“Modern man thinks he loses something — time — when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains — except kill it.” – Erich Fromm (The Art of Loving, 1956)

“How many of you get up at 5:30?” I asked the 60 students who had assembled in Delray Beach for AWAI’s annual “Fast Track to Success” program.

I expected just two or three hands to go up. But nearly 20 did. A third of the group assembled were early risers.

“I can’t ask you to get up earlier than I do,” I told them. “So I’m going to tell you how to give yourself an extra hour a day of time to work on your copywriting skills.”

I could tell by the way they leaned forward and looked at me that they were interested. Hard-working people with great ambitions want more time to accomplish their goals.

You may feel that way too. If so, perhaps some of these suggestions will help:

1. E-mail

I get 100 e-mails a day. Some of them are 40 pages long. I’m going to find out exactly how much time I spend on e-mail, but I estimate it’s about three hours a day. I’m almost certain I can cut that down by half an hour, if not an hour. That I’ll do by strictly limiting myself to two e-mail sessions of one hour each. I’ll get some kind of timer that will beep at me every 10 minutes or so. That will help me to reduce my occasional tendency to get involved with e-mail discussions that don’t really require my input and to give the shortest and most succinct answers to those I do choose to respond to.

2. Exercise

I used to spend about an hour working out three times a week. That’s three hours total. I can save one of those hours by doing two 10-minute workouts six days a week. For strength, I can do four super-hard sets till exhaustion — two sets each per body part. This kind of workout, done seriously and consistently, will get me stronger in the least amount of time. My second 10-minute workout will consist of wind sprints or the equivalent. Dr. Al (my fitness and health guru) tells me I’ll get more health benefits (including heart health) by exercising this way than by taking joint-disintegrating marathon runs.

3. Phone calls

Instead of taking phone calls when they come, I’ll return all my calls once a day. I’ll keep them succinct and (if the callback can’t be completed at that time) leave detailed voice-mail messages, suggesting e-mail follow-up to avoid telephone tag.

4. Fooling around in the morning

I have this one pared down to the bare bones. I get up. Do my bathroom stuff. Dress. And I’m ready to roll in 30 minutes. I’ve found that it’s simply unnecessary to spend an hour each morning warming up.

5. Learning to say “no”

You can’t expect to find and keep extra time if you continue to fill up the time you have by accepting work you don’t need to do. When someone asks me to do something that can be done as well by someone else, I’m going to learn to say “no.”

6. More and better delegating

Not only do I need to say “no” more often; I also need to say “See Joe” more.

Giving yourself an extra hour or two a day to work on your No. 1 goal will change your life.

If your goal, for example, is to become a good copywriter and you need 700 hours to accomplish that, you’ll have it done in a year or two — depending on whether you can steal two hours a day or just one to put toward this objective.

Very important: Don’t squander the gift of extra time by spending it on something that’s not really important. Commit yourself to spending every minute of it on the goal you want to accomplish. And try your best to spend that extra time early in the morning — preferably before you get involved in your other work.

I’m stealing time right now to write what I hope will be a best-selling book on “getting rich.” When that book is done — sometime this winter — I’m going to go back to finishing my first great literary novel.

What do you want to do? How many hours can you steal away from your daily chores to do it?