Get this: If you’re in your 20s, you probably only have 3,000 weekends left before you die. A little morbid? Sure. But I bring up this point to help put things in perspective and prompt you to think about how you want to spend your time.
At Treehouse, the online technology school I run, I’ve thought about this a lot—and decided we should only work a four-day week because of it. I realize this isn’t a luxury that most people have, but there are a few tips I encourage everyone to use to make their work time as efficient as possible—so you end up with more hours to devote to your biggest priorities.
1. Unplug from email
Your email inbox is a to-do list that anyone in the world can add things to. Battle this by only checking email twice a day: I recommend 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You’ll spend more time working on what’s important to you and your boss and a lot less time on low-level priorities.
2. Work from home
Ask your employer if you can work from home one day a week. No commute means getting a lot more done during the day and less stress. Presuming your commute takes 50 minutes, this will allow you to devote an extra two weeks to your work priorities per year. Another value here to your personal life is that you can see your loved ones throughout the day and experience those fleeting and precious moments at home.
3. Focus on less
One of the keys to working less is being more efficient. If you can get the same amount of work done in less time, you can spend that time with your loved ones. Choose the one or two things that you must do to be successful. Now block 90 minutes per day to focus on those two things, and do everything you can to protect that time. You’ll get better results in less time because you won’t be distracted every 10 minutes.
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4. Create a scoreboard
Once you’ve decided what to focus on, decide what actions you can take every day to progress toward that goal. Create a simple scoreboard that shows what your day would look like if you did that action each day. You’ll be surprised by how much your behavior changes just because you want to make that scoreboard look great.
Once you reclaim some of those wasted hours, you might find you have more than enough time to make sure your most important to-do list, what you want to be remembered for, gets done on time.