I get a version of this question frequently, usually from people with full schedules–some overwhelmed and flustered, others simply intent on squeezing out every bit of productivity each day. Related queries usually go something like this:
- How can I get by with less sleep?
- How can I get more of my work done between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. so I do not have to spend so much time working into the evening?
- How do I establish healthy boundaries to guard against this 24/7 expectation of being “on” all the time?
- While I believe in the importance of delegating and developing my people, where am I going to find the time?
You have likely asked yourself similar questions at one time or another, but the simple answer to how to get an additional hour out of each day is that you cannot.
Our perspective on time, though well intended, never yields the results we are looking for. We continue to try and fit more and more into our already full days and feel less and less fulfilled as we do. If you have studied this subject as I have, then you know that a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment begins to set in when we completely shift our perspective on time. If you haven’t, read on.
Whether you follow Stephen Covey, Tony Schwartz, or Ralph Simone, all agree that it the key to the 24-hour day is not and never was about managing time. In fact, time–which is an artificial construct used to maneuver in the physical world–cannot be managed. What we can manage is our energy and where we choose to focus it on any given day.
The studies on sleep are consistent; the question changes, then, from “How can I get by with less sleep?” to “How can I develop good sleep hygiene that enables me to sleep soundly for between seven and eight hours each evening?” Some useful tips include not checking your device after a certain time (allows the brain to start shutting down on both a physical and mental level); minimizing alcohol and caffeine after a certain time (allowing the stimulants to pass through your body); keeping your room cool; and establishing an end-of-day ritual that allows you to wind down nicely.
Regarding “too much homework,” the BIG question for each of us is, what were we doing all day if not working on things that are essential to our job and mission? What choices are we making or not making that compel us to catch up each night? Ask yourself throughout the day, “If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?” A downside of technology is the illusion of importance through urgency. Just because someone can get back to you right away does not mean they should. Build more strategic pauses into your days and consciously choose the most essential things to do. Movement for movement’s sake is wasted energy.
If you are a leader, and we believe everyone is, then your most important job is developing future leaders. This includes delegating tasks to people so they can learn and grow; “Let it go and let them grow.” It also includes modeling good “energy management” skills, so they learn to make efficient choices each day without searching for the 25th hour.
Ralph Simone is a partner with Emergent, a leadership training and professional coaching company based in Syracuse. He is a certified professional coach, specializing in leadership and organizational effectiveness. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This Viewpoint originally appeared in the Central New York Business Journal on July 18, 2022.