I am reading it. So, technically, I traded time spent on ‘waiting’ and ‘boredom’ to top an examination. That’s how I learnt C programming. I was helping my parents shift the house from Adyar to Perungudi, and I was in the 6th grade. So, I was an additional worker, not a primary one. There were moments when I had to wait for others. What did I do? I had a notebook which had all the exercises of the chapter I was reading from the book called Let us C by Yashwant Kanetkar. And when I waited for people to come and go, I would solve those exercises, again trading in ‘boredom’ and ‘waiting’ to pick a new skill. It could have easily been that I wanted to do something else, I was bored, and I didn’t have an interesting set of exercises to solve. But that wasn’t the case; I was prepared. The challenge is being prepared to do interesting things in situations that you cannot anticipate ahead of time. It is a skill, one that is worth mastering.
Once I had to wait endlessly in a place for a couple of hours. And the only thing I had with me was my mobile and internet access. Boom, I finished 7 out of 13 things to do. How was that possible? It was possible because all the data I required to do my work were available to me in my mobile. This sounds simple but it isn’t. The challenge for most people when using the cloud is that the data is not current! They have a version in the cloud alright. But it isn’t the most updated or relevant version. So, if they complete some work, they have to go back again and update it in another document, sheet, or whatever offline version is available. This has to do primarily with a way of life, where everything you need is current and available on the cloud in your fingertips anytime. A lot of people go to elaborate and tedious ways to set it up. I believe technology has to be non-intrusive, as in it shouldn’t take you more time or an extra step to make it synced in the cloud and current. If you can achieve this, you literally will feel like you have 4 times more time because now you can do anything from anywhere and that freedom is just priceless.
Consider a contrast to this. You have decided to respond to 10 emails. And you have this mobile version of email that is not great with search. And you log in and see 2000 emails and 227 unread emails. You are going to spend more time searching for these emails than responding to them. In the situation I mentioned above, one of the tasks I had to do was respond to 6 emails. And I did them in 15 minutes. I logged in. My email was synced with 30 emails in my inbox. And 11 of them were starred. I sorted by the star, picked the 6 out of the 11 that I want to respond. I spent less than 4 seconds in selecting each of the email I wanted to respond. And that night when I went back home, I didn’t have to waste time to check again to see if I have responded to all the emails I intended to respond to that day. You will not have that luxury if you didn’t have a neat list and instead had to go over hundreds of emails.
The other extreme of this is when people make lists for everything and then they need a list of all these lists, and the lists will be all over the place. My preference is this – the list must be in the same place and in the same context where you are going to do any actionable item (in this case – send an email). What I mean by this is that, if you have a list of emails to send in a paper or the IPhone, it is not the same as having a list of emails within your mailbox. Both are lists. But in one the list is separated from the context or area where the action happens.
You don’t have to be an engineer or a programmer, but basic curiosity for tools available and using them can buy you so much time. However, if you fashion yourself saying, ‘I am not a tech person’, you are at a loss, because this is 2015 and technology-enabled means you are more productive.
3. Do things smarter
As a tech consultant, I was famous for DELETING code. I would reduce 2000-line stuff to 200 lines of code, and things will magically work. What if you can delete all the nonsense that takes away your time? Here are few ways to do that:
A) Begin at the end
This only means that whatever you are planning to accomplish starts at the last step, not at the first. This will buy you a lot of time as you will trade in time with useless work. For example: Consider this example. You prepare this fantastic product, spend months in production, and you go and show it to your potential customer and what they want is different. What if you did this first instead of doing it after production?
B) Planning for more
Just before you rush into your work, what if 10 minutes can buy you time? What I noticed is that sometimes I can do more in less time with planning. But what I have found fascinating is that most times, you can do more in the same time. What I mean is this – Let’s say you have 6 things to do. It may take you 8 hours to do them. But when you plan, knowing you have 10 things to do, you may be surprised that you can actually do them all in the same 8 hours, which means you have just purchased time for 4 more things. At least to me this sounds very strange. If I try to do the 6 things in less than 8 hours, it doesn’t happen, but if I fit in more in the same time available, it somehow happens.
