We all want more time for the things that matter most.

Time to spend with our families…

Pursue our hobbies…

Travel the world…

And enjoy the finer things in life.

But most entrepreneurs and high-performers are trapped in the “golden handcuffs of success.”

We’re stuck in an endless sea of tasks and to-do’s and don’t know how to escape our self-made prison and reclaim control of our lives.

Listen…You didn’t become an entrepreneur so you could have less time, less freedom, and less energy to do the things you love most.

And if you’re stuck working too much and making too little it does not have to stay this way.

Over the past two decades, I’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs work less, earn more, and engineer a life and business on their terms.

And today, I want to help you do the same.

In this guide, I’m going to share the ten proven strategies I personally use to run multiple 7-figure companies while working only 45 hours a week.

If you’ll take action on what I’m about to teach you, I promise, you can shave 10 hours off your workweek, create more time to do the things you love, and achieve the freedom you’ve been after for so long.

1. Proper Planning and Preparation Trump Everything 

Benjamin Franklin, the first American millionaire and arguably one of the most successful men in the nation’s history said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” 

Franklin knew the power of proper planning and preparation and as a result, he became a best-selling author, millionaire entrepreneur, prolific inventor, and wildly successful political activist in a time before life coaches, transformational seminars, and self-help books. 

To become a high-performer and achieve the success you desire, you can’t leave anything to chance. 

If you begin your day, week, or month without a plan you’ve already lost. You must have crystal clear clarity on exactly what needs to be done, by when, and why. 

Military leaders don’t go into battle without a plan and as the “General” of your life and business, neither should you.

Luckily, you don’t need a $60 journal or some laundry list of convoluted strategies to effectively plan for success. In fact, proper planning and preparation, when done right, are incredibly simple.

To get started, I want you to download my 90-day Reality Maker Blueprint, a free resource that I use with all of my high-ticket coaching clients.

You’re going to pick ONE goal that you want to achieve over the next 90-days and then use this blueprint to reverse engineer the exact action steps you need to take to accomplish it.

Here’s a quick video walkthrough of how it works.

With your 90-day blueprint in place, you’re then going to use my 7X7 Perfect Week Formula Grid to strategically engineer your weeks for maximum productivity and fulfillment.

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 to 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 (more on that later).

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 we’ll dive into next).

Click here to check out my article where I explain this planning strategy in depth.

With your 90-Day Blueprint and Perfect Week Planning formula in place, the only thing that is left is to take 15-minutes at the end of each workday to plan the following day and ensure that you have the forward momentum you need to succeed.

To start off these 15-minutes, you’re going to complete a short “brain dump” to get all of your tasks and obligations out of your head and onto paper.

Write down everything that you have to do that week and then organize your list by priority.

Next, you’re going to pick your three TOP priorities and write down where and when you plan to do them the following day.

Then, with your week planned out and your next day scheduled, take a few minutes to prepare for whatever tasks you’ve committed to and make the following day easier.

For example, if you have an article to write, take five minutes and create an outline before you clock out.

If you have an important meeting, organize whatever documents and resources you need to knock it out of the park.

Do whatever you can to “grease the chute” and make the following day easier.

By committing to consistent and strategic planning, you will dramatically shorten your workweek, identify tasks that no longer serve you, and show up each day with a clear strategy for sustained success.

2. Use this “Magic Word” to Eliminate the Fluff from Your Schedule and Regain Control of Your Time 

THE fastest way to work less, accomplish more, and have complete control of your schedule is to fall in love with the word “No”.

Too many would-be high-performers allow FOMO (fear of missing out) to hold them back from success and steal their time.

They think they need to pursue every opportunity that comes their way and say “yes” to anything that has a 1% chance of helping them achieve their goals.

But I’m here to tell you they’re wrong.

To work less and achieve more, you must ruthlessly eliminate everything that does not serve your big vision.

Things like…

  • Low paying clients who eat up all of your time.
  • Unpaid speaking gigs that don’t drive new clients to your business or build your reputation in a significant way.
  • Podcast interviews on small shows.
  • Meeting up with old college buddies (that you never see and don’t really like).
  • Coffee “dates” with strangers who want to ‘pick your brain’

You need to say “no” to all of them. And yes, this is going to upset some people.

But it’s ok.

To perform at the highest levels, you must protect your time, attention, and energy. You must eliminate the “good” to make room for the “great”.

Listen…

No matter how many hours you work, you can never “do it all.” You can’t make everyone happy and you can’t pursue every opportunity that presents itself.

You must learn how to say “no” (and mean it).

And when you do, you will create the time and freedom to say “yes” when it really matters.

3. Stop Doing Tasks that Steal Your Soul and Make You Hate Your Life

The next step to reducing the hours you work and reclaiming control of your schedule is to stop doing the work that you hate. 

