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Hey, Colleague: How can I find more time in the day?

Work-life balance is a myth, but that doesn't mean you can't hack your productivity to carve more time in a day.
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From personal to professional life, it can often feel like there's not enough time in the day.

Send questions about careers, productivity and work-life balance to kpn@glaciermedia.ca. Please include your name and location, or request to remain anonymous.


Hey, Colleague:

I'm still working from home since the pandemic started, and I find there seems never to be enough time. Work, kids' homework, messy house and on top of that, trying to stay healthy! Help!! Sometimes I feel like there isn't ever enough time in a day. I don't know how people seem to do it so well because I need help! Work, my family, my kids, trying to go to the gym, and maintaining a social life. What's the secret?

— Sandy W


First, let me tell you, there is no secret.

Work-life balance is a myth.

When working from home, whether for yourself or another company, it is hard to separate boundaries between professional and personal life. Because of this, we feel like there is never enough time, and we try to do too much.

However, there are hacks to help you seemingly carve more time in a day.

As an avid cyclist and outdoor athlete, I'm obsessed with being outside. I've climbed mountains on my road bike all over the world where I'd be brought to tears, not because of the pain, but because I'm in such an intense state of awe and happiness. The feeling is indescribable. Because I've experienced this so often in the past decade, I prioritize creative resets away from my busy life in downtown Vancouver.

I was in Whistler a few weekends ago at a house on the lake, away from the hustle of downtown life, immersed in Mother Nature.

It was a work-cation. A reset. Nature therapy.

I would get up early to lay in the sun, check messages and plan my day. Later, I'd transition to my desk facing the balcony looking out to a serene lake and do a few hours of intense work. By mid-afternoon, I shut down my laptop, feeling as if I had accomplished more than eight hours of work.

It is a wonderful feeling how much you can accomplish when you aren't stressed out and distracted.

Time was definitely moving at a different pace. After all, even Einstein stated that time is not linear.

Reframing time

I consider myself a high-functioning person who's always on the go, with a billion hobbies and not enough time. Only very recently, my partner said something to me that changed my world. It was very simple: "There's lots of time."

In that instant, something struck me and reminded me that my perception of time is an illusion I created for myself. I've been researching flow states for a few years and was always aware of this concept, but it didn't 'click' until now.

Because of that simple mindset shift, I'm now able to get through my day without feeling perpetually in a rush.

Thankfully, I've been obsessed with productivity hacking and have always tried to create efficient processes my entire life, so I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way.

But first, let's explore time.

Time is an arbitrary construct

Have you noticed when we are really busy, it feels like time is passing really quickly? However, when we are relaxed or bored, time passes by much more slowly.

Time also moves differently when you are below sea level versus being situated at the highest peaks on Earth

According to Abhijit Naskar, author of Love God and Neurons: Memories of a Scientist, "time is all perception created by our mind to aid in our sense of temporal presence in the vast ocean of space."

Einstein also shared his view, "people like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."

This is called gravitational time dilation.

Tips to hack productivity so you can free up time

Whether you are a parent with a chaotic household, an athlete whose body is constantly sore and tight, or just someone trying to maximize productivity, here are some tips to incorporate seamlessly into your routine.

  • Are your kid's toys all over the place? Pick something up to put away every time you walk by a room. But make it effortless and seamless so you don't end up cleaning the entire room instead of working.
     
  • Kitchen always a mess? Wash dishes in-between zoom calls or meetings because you need to get up and move around anyway. Don't be tempted to go clean the kitchen every time you walk by to use the restroom. When this happens to me, I use it as a chance to flex my discipline muscle and say no to strengthen neural pathways in my brain.
     
  • Being an athlete, I get up to stretch anytime I can. Side bends, toe touches, quad stretches, shoulder rotations. Movement is extremely important to me, and I consciously prioritize it.
     
  • Not getting enough exercise? Studies have shown an unusual way to burn calories is fidgeting. It can burn over 350-800 calories a day. I'm a lifelong fidgeter and also tend to move quickly — I believe these are some of the reasons why I've always been lean (genetics, too).
     
  • No time for the gym? I have a set of resistance bands and dumbbells near my desk, and I'll whip them out when I have my hands free such as when I'm on a call, waiting for something, videos, etc.
     
  • Leave the yoga mat out. Mine is always laid out in my living room. I do push-ups, glute bridges, ab work and stretches in between tasks. Every bit of movement counts.
     
  • I have a pull-up bar, so every time I walk to the bathroom, I do a pull-up or hang there for a good stretch.
     
  • Schedule rest. Since I work in timed blocks of focused work, I take breaks in between. I will stretch, grab a snack, go for a walk, meditate, etc.
     
  • Meditation. Finding time to clear your mind it's actually productive. It will help you make connections that you couldn't see before.
     
  • Deep work vs. shallow work. Shallow work consists of tests such as answering emails and phone calls. Deep work is cognitively intense and requires distraction-free environments. Consider setting a timer and eliminating all distractions so you can do long bouts of deep work.
     
  • Learn how to get into a flow state. When you are in flow, work seems to be effortless because you are operating in a different dimension of time.
     
  • Get up early and do your most important tasks at the beginning of the day. Once you finish something hard, your brain will register the achievement and give you momentum for the rest of the day.
     
  • On the other hand, willpower is not unlimited. So there's a chance you won't finish your most important tasks if you procrastinate.
     
  • Create a to-do list. Cross everything off except for the top three. On your busier days, focus on just one. Many items on our to-do lists are not actually as important as we think.
     
  • Multitasking is overrated and does not work. Do only one thing at a time for focused, higher-quality results.
     
  • Create systems for yourself.
     
  • Have fun while you're working. Life is short. Even if you're stressed out, remind yourself to enjoy the process.
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