All of us spend hours of our lives on core responsibilities. For many of us, that means working 40 hours a week at a full-time job. For others, it means pouring hours into an independent business, or spending hours taking care of your investments.
In any case, you can hypothetically improve your quality of life by reducing the number of hours you spend—assuming you get the same results. Depending on how you apply this strategy, this could mean having more free time to spend for yourself, making more money, or simply being more productive.
There are several tactics you can use to minimize your number of hours spent.
Finding the Right Job
Your biggest responsibility is probably generating income, so your first (and arguably most important) tactic is finding the right job. If you’re locked into a salaried position where you must work 40 hours per week, reducing the number of hours you work isn’t a straightforward possibility. If you’re paid by the hour, you may be required to spend a fixed number of hours to achieve your financial goals.
Instead, it’s advisable to find a position where you can earn money based on your results. This could mean being paid per assignment, or starting your own business—so you make money based on the fruits of your labor. You may also choose a more passive way of making money, like investing in real estate, which doesn’t strictly require your hours, but still offers a way to generate revenue.
Once you have the right job, your biggest option for reducing the number of hours you spend, personally, is through delegation—the art of assigning tasks to someone else. There are several ways to approach this. First, you could hire a person or third-party entity to handle the work on your behalf. For example, you could work with a property management firm instead of trying to manage a rental property all by yourself. Second, you could delegate to an existing employee, intern, or apprentice; for example, you could make a team member responsible for the data entry that used to eat up your entire morning.
Delegation frees up your hours almost immediately, but it has one important downside: it usually costs you something. You’ll have to pay for the company or individual to do this work. However, in many cases, you’ll end up paying less in money than you’d spend in time doing the tasks yourself. Calculate your typical hourly rate if you want to measure this for yourself.
Another viable option (in many cases) is to automate your work. Obviously, this isn’t going to work for tasks that require creativity or abstract thinking, but anything predictable and/or repetitive can probably be automated.
Start by targeting the simple, annoying tasks that get in your way. For example, you can automate your bill payments and set up automatic deliveries for the items you need on a consistent basis. Then, you can look for specific products to automate other areas of your life—or even consider custom coding a solution of your own. IFTTT is a free service that can help you coordinate most of the apps and services you already use, and automate their functionality.
After delegating and automating a respectable chunk of your work, you can begin optimizing your productivity—in other words, increasing the amount of work you can do in a specific amount of time.
- Environment. Start by changing your environment. For some people, it’s important to work in an environment with as few distractions as possible. For others, a bit of background noise and movement in their periphery can help them focus. Experiment to figure out what works for you.
- Energy. Understand your energy levels, and work on improving them. Eat nutritious foods at consistent intervals throughout the day, and avoid sugar crashes. Get plenty of sleep, and exercise at least 20 minutes a day.
- Focus. Learn to focus on one task at a time. If you find yourself distracted by something, eliminate the root cause of the distraction (like turning off notifications or closing your office door).
- Timing. Figure out which hours are your most productive. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Can you optimize your schedule to maximize the amount of time you spend working during your “peak” productive hours?
- Shortcuts. Learn from experts and experiment to find new shortcuts for the things you do most often. Keyboard shortcuts, shorthand note-taking, and other strategies can save a ton of time in the long run.
These strategies will help you minimize the number of hours you have to spend to achieve the same results you got before. As for what you do with the extra hours you suddenly have available, that’s entirely up to you.