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Advanced Time Management Strategies

To-do lists and calendar bookings and phone reminders are all well and good, but have you ever wondered how to truly optimize the tiny amount of time you have in this life? Have you ever wondered how people like Elon Musk and Beyonce get so much more accomplished than everyone else with the same amount of time and physical constraints?

This post is for people who are already pretty organised and feel like they manage their time well, but are frustrated that there still just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. These are advanced concepts, and if you’re undisciplined and flaky, this will be too much for you.

This is a practical exercise, so rather than just reading this, get a pen and paper (or open a Word doc), because you’ll need it.

Starting the list

Write a list of every single activity you do on a normal weekday. Yes, everything!

This includes more than just the basic work tasks, but also the personal stuff. From picking your kid up from daycare through to washing the dishes, checking emails without answering them, and scrolling through social media.

You can exclude going to the toilet, sleeping, and eating, but you might want to include things like food shopping, meal prep, and anything else that might be able to be done better.

Doing just this list is a wake up call. When you have to be honest with yourself about all the other things you do each day that eat up minutes and mental bandwidth, you’ll already start to see where some gains can be made. You’d be amazed at how often you check your phone, or read emails without doing anything about them.

Most Valued Actions

Your MVA is the activity or behaviour that best aligns with your core values. I don’t mean that your boss appreciates it, I mean that you will look back one day from your death bed without regrets so long as you made this a priority.

Go through your list, and give each of the activities a rating out of 10 for how aligned they are with your core values. Be honest with yourself as best as you can.

If you’re doing this digitally, you can rearrange the activities in a hierarchy from highest to lowest rated. Or if written, you can use highlighter pens to single out those that scored in the top 20%.

Stop for a moment, and reflect on the difference between how you prioritised these tasks compared with how you spend your hours each day. Does your future self regret time wasted or smile with pride?

Most Important Actions

This one is a killer!

If you’re already familiar with the Pareto 80/20 principle, then you’ll know that all actions are not equal. A few actions do most of the work, while a vast majority are simply a waste of time.

In your work, for example, you were hired for a reason. What is that reason? How does that compare with what you’re doing during the day? If your job is sales, then the activities that directly cause sales are far more important than anything else. If your job is keeping customers happy, then any time you’re not engaging with a customer you’re probably wasting time.

If you’re an entrepreneur, only 3 things matter: leads, sales, and fulfillment… in that order. So your time should be mostly spent on tasks that directly attribute to bringing in more customers or serving current ones. Anything else is fluff.

If you’re a parent, few things matter more than building a secure emotional connection with your child. How many hours did you spend directly focusing on that today?

If you want to manage your weight, your focus should be on food shopping and preparation, as most of your health will be managed by what you eat. Is this being treated like a priority?

Go through your list and carefully rate each activity out of 10 according to how much impact it has on whatever goal it’s attached to. In any given field – work, relationships, health – you’re looking for the ONE action that has the MOST impact. You should already be starting to think about how to get to a place where you’re only doing that one action.

By this point, you should now be able to identify the 20% of tasks that matter most, either for getting things done or living with integrity (hopefully both). Start allow the idea of cutting the bottom 80% to blossom in your mind.

Maximum Efficiency Point

The MEP is the least you can do an activity to get good enough results. Anything past the MEP is either a waste of time or actually starts doing damage.

A lot of wasted time comes from overdoing tasks – aiming for perfection where good enough would serve the same purpose. Advanced time optimization comes from letting go of your image as a perfect person and becoming an efficient person instead. Start learning to become proud of getting what needs to be done as efficiently as possible, walking the shortest path, rather than showing off with pointless maximization.

We go slower from overdoing things. There are certain tasks that get worse as you overdo them, like overthinking a drawing until it’s ruined, or talking too much and losing the other person’s interest, or putting too many flavours into a dish. Often, “peak performance” does not mean doing as much as you possibly can. Experts show restraint.

