“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” ~William Penn

The above quote was first written in the 17th century. I can’t help but wonder what he would say if he saw how people in our modern world spend their time today.

We complain endlessly about how “busy” we are and how there’s “never enough time in the day.”

But when we actually look at how we’re spending our time, the truth becomes obvious.

We waste countless hours each day watching television, keeping up with “news”, scrolling through social media and skimming our favorite blogs just ‘one more time’ during the work day.

We no longer own our finite time on the planet. Our devices and distractions do.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

You can reclaim ownership of your time.

By implementing the four “secret tactics” I’m going to share below, you can work less, earn more, and find time to ‘do it all’.

Like most things, the process won’t be easy…but it will be simple.

If you will do the work and actually take action on what you’re about to learn, you will be blown away by how your life changes.

Let’s dive in.

1. Use a “Time Journal” to Discover Your Magic Time and Plug the Leaks in Your Bucket

“What gets measured gets managed.” ~Peter F. Drucker

Before you can manage and own your time, you must first measure it.

In the same way that you can’t effectively pay off your credit card debt if you don’t know exactly how much debt you have, what interest rates you’re paying, and when the payments are due…

…You cannot OWN your time until you understand, not only how your time is actually being spent and how effective you are with your time during certain hours of the day.

We all have the “the stupid human trick” of thinking that we know how we spend our time each day. Most of us also assume that we have can accurately determine which hours of the day we are most productive without any form of semi-objective measurement.

However, after working with hundreds of clients in dozens of industries, I’ve found, without exception, that no one really knows how they spend their time or how effective they are during certain times of the day without intentionally tracking and measuring their performance.

Which brings me to the first key of time ownership: The Time Journal.

Right now, I want you to open up Google Docs and create a simple time sheet that starts from the moment you wake up and goes all the way to your bed time in 20-minute increments.

It should look something like this:

Got it? Great.

Now I want you to print of seven copies of this page–14 if you want to get serious about this strategy.

For the next week, you’re going to setup a recurring 20-minute timer on your phone and, every time it goes off, take 30-seconds to jot down what you accomplished over the past 20-minutes and, subjectively, where your energy levels and mood are at that specific time.

If you will do this for seven days, you will gain unprecedented clarity into your schedule and biological rhythm.

Typically, when I have clients complete this exercise, they notice a few things.

First, they realize that the vast majority of their “working” hours are nowhere near as productive as they previously believed them to be. And I have no doubt that you will quickly identify at least a few uncomfortable patterns in the way you are actually spending your time.

Second, and even more importantly, they are able to quickly identify their “magic time” the 2-3 hour block(s) of time during the day when they are 5-10X more focused, energetic, motivated, and productive than any other time during the day.

And this is where the magic (no pun intended) starts to happen.

When you invest the time to develop an objective understanding of how you are currently managing–or not managing–your time and how your energy levels and focus fluctuate throughout the days, you gain an immediate advantage over your competition.

Now, you don’t have to guess when you should do your most demanding work. You know exactly when you have the most focus, intention, and willpower and can schedule your days accordingly.

You’ll also gain a clear understanding of where your time is really going and quickly identify the “leaks” in the bucket that you can plug to get more out of your days, eliminate distraction, and end overwhelm once and for all.

2. Follow the Perfect Week Formula to End Overwhelm and Live Your Perfect Life TODAY

As an entrepreneur or high-performer, not only are you a master of your craft, but you gain a massive sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment from your work.

And this is great.

In a society where an estimated 87% of people are “actively disengaged” with their work (source), it’s no small feat to love what you do.

The problem, however, is that most entrepreneurs take their love affair with their work to the extreme. Instead of working to live, they live to work and struggle to make time for themselves, their hobbies, and their families.

And it’s easy to see why. You likely have a lot on your plate.

There are email campaigns that need to be written, sales pages that need updated, phone calls that must be made, investments that must be reviewed, and a whole laundry list of tasks, to-do’s, and must do’s that make “balance” sound like a word out of an Old English dictionary.

And the result of this reality is always the same. Burnout. Stress. Overwhelm. And an unshakable feeling that, no matter how much you accomplish, you’ve never done enough.

However, it doesn’t have to stay this way.

By using what I call the Perfect Week Planning method, you can flip the traditional script on its head, increase your productivity, and make time for the activities and people who matter most to you.

Here’s how it works:

First, you’re going to pull out a sheet of paper and draw a 7×7 grid where each square in the grid represents a 2-3 hour block of time during your days.

Next, you’re going schedule your relationship and self-care non-negotiables. Things like date night, workouts, yoga classes, massages, family dinner, time with friends, and other personal events go here.

Then, you’re going to schedule out your productivity routines. This includes Sunday morning planning, a nightly brain dump, your reverse alarm, and morning routine.

Now, with your personal and productivity activities scheduled, you’re going to fill in your “Magic Time” slots that you discovered during your completion of Key #1.

During these work slots, you’re going to engage in your most important work. Things like writing your book, building out sales pages, creating content for your website, or recording videos for YouTube go here.

And finally, with all of these activities scheduled, you’re going to fill in the remaining time with any other work that needs to be done throughout the week–from meetings to emails to travel to sales appointments.

By reverse engineering your week in this manner, you will accomplish two goals simultaneously.

By scheduling your non-negotiables FIRST (and getting massively accountable to someone else and setting big consequences for failure) you will more than double your productive output each day because you no longer have the option to get distracted or goof off when you should be working.

If your day begins at 9 am and you have a non-negotiable date night at 5 pm, you cannot get sucked into the void of Instagram, blog articles, or YouTube videos when you should be working.

