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Free up your time. Crush the Time Suckers.
Identify the things that are killing your bandwidth to free yourself up to do the fun stuff.
Welcome! Product Party is a weekly newsletter connecting people to the world of problem-solving through product 🎉
The topic this week: Time Suckers are crushing your bandwidth, and a few tiny changes could make a huge impact over time.
Before we get into it, check out the latest in our series of “Is this real life??” things being discovered using AI in 2023.
“You know. I’ve had that on my list of things to do but haven’t gotten to it. Maybe I’ll get it done in (insert year here).”
How often have you had this conversation with yourself or peers over time? Do you ever actually do the thing you want to do, or do you keep kicking the can down the road? If it’s the latter, is the value add not great enough for this “thing,” or are you so swamped with all the other time suckers in your life that you can’t break away from them?
While I’m not going to wipe your slate clean and finally free you up to become that guitar virtuoso (PS I see your Fender Strat collecting dust in the back of our Zoom calls), I have a few ideas on how you can attack your Time Suckers, so let’s get into it.
Do a Time Sucker inventory.
Audit your time - One of the important ways to understand where you can free up time is to understand where you’re spending your time. This will require you to devote some precious time, but I swear it’ll be worth it. Whether you enter it into a cool app like Clockify or a basic spreadsheet, you need to document what types of tasks/planning you’re devoting your time to. This will feed into your near/long-term strategy.
Create a top Time Sucker list - Complete the breakdown of your tracking over the days/weeks you decide to use in your list. Consider associating some ranking systems that will help you understand how much time you’re spending on each OR what percentage of your time is devoted to each item. Try to boil down your list to something manageable, like a Top 10.
Pick 1-2 Time Suckers you want to attack - Based on your Time Sucker inventory, let’s identify 1 or 2 high-level ones you want to chip away at. You’re going to be taking the product approach here. So ultimately, think of this as the Time Sucker is your epic, and you’re going to be breaking things down to the story - even task - level.
Consider small changes to start.
One of people's biggest struggles with achieving personal goals is trying to hit the home run with a huge change instead of chipping away at the goal. Although some might pull a Miguel Cabrera and knock it out of the park on their way to winning a Triple Crown, the reality is that most of us are just a bunch of Adam Dunn’s. Lots of swings. Lots of misses.
One way to get around this frequent big whiffer situation is to consider breaking down the 1-2 Time Suckers into 3-5 smaller chunks each which you can use to be more realistic goals that, as you achieve them, help to improve the bigger picture.
A basic example:
I spend a ton of time sending e-mails each week for repeated reporting.
I realize that instead of creating everything from scratch, I can create an email template showcasing the results of my data crunching with all the formatting, recipients, etc., all ready to drop info into.
I run my numbers before I plan to ship the report, copy/paste all of the information into my template, and then queue up the email to send at the desired time.
It’s a small and simple example, but if you have the “death by a million cuts” type mindset with your time, you’ll see how streamlining and automating when you can start to snowball your time savings and leave you more and more time to do what you want to do.
Are you improving/getting more time back? Or do you need to make adjustments?
Just like in the product world many of you live in, you need to be able to look back on the changes you’ve made and determine if you’ve made an impact. The only way to truly understand if you need to keep the course with the level of changes you’re making or if you need to switch it up is to measure.
We aren’t making these changes all at once, so checking in daily is not the best approach. Remember - you’re hoping to take advantage of the compounding effect of change. I would recommend after a couple of weeks post implementing change to run the first section (checking your time inventory) again and see if anything has shifted. Are you spending less time in your top 1-2 Time Suckers you attempted to address? Are you getting more done in that area because of your changes? If yes, awesome. You are on your way to crushing those Time Suckers. If not, knowing that we are playing the long game, you should consider adjusting your strategy to make more/different types of changes to see if you’re having an impact.
We all have those things on our to-do lists that we keep putting off. But instead of continuing to push them back, it's time to take action and attack those Time Suckers.
You can start making progress toward your goals by doing a Time Sucker inventory, creating a game plan, and picking 1-2 challenges to tackle. It's important to start with small changes and break down the larger goals into smaller, achievable chunks. By measuring your progress and making adjustments along the way, you can see the compounding effect of change and ultimately achieve success in overcoming your time suckers.
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In any case, don’t just accept ideas at face value. Engage with the person requesting the feature, and find out as much about the Why as possible.
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