“It’s awesome to hear you work 5 hours per day!”
I met a friend for coffee last week and he congratulated me on reducing my work hours. When we worked together, I was known for putting in 12 to 15 hours a day and encouraging others in our company to do the same. He read my recent blog post and concluded I work 5 hours per day and spend the rest of my time doing nothing that benefits my businesses.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. I aim to spend every moment of my day productively. I have big goals and know how I spend my time matters.
If you deduct eight hours a day to sleep and two hours a day to eat and complete other chores, you’re left with 14 hours per day, or 98 hours per week, of discretionary time. That’s all we get; We have 98 hours per week to create everything we want in life. Use it well and you can change the world. Waste it and you’ll be less happy, less successful, and the world won’t experience the positive impact you can create.
Don’t Try to Be Productive, Try to Not Waste Time
Charlie Munger, the billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett said, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.”
Munger believes many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward. I too have found this “inversion thinking” makes complex problems simpler, like channeling your inner Yoda.
Common advice to increase productivity is to try to be more productive. Organize better. Plan better. Create checklists. Use your calendar as a productivity tool. Use Trello. This can often feel overwhelming and give you more to do than you gain in time saved.
Instead, aim to not waste time. If you eliminate, or reduce, all the activities you spend time on you know are useless, you’ll have far more time available to fill with productive tasks.
What do you waste time on that can be eliminated or reduced if you’re honest with yourself? Common time wasters include: TV (including all streaming services), time with miserable people, social media, projects and tasks that don’t matter to you, and things that don’t both make you and others happier.
Everything you want to create in your life comes down to how you spend your time. In the U.S., the average person spends four hours per day watching TV and two hours per day on social media. What would you do if you cut one hour per day from social media and one hour per day from watching TV? If you replace that time with productive tasks, your life would transform.
I May “Work” 5 Hours Per Day, But I Waste Almost Zero Time
When most people “work”, they bounce between email, social media, Slack, and, maybe, a bit of doing the work they were hired to do. I aim to single-task. To plan a new product or marketing campaign, I shut everything else off. To participate in a meeting, I try to close everything else down to focus. If a meeting isn’t important enough for me to pay attention, then I shouldn’t be there.
When I say I work 5 hours per day, I mean I put in 5 hours of focused, productive work with minimal distractions. This is almost double the average of most people.
However, I don’t waste the other 9 hours of daily discretionary time (24 hours – 5 hours work – 8 hours sleep – 2 hours eating/chores = 9 hours). I spend every moment I can on what I think is most important based on the goals I want to accomplish.
I spend a lot of time reading. Each day, I read five to fifteen blog posts on ecommerce, personal finance, and self-development; one full newspaper, the Wall Street Journal; and, three to five news articles from other publications such as the New York Times, Yahoo Finance, and the Washington Post. I also read or listen to one to two books per week. I tried reading 500 pages per day like Warren Buffett, but didn’t enjoy it. I prefer to spend some time reading and some time creating.
I also spend a good amount of time thinking. I reflect on character traits I want to develop. I reflect on how I’m progressing toward my goals. I plan and think about the future.
I also exercise. I haven’t missed more than a week of weight lifting since I was 14 years old. I don’t spend three hours a day like I used to, I think that’s too much for me. But, I still like to exercise about an hour and a half a day. I spend an hour training jiu-jitsu or lifting along with fifteen to thirty minutes a day stretching. That feels like the right balance for me.
A Sample Schedule from a Real Day
Here’s an example of a real day, this Friday:
- Wake up: 6:45 AM
- Feed Roxy, our Siberian Husky, and make my Lifeboost Coffee: 6:45 AM to 7:00 AM
- Work on this blog post: 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM
- Meet with Amazing’s Marketing Director: 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM
- Meet with a video production company to create new YouTube ads for Lifeboost: 9:00 AM to 9:30 AM
- Interview a marketing candidate for Lifeboost: 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM
- Read current news/articles about Amazon & ecommerce: 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
- Get ready and go to jiu-jitsu training: 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
- Eat and shower: 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM
- Call to discuss a marketing campaign for Amazing: 1:45 PM to 2:30 PM
- Another candidate interview for Lifeboost: 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
- Emails and Slack: 3:30 PM to 4:00 PM
- Finish writing this blog post: 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
- Read the Wall Street Journal: 5:00 PM to 5:45 PM
- Daily reflection, wrap up, more reading, and plan tomorrow’s work: 5:45PM to 6:00 PM
- Hang out with Callie, eat dinner, and watch a movie: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
- Read the book Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me on Kindle: 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM
- Sleep (I go to bed early almost always): By 10:00 PM
Notes on today’s schedule: (1) Today I had more meetings than I almost ever have in a single day because I was out of town for the past two days. (2) I spent more time on Lifeboost than normal – on most days, I spend the majority of my time on Amazing.
I’ve bolded the tasks above most people would consider “work”. If you add those activities, I spend four hours and 45 minutes working. However, I spent five and a half hours reading and writing; I also spent a bit over an hour exercising. I wasted very little time. I spent zero time on social media.
How Can You Spend Your Time?
We all have 98 hours in a week to achieve everything in life we want. There’s not a perfect answer to how to be productive, but there is a clear answer for how to waste time.
If you reduce the amount of time you watch TV, browse social media, and hang out with negative people, you will have a lot of time available to improve your life.
I may put in five hours of conventional work – meetings, marketing, product development, and managing – per day. But, I don’t waste the rest of my time. I spend more time per week reading than most people spend in a year (the average for my age is less than 7 minutes per day). I try to align what I do every day with what I want to accomplish long-term.
I’m not perfect. I want to spend less time on marketing and more time on product development. I want to watch less TV, browse social media less, and bounce between creating and digital communications less. I’d like to read even more. My schedule is a work in progress.
Time wasters like TV and social media feel good in the short-term. Accumulating useful knowledge and creating things that benefit myself and others feel way better in the long-term. Eventually, you’ll learn to love the feeling of being productive and abhor wasting time.
To build motivation to spend your time better today, imagine you’re 90 years old, reflecting on your life. Think of all the things you will have wanted to accomplish. How would the future you want you to spend your valuable time to make all that happen?
Let’s use our time as best we can. Let’s help others, create, and become wiser.
Thank you for reading.