These non-work non-negotiables will keep you focused and ensure high levels of discipline and motivation throughout the day.

Second, by scheduling things like meetings, emails, and other administrative work last, you will be forced to ruthlessly eliminate the things that don’t matter from your schedule.

Which brings me to the third key for time ownership…

3. Use THIS Grid to Work 10 Fewer Hours Each Week

Most entrepreneurs I know don’t struggle with time management so much as task management.

It’s not that they don’t have enough time to do the things they need to do. It’s that they are doing too much and creating unnecessary overwhelm by believing the lie that they have to “do it all.”

The tactic I’m about to share with you will change that.

It’s called the “10 Fewer Hours Grid” and it goes like this.

First, you’re going to draw a big box with four quadrants. Inside of these four quadrants you’re going to write:

  1. What do I hate doing?
  2. What is NOT my job?
  3. What should I stop doing?
  4. What are my distractions?

After you fill it out (which I’ll walk you through in just a second) it should look something like this.

Now let’s break this down…

In the first box, you’re going to identify something in your schedule each week that you hate doing. For me, I used to spend 30-90 minutes each morning (during my magic time no less) on phone calls that, important as they may have been, were not a good use of my time.

To fix this, I instructed my Executive Assistant to close off my calendar from ALL meetings, sales calls, and coaching calls until after 10 am. Not only did this save my magic time, but it actually reduced the number of calls I have to complete each week and saved me about two hours a week.

In the second box, you’re going to identify something you’re currently doing that is not worth your time at all. My example is small podcasts.

When I first launched The Perfect Day Formula, I would do any and every podcast interview that came my way. It didn’t matter whether the host had 1,000 downloads a month or 1,000 downloads a day…If there was someone somewhere in the world with a microphone and Libsyn account, I was jumping on their podcast.

Eventually, I realized that doing these podcasts drained my mental energy and completely wasted my time. They drove almost no profits and reduced my ability to focus on the most important profit driving activities.

Today, I never agree to podcast interviews unless the podcast in question generates a certain number of downloads per episode. And this simple shift added an extra two hours to each week.

Next, you’re going to identify something you’re currently doing that is NOT your job or that can be easily outsourced to someone else.

My examples were uploading videos and completing sales calls, but this can be anything that is outside of your “area of genius.” For example, my buddy Bedros Keuilian doesn’t write any of his own blog articles or emails. He shares the message with his copywriter and then trusts them to put his words down and share it with his audience.

And finally, you’re going to identify your biggest distractions during the week.

For example, I used to upload videos and stories to my Instagram in the afternoon and, without fail, as soon as I hit “publish” I would get sucked into the vortex of new content from the people I follow and waste 30-60 minutes a day scrolling through my feed.

After outsourcing this task to my social media manager, I was able to eliminate one of my biggest distractions without sacrificing the quality of consistency of my content.

Over to you.

Fill out the four boxes above and let me know what YOU are going to eliminate from your calendar this week.

I promise, if you take this seriously, you can and will save 10-15 hours a week simply by taking the time to complete this exercise.

4. Understand the Price of Gold

One of the greatest threats to your success, fulfillment, and ability to own your time is the negative approval of others.

I call this concept the “Price of Gold” and it goes like this…

As human beings, we are all hard wired to seek validation. Our 200,000 year old brains learned a long time ago that validation and approval equals safety and disapproval means death.

On the plains of Africa, if you didn’t have the approval of your tribe, you would soon be kicked to the curb and left to fend for yourself (likely meaning a painful death at the paws of a hungry lion or leopard).

However, in 2019, we no longer need this type of approval to survive and, in many cases, seeking the wrong types of validation from others can be detrimental to our success and well being.

For example, I know a ton of entrepreneurs who pride themselves on being “hustlers.” Guys and gals who will wake up at 4 am, work for 16 hours straight, sleep only 5 hours a night and then wake up and do it all over again.

Their peers, friends, and mentors all tell them, “Wow! You’re such a hard worker” or “You’re so disciplined. I can’t believe how hard you hustle.”

And it feels good to receive this type of validation.

But it also costs them their peace of mind and sense of personal satisfaction.

They build their identify and sense of validation around the wrong things and learn to develop positive associations with bad habits.

What their friends should really be saying is, “Hey man…Why are you working so much? Shouldn’t you be prioritizing time with your family and friends? Shouldn’t you go to the gym more than once a month?”

To reclaim control of your time, you must eliminate the “stupid gold stars” you’re receiving for detrimental habits.

Right now, pull out a sheet of paper and write down the following questions:

  • What are you getting approval for that does not serve you?
  • Who is giving approval that does not serve you?
  • Why are you seeking this approval?
  • What is it costing you?

For example, you might be getting approval for working too many hours or spending too many hours in the gym. This approval may come from friends, co-workers, or coaching clients and you crave this approval because you falsely associate your ability to “GSD” or move heavy weights with your self identity.

And the cost is your happiness, personal life, sleep, and likely sanity.

Take a minute right now to complete this exercise. I’ll wait.

Now that you’ve done this, I want you to invert the questions above and ask yourself:

  • What do you need to get approval for doing?
  • Who are the right people to give you this approval?
  • How will this approval serve to further your life and vision?

Here’s my personal example of this exercise:

Take some time right now to complete this exercise. I promise, if you do, it will change your life.

Want to achieve your 12-month goals in the next 90-days?

Then click here to get free access to my “90-Day Reality Maker Blueprint”–the exact tool I use with my $25k/day coaching clients–where I’ll show you how to achieve your biggest goals in only 90-days or less.

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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