There will always be aspects of your business that you don’t enjoy but have to do (these include calls with your accountant and lawyer, re-reading sales promotions for the umpteenth time before they go out the door, or making another sales call after your 10th rejection in a row). Work won’t always be fun. 

This is an inescapable part of business and life. 

However, there is a fundamental difference between these necessary evils and unnecessary tasks that drain your mental and emotional reservoirs, actively damaging the quality of your performance. 

For example, I hate spending time on early morning phone calls. It’s a big mistake, strategically, because I do my best work while the sun rises, and taking calls at that time (from my overseas clients in Europe, Australia, or Singapore) gives away my most valuable hours. 

As such, I’ve created boundaries and systems that allow me to avoid spending time on such tasks. 

I schedule all of my calls for late morning, mid-afternoon, or early evening so that I never have to waste a minute of my “magic time” in the morning. (I’m also much more sociable after my AM grumpiness has lifted like the fog on a typical San Francisco day). 

For you, it might be different. 

Maybe you hate being hauled into unnecessary meetings (as if anyone likes this?) or writing last-minute emails to your list in the morning or handling customer support inquiries late at night. 

Whatever it is, STOP doing it. 

Teach someone else to do it, reschedule it for another time, or eliminate it. Or at the very least, simply reduce the frequency with which you have to do it. 

Not only will you save two to three hours a week by not engaging in whatever tasks you hate, but you will save countless more hours by protecting your emotions and willpower from these energy vampires in your life. 

And when you plug the leaks in your proverbial bucket, you will have more energy, motivation, and enthusiasm with which to attack the rest of your day.

4. Remember the “Sprinkler Principle” 

My buddy Bedros Keuilian, the Founder and CEO of Fit Body Bootcamp, once lost a $25,000 sale because… wait for it.

He chose to fix a sprinkler for his wife and handed the sales call off to his assistant.

Ouch.

As extreme as this example sounds, it perfectly illustrates the importance of effective delegation.

Bedros could have spent $150 and paid a professional to come and take care of the sprinkler. But he didn’t. And that decision cost him $25,000.

Listen…

If you want to be a millionaire, build an empire, and lead an extraordinary life you cannot waste your time on $10 (or even $50) an hour tasks.

You must stop doing things that are not your job. Things that other people can do faster, better, and cheaper than you can.

Running to the UPS store, fixing the printer in your office, doing all of your customer service, posting your content to social media, and even buying your groceries and preparing your meals is NOT your job.

You’re here to leave a legacy, to build an empire, to make a difference in this world…You’re not here to do your laundry.

Imagine Warren Buffett skipping a board meeting so that he could mow the lawn. Or Sarah Blakely throwing away an hour of her time setting up the new conference room TV. Or Bill Gates packing boxes to move Microsoft’s HQ, or worse, packing the boxes at home to move house.

It would never happen, right? 

This “Not my job” mindset doesn’t make you a bad or selfish person. It simply makes you someone who has aligned their actions with their priorities. It allows you to be more effective in your business while giving you plenty of free time to enjoy the finer things in life. 

Oh, and it allows you to contribute to the economy and create new jobs by paying other people (who just want a way to make ends meet and enjoy their lives) to do the work that doesn’t drive your life forward. 

Sit down and make a list of how you’ve spent your time over the last two workdays. What did you do that someone on your team was hired to do? What activities do you (irrationally) refuse to let go? What chores are you doing out of guilt that you hate, should stop, and are not your job?

Write them down and commit to outsourcing them this week.

5. Batch Your Tasks to Get More Done and Reduce Transitions

One of the simplest ways to work less and accomplish more is to strategically structure your days and weeks using the concept of “batching.”

Batching is simply the practice of completing similar tasks on a specific day or during a particular block of work.

For example, if you have to write three articles a week, pick one day each week where your only focus is writing. This will help you get into flow faster and dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes you to get things done.

When you switch from task to task–responding to emails, then writing an article, then recording a podcast, then doing coaching calls–you waste time and mental energy transitioning between them.

By setting up your schedule so that you do all similar tasks on the same day (e.g. recording podcasts on Mondays, writing on Tuesdays, doing coaching calls on Wednesdays, etc.) you can cut out the number of transitions in your days and produce higher quality work easier and faster.

Give this a try this week and I promise, you’ll work less, get more done, and have more free time than ever before.

6. Use “Magic Time” to Get 10X More Accomplished in Half the Time 

I’ve talked about “Magic Time” a lot here on Early to Rise.

But for those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, your magic time is the time of the day where you are 2-3X more productive, focused, and creative than any other time.

For most people, this time is first thing in the morning. However, you can use the “time journal” exercise I share later in this article to determine exactly when your personal magic time is.

Once you’ve identified your magic time, you must protect it with your life.