Classic example: If you only have to take care of your house, taking care of your house will be a full-time job. Now, you have the same amount of work but you have to also go to office; then somehow you have time for office as well as the same full-time responsibilities at home. Even better, you have a child and you have to go to office and you have the same full-time responsibilities at home. Still you manage to do all of it in the same time. But try this. If you don’t have to go to office for a month and if you don’t have a child, try to be free for 2–4 hours a day. My bet, you won’t be. Somehow, the work at home will take your whole day.
So, one way to buy time is to plan for more. And 10 minutes in the morning everyday can actually help you with that. So, when I plan for more, the additional things I add in are stuff that are important but it is ok if I fail to do them, so that I have lots getting done and yet if it slips it’s not a big deal.
A lot of time 80% of the stuff can be done in 20% of the time and the remaining 20% takes 80% of the time. This is called ‘the Pareto’s 80–20 principle‘. Knowing the purpose of whatever task you are doing may help you dodge this time consuming 20% by coming up with a work around. A lot of time can easily be spent on perfecting aspects of a task or project that does not add up to the overall purpose. Yes, you can buy time with clarity of purpose.
4. Distort time
I had the good fortune of being trained extensively on Karate, Chess, Meditation, and Yoga very young. And each of these has its own ways of inducing altered states for time distortion. These days I use NLP to explore replicating the same and more for everyone else. There are at least 12 different ways of distorting time and duration, and following are a few ways that may be helpful to buy time.
A) Reverse relativity
Sometimes, when you are with an interesting person and you feel that time just flies. And if you are involved in some work that is boring, time seems to pass for eternity! What if you can train your neurology to reverse this? What if all the routine work that you have to do feels like it just got done in a zippy? Some people who do routine work like filling and arranging things in the same fashion every day have mastered this altered state, a state of mind where you have no idea of time passing. To them, it’s not a big deal. To you, it feels like a lot of mundane work. If you can master this altered state, you can do all the boring and repetitive work so quickly. Most people waste time thinking about how horrible and useless such repetitive tasks are. But if you have this altered state, you would go in, do it, and come out. It actually saves time! And the other as well! When you are doing interesting stuff, if you can learn to program your neurology to freeze time, to make it feel like this is lasting forever, you will reduce pressure off your head, which in turn will make you feel that there is time for all the creativity and ideas to flow in.
Fractionation means you start a job multiple times. Let us assume you have very challenging piece of puzzle to solve. It can be how to make sense of the marketing data or how to arrange a specific product or can be even how to compile a book. And let us say you work on it for 4 hours the first day. And then you work on it for 4 hours the second day. The amount of progress you would have made will be more than what could have been accomplished working 8 hours straight, the same day. This is because your neurology is great at working things outside your conscious awareness and solving puzzles and building connections. So, give your neurology the chance to leverage the full capability of the brain by letting things happen in the background. Now, this does not have to be necessarily one day apart, as long as you have COMPLETE shift of focus and then return to the original task. If it is not a complete shift of attention, then you would be wasting time to get back into flow because you would have not had the benefit of fractionation.
This creates the illusion to your neurology that you have been working on this for a long time and also boosts familiarity, thereby increasing the speed at which you can complete this.
C) Being stingy
When I heard this strategy from Tim Ferris’s audio book, The 4 Hour Work Week, I instantly recognized how this single principle has helped me in doubling my results all these years. This technique is simple. When you have a task at hand, estimate how much time you require for it, properly. And then give yourself half the time. Chances are you will hit 90% of completion within half the time, and using the same principle finish the remaining 10% quicker. This is how you buy time by being stingy with it.
5. Evolve your thinking
A) System thinking
I really recommend Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline on System Thinking. Once you have things working in a specific way over and over again, you may be able to see it as a system and then work towards elegance. What this means is that you can remove elements from the system without affecting its overall delivery. This kind of feeds back into the point we have discussed above – beginning at the end.
