When we start off our careers — salaried or freelance — we learn to adjust, make do. That handbag that hurts the shoulder; downloading Google docs in Word format because you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Word; the laptop that keeps going into blue screen that you’re determined to suck every last second out of; or worse, trying to work entirely on your phone when the laptop finally dies; the sofa you’re working from because a good chair costs a few thousands…
As you grow in your career, begin to invest in not making do.
You’ll be amazed at how much time and energy these little things are taking away from you. Even when you’ve figured out the quickest / easiest way to take care of these things, it’s a time-suck that you don’t need. In trying to save a few bucks, you’ll be wasting precious time. And this time adds up.
Do yourself a favour:
1. From today, observe your life and work carefully.
2. Identify things that are wasting your time. Don’t measure how much time yet. Just think about what’s costing you time that you’d rather not spend on.
For instance, recently I realised that I spent a lot of time telling people whether I’m available for a meeting or not. After trying out paid apps like Calendly and Acuity, I decided to stick to good old Google calendar. I set up a public calendar and put the link to it on my email signature.
Now, clients check availability on their own and send invites to meetings without ever pinging me on WhatsApp. 🙂 In fact, it’s a ridiculously basic and common practice within organizations to make calendars available to colleagues. I just replicated that for my business to share outside my org too.
You might think it’s a tiny thing. When someone pings me, it takes 10 seconds to check the calendar and confirm. Why bother trying out three different tools and set something up? Is it a big enough problem?
To me, it was. It distracted me; it took me away from serious work. It also made my day too disorganised because it had meetings at all times (you’ll notice my mornings are blocked off entirely). And more importantly, it put me in a position to have to say no more than I’d like.
3. Once you’ve identified your time-sucks, build systems to counter it. This could be automation, outsourcing, or simply deciding not to do something.
But don’t passively adjust.
By the way, I’m not asking you to “optimise your time” and make the most of every second to compete in hustle culture. On the contrary, I’m asking you to identify irritants and thoughtfully eliminate them. You see the difference, right?