If your muscles are sore after a workout, you probably did too much damage. Reduce the duration of your time at the gym, increase the intensity. There are Mr Universe champions who work out less than 30mins per week – find out what they do.

If you’re writing, edit out all repetitions and only say each point once, with just one example to demonstrate.

If C’s get degrees as well as straight A’s do, then only study enough to pass the exam.

Go through your list – particularly the items that are already highly rated (think: top 20%) – and try to identify the difference between good enough (goal achieved) and too much (excessive effort). Make a note of how to reduce your effort to get the best result.


 

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Minimum Required Involvement

Focusing on the lower rated tasks now, you’ll already have noticed that some of them are things you still “must” do. You’ll have contractual obligations at work, or promises you’ve made, or basic maintenance tasks that can’t be left undone forever.

However, all of these have a minimum required involvement. There’s the very least you can do to keep those ships afloat and not get into major trouble.

Your boss might want you to attend all meetings, but what does your contract say, specifically? Only attend those meetings and do the tasks you’ve undeniably agreed to or must attend for the sake of keeping your job.

Yeah, the house needs to be cleaned sometimes. But every day? Every room? Right now? Probably not.

Look at those tasks that aren’t highly rated but you believe you have no choice, identify what the least possible involvement you can get away with is, and make a commitment to pull away as much as you can.

Note: you’ll have limiting beliefs that have you thinking a lot of tasks are “must do” when actually nothing all that bad happens if you don’t. Challenge yourself to provide proof that a thing must be done.

Eliminate All Distractions

“Flickering” is the term I made up for what happens when a person is distracted momentarily. Your mind will be blown when you calculate how much of your life has been stolen by pointlessly transitioning your attention to a distracting stimuli and then back to what you were doing, achieving nothing in the process.

There is no such thing as “multi-tasking” – that myth has been thoroughly debunked by neuroscience. What looks like doing multiple things simultaneously is actually attention flicking between tasks – your attention bounces back and forth many times per second.

Essentialism – doing one thing at a time, or “doing less, better!” – is far more productive than attempting to multi-task.

If your list is thorough, you’ll notice the kinds of activities that cause flickering. Checking your phone impulsively and responding to all notifications and calls as if they’re all urgent. Checking your email inbox, noticing there are new emails, and then just going back to your original task. Randomly getting up to look for a snack even though you have enough food in your body right now.

Seek to eliminate these time-stealers. They have already claimed months of your life, not just in the cumulative minutes lost every day, but the opportunity cost: you have to reset after each flicker, start over with lost momentum, and often redo part of the task just to catch up.

Start with whatever’s the worst one. Maybe it’s your phone – get an app that blocks it off during set times. Maybe it’s your family (hello my fellow work-from-home entrepreneurs!!) – set firmer boundaries and let them know when they must not disturb you.

And if it’s your own mind that’s distracting you, start practicing mindfulness meditation to learn how to bring your attention back to the present sooner.

Reduce, Delete, Delegate, Intensify

Now we need to cut the shit and increase overall quality of life. You now have a list that is compromised of a small number of tasks that matter and get results, and a large list of crap that doesn’t help nearly as much. Time to get a shovel out.

Reduce: is there a way to do less of each lower rated task? This could mean less frequently, less time, less effort. Any amount of reduction without doing major harm is a win.

Delete: which of these tasks could you simply not do? Sure, some people might be disappointed, but so what if they are? Look for tasks that you calculate could remain undone for 6 months or more and no one would die, get fired, or file for divorce. Seriously consider just dropping them and weathering the consequences until everyone gets over it. And of course, there are those you can delete without any consequences, and they should be first on your life (hint: your relationship with your phone is a good starting place here).

Delegate: it doesn’t have to be done by you necessarily. Paying others, sharing around, swapping – have a look at which tasks could be done good enough by someone else, and start thinking who that person might be. Let go of the need to do unimportant things well, you don’t have to master everything. It doesn’t always need to be done your way. And open your mind to paying for support – notice how much your time is worth and then compare that to what you could pay another person to do the same thing.