B) Creative laziness
This is my favourite. In the bestselling book, Getting Things Done Fast by David Allen, he comments that laziness is his best asset in getting things done quickly. And he further comments on how programmers evolved to structural programming and object orientation because they were lazy to copy and paste. Being creative and lazy to do repeat stuff is cool. I remember maintaining a server, and there was one way to do something and I had to do it 20 times. I did this the first day. The second day I was lazy, so I wrote a program that did this for me and then shared it with others who could use it. And it saved me several hours. When you feel like ‘I am lazy to do it this way again’, respect it and creatively innovate another way of doing it. In the beginning you may be paying for that creativity with extra time, but the creativity will buy the time back.
C) Accelerated learning
This is my favourite and the one most people miss. Just because it takes you 2 hours to do a work today does not mean it has to take you 2 hours to do the same or similar one week from now. In fact, if you are learning well and learning on the job, you will have to be able to do it in half the time. So, the attitude to learn continuously at whatever you do can help you learn subtleties that buys time for you. Think about how much time you took to cook a simple dish years ago and how quickly you can do it now. Pouring your heart and soul to learn whatever you are doing well instead of just doing it buys you time in the long run, although initially it may appear like you are wasting time!
How Much Time can you Buy and what’s the proof?
I took a bunch of people who were trained extremely well on NLP to Thailand for the Super Masters Program. And I used most of what is mentioned here in addition to other techniques, and we were able to achieve fabulous results. For example, people were able to complete 80% of their fresh book in like 4–6 hours spread over 7 days. This was the deal – during the day, we were learning NLP and preparing for the project of the heart. And in the evening they went and worked on their project in addition to dozen other assignments. It appears unfair; it appears like too less time. But guess what? Every single one of them accomplished what they couldn’t do earlier in an entire month. And all the time they had was a few hours before dawn the next day for 7 days! To me that was just the beginning of what is possible. Harini and I have tremendous fun doing this. And this is the only reason for doing Super Masters for us, to push the boundaries of what is possible, beginning with time.
My challenge to you is this. There are so many possible ways to buy time that I have mentioned above. If you even consciously just add one of those techniques to your life, you may notice that you are easily able to have more time than before.
What are you going to do with all the extra time?
I like to suggest you an activity. What if the act of reading this article is going to shift something inside of you to give you more time? What will you do with all that time? Now, this may happen or may not, but I want you to be prepared for it. I have met many people who have asked for extra time and when they get it, they don’t know what to do with it and waste it. And once it’s gone, they go like ‘Ah, I could have done …’ So, do this with me now. Just for a moment, assume you have all the time in the world, some extra time. And think of it in a way you desire, maybe an additional hour every day, maybe a week off, maybe a month off, or maybe the weekends completely for yourself. Whatever you desire currently, just think for a moment that you have it. I want you to travel with me in your imagination to this space where you have such time for yourself. What are you doing with it? Just take a moment to dream what you are doing with it! Are you playing with your children? Are you writing a book? Are you starting a new project? Are you becoming more fit? How are you enjoying that time?
In NLP, we call this ‘setting a direction’. Make sure you see yourself in that picture. Go into as deep state as you know or just clear your mind, empty your thoughts, and hold that dream for a moment. Just long enough for you to feel that the dream is real because I bet your neurology already knows how to make it happen for you.
If you are properly trained on NLP, I also recommend you use submodalities and/or anchors to strengthen the surety and intensity of this feeling.
Do write to me what you are doing with all the time!
I dedicate this article to my father John Berckman Cruis Michael (late). When I was in my 8th standard, enjoying my summer holidays, I went to Vizag to meet him. And he introduced me to his friend who accepted me as an intern in his IT venture. My father dropped me in the morning and came to pick me up in the evening. There were a bunch of senior programmers around me deeply surprised and curious to know more about TSRs. And I was showing them how it was done. When we returned home, my father was pretty convinced (rightly so) that I must have put in a lot of dedication to be able to reach such mastery in a short while. But what scared him was this question: What was I compromising to make time for all this? It turned out, as I share in this article, that I actually just created more time out of nothing. I hope if he were to read this, it would at least partly satisfy his concern of how I made time for the things I did. Perhaps he may recognize those arcs that I have borrowed from him with stealth!