Your magic time is reserved for the non-urgent but important “legacy work” that will help you make massive leaps forward in your life and business.

Things like…

  • Writing your book
  • Building your new product
  • Refining your sales funnels
  • Creating your side hustle (if you’re stuck in a 9-5 job)

Your magic time is NOT for:

  • Meetings
  • Emails
  • Phone calls
  • Administrative work

Or anything else that does not move you toward your big vision in a significant way.

It might seem simple, but this strategy has the power to completely transform your life and business.

In fact, Russel Brunson, the Founder of ClickFunnels said with this tactic (along with other principles I shared in my Perfect Day Formula Book):

“In my two hour mornings, I get as much work done as I typically do in an 8 hour day.”

Schedule your magic time and implement this tactic this week. I promise, the results will amaze you.

7. Take a Nap…Really (You Look Tired) 

Most entrepreneurs I know are chronically sleep deprived.

They sleep 4-6 hours a night and attempt to “power through” their workdays without ever realizing just how much performance and potential they are leaving on the table.

Listen…

I don’t care what the “gurus” or your grandad told you.

Sleep matters and it matters a lot. If you aren’t getting at least 7 hours of deep sleep every night, you’re actively stunting your growth and preventing yourself from achieving peak performance.

Chronic sleep deprivation has been show to cause:

Inversely, getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis leads to:

The bottom line?

Get enough sleep.

You aren’t doing yourself or your business any favors by attempting to become one of the sleepless elite.

8. Step Away to Step Up as a Leader 

Bill Gates has a “weird” ritual that he follows twice a year.

During the most challenging and difficult times in his company, Mr. Gates retires to a secret cabin (seriously…even his wife doesn’t know where it is) and spends an entire week alone thinking, reading, and strategizing far from the distractions of daily life.

To the outside observer, this might sound crazy.

After all, why would any responsible CEO drop off the grid for a week when his company is in the middle of a new launch or crisis?

However, according to every one of his executives, when Bill returns from his brief sabbatical, “Things just start moving.”

He understands that effective leadership sometimes requires separation. It requires stepping back and getting away from the challenges and obstacles so that you can gain perspective and develop better solutions.

But most entrepreneurs don’t do this.

They rarely (if ever) take vacations. They work every day of the week. And they spend 90% of their waking hours either working in their business or thinking about their business.

And as a result, most entrepreneurs are stressed out, overwhelmed, and on the verge of a mental breakdown.

To work less and scale your company, you must start by taking time away from your business.

I know this might sound impossible, but I promise you, everything will be ok. You can find a way to take a week–or at least a weekend–away from your work to recharge.

In fact, my friend Dan Sullivan, the Founder of Strategic Coach (the biggest high-performance coaching company on the planet) says, “For an entrepreneur to 10X their revenue, they must massively decrease the time they spend working.” 

To step up and lead your company and team to the success you all desire, you must consciously make time to step away from your business and get the perspective you need to take it to the next level.

Right now, I want you to commit to taking at least three days completely off from work (yes, this means no email) and put it in your calendar.

It might seem scary at first, but I promise you, when you return, you will have more energy, clarity, and motivation than ever before.

9. Ruthlessly Eliminate Your Distractions 

Without a doubt, one of the number one killers of entrepreneurial goals and dreams is distraction. 

Study after study has shown that distraction in the workplace–from phone notifications to emails from your boss to co-workers and employees asking for “Just a second” of your time–not only derails your productivity, but also lowers the quality of the work that you produce. 

Therefore, one of the first and most important things you can do to improve the quality of your work and reduce the number of hours required to complete it is to build a proverbial fence around yourself. 

Refuse to allow distractions in your life. 

Set hard boundaries with your colleagues, employees, and clients and tell them that you will be unavailable during specific hours of the day. Put your phone on airplane mode and designate specific times during which you will check your texts, your email, and other notifications. 

Sit down with your family and explain the importance of having a distraction free workday and how you will be able to spend more quality time with them if they will respect your boundaries and allow you to stay focused. 

If you are still unable to achieve the blocks of distraction free deep work you need, then bite the bullet and wake up early in the morning so that you can tackle those important tasks before the rest of the world is awake and attempting to steal your attention. 

Do whatever must be done to give yourself the gift of focused work time. 

When you can focus on your most important tasks without facing distractions or interferences, you’ll be able to accomplish those important tasks faster and better, not only saving yourself countless hours each week, but improving the output of those hours in the process. 

10. Leverage the “Drucker Principle” to Manage Your Time and Attention More Effectively

“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.

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

For the next week, you’re going to set up 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”.

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.

Conclusion

With these 10 simple strategies, you are well on your way to working less, earning more, and achieving the freedom you’ve been after for so long.

Which strategy are you going to test out first? Is there anything I left off the list?

Let me know your feedback in the comments below!

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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