In her book “Time Warped,” Claudia Hammond upends the assumption that time is an objective, independent phenomenon.
“Time is not only at the heart of the way we organize life,” she writes, “but the way we experience it.”
According to Hammond, time is actually a product of our own minds. We create time by perceiving it.
If time really is personal and subjective, we have much more control over it than we realize. And from a productivity standpoint, controlling our time is key.
I’ve been experimenting with calendar hacks for years, searching for ways to optimize productivity with minimal effort. What I’ve learned is that hacking your calendar isn’t about finding shortcuts. It’s much simpler than that.
You can control time by mastering a few simple principles: Align every action with its ideal timing, minimize disruptions, and drink plenty of water.
There are infinite productivity systems out there that tell you how to time your tasks for the day, but it doesn’t matter when or how you get work done; it’s just a matter of identifying your “ideal time” and optimizing your calendar to follow this rhythm.
Many world-class violinists practice in two or three hour-and-a-half-long sessions, with breaks in between. Hemingway always wrote 500 words of prose in the morning to avoid the heat.
Weekend mornings are when I get my best writing done. I discovered this while simultaneously working on deadlines for both a popular marketing publication and posts for my own blog.
I now write on my personal blog on weekend mornings and typically draft work-related thought leadership articles during the week. I’ve noticed a difference in my creativity, how long an article took to write, my patience, and my own personal excitement for the content. Even though the content was largely the same (technology, leadership, content marketing, parenting), I felt completely different sitting at my kitchen table at 7 a.m. in a quiet house, with no looming meetings.
This has led me to sync other activities to their ideal times:
- Networking: Breakfast is my favorite time to connect with mentors, colleagues, and peers. Clear-headed and optimistic, I often leave morning meetings inspired to take on the day.
- Sales: It takes a lot of energy to place a potential customer’s needs ahead of your own. I schedule sales calls only when I know I can be patient, compassionate, and focused.
- Strategy: Movement helps me think strategically. Ideally, I like to think through critical decisions by going for a run. When that’s not possible, I’ll take a walk or pace a conference room.
- Easy tasks: I save tasks that don’t require much creativity (e.g., booking travel, responding to meeting requests) for the end of the day. It’s satisfying to plow through them and go straight home.
- Learning: For years, I did all of my reading just before bed. Then, I listened to an audiobook during my morning workout one day and was astounded at how much more information I retained. This has transformed my reading habits, and I now digest most books via audio or podcasts.
The important thing is to figure out what works best when, then build your schedule accordingly.
Crafting your ideal schedule is one thing; implementing it is another. If you’re not prepared to minimize disruptions, you’ll never control time.
Usually, disruptions are our own doing — not because we create them, but because we allow them. It’s sometimes easy to forget that though our role is to serve others, that doesn’t mean that they’re in control of our time.
How do you remain a responsive part of the team while making the best possible use of your time?
- Plan. Every evening, take 15 minutes to create a schedule for the following day. Equipping yourself with a plan can be the difference between being in control and letting the day control you.
- Prioritize. According to Jim Collins, if you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any. With a clear vision of what you absolutely must accomplish during the day (or quarter or year), it’s easier to stay focused on what matters.
- Unplug. Colleagues will often assume you’re available if you’re not in a meeting. Schedule daily personal time (without email or notifications) so you’re fully present with whatever you’re doing.
- Hydrate. Headaches, fatigue, lack of focus — so many minor distractions stem from dehydration. We are 70 percent water, so while this tip sounds trite or oversimplified, drinking enough water will help you perform at your best.
- Anything that saves you time and energy is worth exploring. These resources have been extremely helpful in achieving my ideal schedule.
- Audible is a monthly audiobook subscription that allows you to listen to books on the go. You can even speed up the playback to get through a book faster.
- Jawbone UP24 tracks sleep, activity, and water intake.
- I use Evernote to track information in several key areas: influencer marketing, race training, research, and thought leadership. I also use MobileDay for efficient conference calling.
- Uber connects riders to drivers. Uber claims to be able to deliver a ride to 43
- TSA Precheck is the expedited airport security-screening program for frequent travelers.
Because time is a personal experience, calendar hacking is a personal process. However, in an organization, time is also a shared resource. By eliminating drains on collective time and energy, you can increase productivity within your entire company.
When everyone in your organization is in control of time, priorities, and energy, everything else falls into place.
Holly Hamann is the co-founder and CMO of TapInfluence, the industry’s only cloud-based software that automates the creation, management, and measurement of influencer marketing programs from a single platform. She has helped launch six web-based startups in the social, music, video, and entertainment space. She is a public speaker, Board member of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, and American Marketing Association “Marketer of the Year” recipient. Holly is an entrepreneur, an active triathlete, and a pilot (in her spare time). Connect with Holly on Twitter.