In this busy world, many of us may be looking for freedom of time more than just financial freedom. After all, time is the only nonrenewable resource. It’s the one thing we can’t get more of.
When we talk to some of the wealthiest and most successful people in our networks the most common regret they have is that they did not prioritize freedom of time when designing their lifestyle, making their business choices, and achieving a sustainable work-life balance.
What is Freedom of Time
Let’s start with defining what freedom of time is for us:
Freedom of time is the ability to make decisions about what we do, when (and with whom) without negative impacts on our overall well-being.
Sounds a bit intimidating, but let’s break it down to examine what time freedom means.
…the ability to make decisions about what we do… we should have enough time to be able to do what we love, and not feel beholden to a company, a boss, or a career that we don’t like. Especially if it means spending time at this job that is taking away from higher priorities that will give us more happiness.
…when and with whom… this is a bit of a tangent, but when we’ve achieved true freedom in our lives (personal financial freedom and freedom of time) it means that we don’t have the time pressure that so many of us feel right now.
If you’re in a regular 9-5 office job you know that you just can’t sneak out to the golf course or your kids’ soccer practice at 2:00 on a Thursday. You just simply don’t own your time yet.
…without negative impacts on our overall well-being… This is not a matter of sacrifice, but it truly just doesn’t matter. If you do something today, tomorrow, or not at all you won’t be worse off because of it.
Time Management Tips For Busy Professionals
The majority of us are working conventional day jobs. While the gig economy, freelancing, and starting your own business have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years it still is the vocal minority out there. Many of us still go to regular jobs for our careers.
With this work setup, we really need to consider how time management can be optimized in our lives so that we can achieve the best freedom of time for our situation.
If you’re a busy professional here are 5 tips to help you with your time management:
Establish a baseline
How are you spending time now? If you haven’t already get a notebook and put it on your desk. Write out everything you do for one whole week. Yes you can do it. A week isn’t that long.
Write out everything you do at work, at home, with your family and friends, everything. We’re big fans of establishing a baseline like this (it’s our preferred way to start a budget too!) because knowing where you are at the start is the only way you can know how to get where you want to go in a perfect world.
After you’ve written down everything you did for that first week you can start thinking about optimizing your daily schedule so that you are more productive, more intentional, and have more time in your days.
Prioritize relentlessly – important vs. urgent
There is a huge difference between what is important and what is urgent. The two are often confused, even by the best of us.
Popularized by the Eisenhower Matrix, you can more easily see what is important by listing out your weekly activities in this matrix:
- Important and urgent: These tasks have important deadlines with high urgency—complete them right away.
- Important but not urgent: These items are important but don’t require immediate action and should involve long-term development strategizing. Strive to spend most of your time in this quadrant.
- Urgent but not important: These tasks are urgent but not important. Minimize, delegate, or eliminate them because they don’t contribute to your output. They are generally distractions that may result from the poor planning of others.
- Not urgent and not important: These activities hold little if any value and should be eliminated as much as possible.
Make a schedule that you can live with
With your baseline schedule in place, and your list of activities prioritized, it’s time to be proactive and write out a defined schedule of your most important tasks for the day and for the week. With this you should be able to find enough time in the week for everything you need to do.
Some activities just won’t make the list, and that’s ok. Saying No to things is a big part of achieving freedom of time, and it’s best to start flexing that muscle now.
Group similar tasks together
When creating your weekly schedule, try not to bounce around too much between different types of tasks, or spend time traveling around town if you can.
Grouping similar tasks together is a great way to have a strong sense of accomplishment by checking items off of your ToDo list, and just getting things done.
This also avoids context switching, which is often mentally exhausting as much as it is an actual time waster. Focusing on one thing (or one type of thing) at a time decreases brain glucose you need to devote to your regular activities.
You can’t multitask. Don’t try to convince yourself that you can.
There is a lot of research on this, so go read it. Just stop multitaksing.
Use a tool to keep track of it all
Use some kind of checklist tool or project management software to keep track of your tasks, priorities, and schedules.
We’re big fans of Things 3, OmniFocus, and Notion.
The key here is to reduce the mental strain of your everyday activities and let your brain take a break because you know that everything is in the software app of your choice.
Switch your cell phone to vibrate, pause notifications on your laptop, and put on noise canceling headphones if you’re working at the computer. Go heads down for a short, intense period of time and get things done.
We use the Pomodoro technique regularly for writing these articles and it gives you the mental permission to just focus on one thing at a time because you have a limited timespan to get things done.
How Entrepreneurs Can Achieve Freedom Of Time
If you’re not a conventional employee but are an entrepreneur and a business owner then you have a whole different set of time management issues to address.
Not only do you need to think about the best use of your time, but about your employees’ productivity too.
Entrepreneurs often put themselves last when it comes to ruthlessly saying NO to things, to having dedicated time management practices, and spending less time doing low-impact things for their businesses. There are just so many pressures pulling business owners in many different directions.
For the most part, if you own a business you should follow the same guidelines above, but also impart those priorities and best practices to your employees as well.
How your employees spend their time is a direct reflection of their workplace effectiveness, and in turn to their contribution to the bottom line of your business’s financial statement.
How Does Financial Freedom Relate to Time Freedom?
Having enough free time to enjoy life is really the epitome of financial freedom. The two are so tightly intertwined that we often don’t think about them separately.
While financial freedom generally means having enough money to do what you want, freedom of time means having enough time to do what you want too.
Time management is a lot like having an effective financial budget…it’s not easy at first, often requires us to change the way we think about our time, and is a behavioral change that needs to occur in order to have complete control over our working life, leisure time, time with loved ones to live that full life we’re all dreaming of.
But don’t just dream, be intentional about how you spend your time.
Financial Independence Is Just The First Step
As we talked about at the beginning of this piece, many of those who have achieved financial independence often regret that they didn’t spend enough time thinking about Time Freedom too along the way.
Especially those who achieved Antidependence later in life often sacrificed time with loved ones, and their health, and spent too much time in their working day, without ever considering how they were spending their most precious asset of all: Time.
If you don’t take anything else away from this article, I hope it’s just this: Think about how intentional you’re being about the time you spend at work, at home with your loved ones, and at designing your ideal future. The balance between making money, saving money, and having enough time to enjoy it is an important one that all of us can be better at.