The Adaptive Agency Blog

Six Ways To Get Your Time Back

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Strategy

Today’s episode could launch a massive life upgrade for you. Here’s why:

If you’re like most people, you’re stuck in a hamster wheel of low-value activity. And it’s driving you crazy. Things like:

  • urgent task whack-a-mole
  • firefighting
  • low-yield meetings
  • constant email and text interruptions
  • making trivial decisions for your employees

None of this is getting you where you want to go. With every passing month, your clock ticks faster, but you don’t know how to free yourself to do amazing things.

Well, here’s a truth to make you free: “working harder” will not get you out of the wheel.

If you apply more time and effort, busy work will fill it. You can be busy 24/7 and still not get where you’re trying to go. But imagine if you could focus on super high-value contributions:

  • making amazing strategic decisions
  • mentoring and inspiring your people
  • eliminating bottlenecks
  • fostering your most-valuable customer relationships
  • leveling yourself up so you can be better for everyone else

Where would you be in a year, 3 years, or 5 years? But if you never get to focus on them, your business will never become what you dreamed it would be. There’s a saying about that. I adopted it and it changed my life. Brace yourself:

“Busy is the new stupid.”

So here are five things you can do with your time that will free you to give your best to your business.


1. Actively prune your busy work.

You have to do less so that you can do better. Accept it. Do fewer things, do them on purpose, and do them very well. And what will you get rid of? Here are a few ideas:

  • personally handling issues that have high emotional urgency but low business impact
  • answering every email and text message, especially right when the notifications pop up
  • micromanaging or seagull managing your employees
  • endlessly scrolling social media or news because you’re burnt out, stressed out, or anxious
  • anything that you’re not good at but that takes a lot of your time

Here’s a great use of your time: create and manage your “quit-doing” list. Things you’ll say “no” to.

“But Matt, I can’t just drop everything.”

Well, that’s partly true. So here’s the algorithm for deciding what to do with busy work:

  1. If possible, eliminate it.
  2. If you can’t eliminate it, then automate it.
  3. If you can’t automate it, simplify it.
  4. If you can’t simplify it, delegate it. (Or simplify it and then delegate it.)
  5. If you can’t delegate it, procrastinate it. Push it out a month or two and then see if you still care.

And please, whatever you do, don’t fill the leftover time with more busy work.


2. Take walks.

Get out. Preferably into nature. Get your steps in. 30 minutes at least. Let your mind wander. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Whatever.

Just get out and walk for 30 minutes. Once per day is good; twice is better.

You need to disconnect so that your brain can recoup. Making important decisions takes a lot of horsepower. Eventually, your brain hits decision fatigue. Then you turn about half as smart as you would normally be.

Taking walks is not only good for your mind, your body, and your business, but it will test your commitment to being less busy. If you can’t make time to go for a walk, you’re still in the wheel.


3. Exercise.

To give your best you have to be healthy. Exercising is essential to feeling great so you can be great. Try some of these if you’re not already:

  • Go for walks. (Hey, were’ back to walking!)
  • Lift weights. It’s good for your muscles, your connective tissues, your bones, and your brain.
  • Do cardio. Getting your heart rate up 3-5 days a week will make your life better.
  • Stretch. 2-3 months of consistent stretching will make you feel lighter and nimbler.

Also, if you’re exercising, you’ll tend to eat better and sleep more, which will improve your body and your brain.

That’s good for business.


4. Learn.

Find authors and influencers who know a ton about being more successful. Don’t invent it for yourself. Take an hour every day to read or watch relevant videos. Do this for the rest of your life.


5. Disengage.

Learn to be aware of what your mind is doing. Is it getting overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, or feeling trapped?

Hard stop. Go do something to get back into a good frame of mind again.

You’re not in business to do mindless tasks until you’re exhausted. Your job is to bring your very best to the game so that everyone benefits. And your very best shows up when you’re at peak performance.

When your mind is starting to wear down, take a break.


6. Block out regular time slots for deep work.

The best way to work is not multitasking.

Instead, pick something important, eliminate distractions, and focus for 60-90 minutes. Get into a flow state where you can produce more and better work than when you’re distracted and stressed.

If you bake these activities into your calendar, you’re way less likely to skimp on them. (In a future article I’ll explain how I did that for myself.)

When someone wants a meeting at 10 am, and that’s a deep work timeslot, propose a different time. Be selfish with your calendar. Your goal isn’t to be more available, it’s to be more useful. And protecting your high-priority time will make that possible.