“I can never catch up.”
“My job is so stressful.”
“I’m always thinking about work.”
“I don’t have time for a personal life.”
These are all signs that you lack time and energy.
Your job is dominating your life…and you’re tolerating it.
No more. Let’s fix that.
I’m speaking from experience.
10 years of grinding as a management consultant certainly generated big gains in my life: a financial foothold, a reputation, and a valuable skillset.
But it also ruined my marriage, took me away from my kids, and destroyed my health.
So, I tested new strategies over the next 5 years (while still in corporate).
I reclaimed time and energy while still succeeding on the job.
With my batteries recharged, I:
To create the life we want, we need time and energy. One or the other won’t do.
Today we’re getting tactical on the “how.”
Before we dive in, realize that these tactics require that you first determine the life you want for yourself.
Without a “north star,” none of this makes sense. You won’t have the motivation to persevere with these bold tactics. But creating that vision is a discussion for another day.
Below are 12 practical steps to reclaim time and energy from work. These gains allow you to redirect reclaimed time and energy towards what matters most to you.
Ready? Let’s go!
1. Determine what you want your job to “mean”
The default mentality says, “I must find meaning in my job.” This translates to most people spending years job-hopping, trying to find elusive “meaning.” Instead, you can view your 9-5 as pure utility: doing (efficient) work in exchange for money, perks, skills, relationships, and experiences. If you find meaning in the work, great! Consider that a bonus.
2. Protect and direct your best energy
View yourself as a rechargeable battery. Your energy levels deplete or recharge based on the activities you do. You must understand your high-energy zones (e.g., I only have “creative” energy from 7-11am). Then, ruthlessly protect those time blocks for your most important work.
3. Complete one “needle-mover” per day
The book Make Time discusses having one “highlight” per day. A highlight is an important (not urgent) task that’ll make a meaningful difference for you. It can be personal or job-related. But realize the power of stacking little (well-targeted) gains, day after day.
4. Timeshift how you spend your days
No one is a “morning person” by default. You have to train your mind and body into it. You’ve heard this before but likely haven’t done anything about it. Go to bed earlier. Wake up earlier. Build a morning ritual that prepares you for success and prioritizes deep work.
5. Install rules of engagement
We preach “boundaries” but constantly violate them. I prefer rules of engagement — a social contract with yourself for what you will and won’t tolerate at work. Rules that say “I’ll do this, but not that.” Set these limits silently and proactively, rather than always asking for permission. Most people won’t even notice. Executives operate this way; you can too.
6. Isolate stressors (things that cause stress)
Remember, the job is not inherently stressful. What you say “yes” to (the stressors) is what causes your stress. Identify relevant stressors (people, places, and tasks) and work to minimize their impact on your life.
7. Fixate on outcomes (not hours)
Once you’re established in your career, stop with participation points. Those “pressures” to show up at all the meetings and network events are fake…and 100% optional. They represent massive opportunity costs. Instead, fixate on the core outcomes you should deliver at work. Lock in on the critical path, operate in your zone of genius, and say no to everything else.
8. Drastically reduce commitments
What are the essential few things you should be doing at work? It’s not “always having Slack open.” Once you establish this view, carefully audit your past month’s calendar. Identify wasteful activities. Your aim is to (diplomatically) remove 40% of this work — using overt and covert tactics. Remember, everyone is worried about themselves, not you. Use this knowledge to your advantage.
9. Shape your role
Stop being a drone: don’t just copy what your peers are doing. Actively work with your leadership to shape your role to maximize your strengths. Reduce the amount of time and energy spent on things you dislike or suck at. This is how you turn 10-hour days into 6-hour days.
10. Design your environment
All those pings and dings from your devices? Turn them off. Even better, delete Slack and all email from your phone, install the Freedom app, and live more with pen and paper. Oh, you “can’t”? Or you won’t?
11. Purchase relationship insurance
You always want people you can trust and lean on. Find five (well-positioned) people in your organization that you’d like to have your back. Build genuine relationships with them. Be valuable and loyal to them. Be open and honest with your life priorities and circumstances (maybe you’re a parent?). If others ever question how you’re spending your time, these people will fight for you.
12. Create assets and automation
Do you find yourself doing repetitive tasks? Are a specialist that everyone wants to talk to? Automate your brain. Build “how to” assets that others can use without you there. Use software to automate normal, boring work. Free yourself up!
Gradually implement these tactics, and your life will change. You’ll claw back precious time and energy from work and use it to build the life you dream of.
It’s that simple…and that hard. Hit me up if you need help.
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