Intensify: once you’ve saved all that time and space, double down on the stuff that matters. You should now have extra hours to spend with your wife and kids, or to write that novel you never seem to find time for, or to learn how to cook more healthily.

We tend to eat whatever’s on our plate, so be wary of “free time” just sitting there. It will be consumed. In fact, you’ll need to repeat this entire exercise multiple times per year, because you’ll notice that the bottom 80% tasks have a way of creeping back in (or being replaced with other junk).

Highest Leverage Action

Finally, once you’ve got your list sorted into a hierarchy of highest to lowest rated, and you’ve made the ruthless cut of drawing a line between the top 20% and the bottom 80%, it’s time to look at taking it to the next level.

I recommend you first get used to living a leaner, more efficient, more meaningful existence by cutting the fat and doubling down on what matters most. Give yourself some time and space to be able to think.

Once you’ve gotten used to that, you should then have the headspace available to start thinking of optimizing even more. See, within that 20% range of actions are more options for cutting than you can currently see.

There’s always a better way to do something. Or, more specifically, you can always find more leverage.

Leverage is creating more output with less input. There’s always a way to improve this ratio: to achieve more with less effort. But it takes some creativity, outside support, research, and experimentation to figure this out.

Let’s say one of your top 20% activities is to play with your kid. Another one is to model integrity. And another one is to exercise frequently. Can you find a way to play that also models integrity and is physically exerting? That’s leverage.

Combining like this is one way to leverage. You can workout with your boss to get important meetings and exercise achieved at the same time. You can meet new people at your hobbies to achieve in both the social and spiritual areas of your life. You can bring your spouse in as a business partner to build both your business and your relationship.

And then there’s how a goal is achieved. Look at the numbers; how can they go up with effort going down? How can you generate more leads in half the time? How can you shop for food with the least possible effort and yet also increase the quality of what you’re buying? What’s the one thing you can do in your relationship to best build your connection?

Ask yourself: if someone put a gun to my head and demanded I achieve the same output in one/tenth of the time, how would I do it?

This is where you might want to bring in outside support through researching experts and successful people, or getting coaching, mentoring and training. Some ideas you simply won’t be able to come up with on your own, but you’d be amazed at what other people have created.

How you can make massive progress in just a few months!

You can do all this on your own.

Through trial and error, books, courses and online content, you can figure it out slowly piece by piece over time if you dedicate yourself to it and are willing to fail often and get uncomfortable in order to achieve social mastery and build strong self confidence.

Or…

You can work directly with me in your corner for a short period of time and achieve the same results in months that would take you YEARS on your own (or your money back!).

That’s what my confidence coaching is really all about. I accelerate your progress significantly by ensuring you:

  • Overcome your fear of rejection
  • Stop seeing yourself as not good enough
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  • Get advanced practical tips to eliminate self-sabotage and give you the best possible chances at career advancement, dating opportunities, and deep connections with quality friends
  • Help you see your blind spots and errors and develop a measurement system that you can use on your own to ensure ongoing improvement for life

It took me about 7-10 years to figure this stuff out on my own. It takes my average coaching client only about 3-6 months to achieve a level of mastery that leaves them able to continue coaching themselves to further success while feeling absolutely certain that they’re on the right path (proven by the results they get).

I’ve turned virgins into fathers.

I’ve created assertive leaders out of meek people pleasers.

I’ve released overthinkers so they become powerfully decisive.

I’ve transformed shy introverts into social connectors.

I’ve moved highly anxious and depressed guys into a world of permanent self-confidence and optimism.

You don’t need to take my word for it. You can test it out for yourself. Fill out the application form below for a FREE trial coaching session with no obligation to continue, and no sales pitch!

My coaching will either blow you away and convince you that it’s worth it, or you’ll simply spend an hour talking to me without losing anything.

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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro

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