“I’m busy” just rolls off our tongues. And you probably are busy. All of us have long to-do lists, which only seem to swell and swell.
In his book Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time, Rory Vaden, bestselling author and co-founder of Southwestern Consulting, encourages us to stop talking about how busy we are. He used to do it all the time.
As he writes, “Your problem is not that you are too busy; your problem is that you don’t own your situation.”
He says that our lives are our responsibility. The commitments we have were either created or allowed by us.
As he further explains, “You are powerful enough to decide what you will and won’t do with your time.”
In , Vaden dedicates a separate chapter to a different strategy and permission for making better use of our time:
- Eliminate — the permission to ignore
- Automate — the permission to invest
- Delegate — the permission of imperfect
- Procrastinate — the permission of incomplete
- Concentrate — the permission to protect
At the end of each chapter he lists valuable questions we can ask ourselves to help us make intentional decisions about our days. This way we aren’t blurting out or swimming in a sea of “I’m busy” statements.
Instead, we’re in charge. We’re making choices about how to spend our time in this world.
Below you’ll find these valuable questions, along with Vaden’s other insights, to help you multiply your time.
“What are you currently saying yes to that is causing you to say no to your goals or your family?”
Vaden encourages us to think about all the things we’re doing that we don’t need to be doing. For instance, we can start by stopping anything that doesn’t require any warning, apology or explanation.
According to Vaden, this might include watching TV, reading long emails, doing others’ work and gossiping.
(Long emails usually warrant a phone call. For gossiping, Vaden likes Dave Ramsey’s definition: “complaining or talking badly about anything to anyone who can’t directly do something about it.”)
The above question also highlights an important point: When we say yes to something we don’t want to do, we take time away from what we do. We take time away from what makes us happy and fulfilled.
The key is in learning to say no, which is really tough for most of us. But it’s not impossible. It involves learning a few strategies and practicing a lot. (You can learn more about saying no in this piece and this one.)
“What things are you doing over and over again that you could invest time or money into automating?”
According to Vaden, “there are things all around your life and your business that should be automated.” That is, there are things that you can improve or streamline.
For instance, whether you have a small or big business, you can invest time in creating a list of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). This saves you time in the long run of handling the same questions over and over.
You also can automate your bills, so they’re taken out automatically from your checking account. (Of course, the trick is to keep enough money in there.)
You can automate your chores, so you’re not wasting time arguing about who’s taking out the trash or washing the dishes.
Basically, any time you have to do something over and over, you might want to find a way to automate it. According to Vaden, “any time you can set up a system whereby someone can reduce the amount of ‘think time’ she has to spend to complete a regimented task, you will have created savings.”
“What tasks are you hanging on to that you need to let go control of?”
A big reason why we don’t delegate is because we worry that someone else will make a mistake. (And we think it’s easier if we just do it ourselves.)
However, in the long run, this can save you lots of time. You can delegate tasks to people at work or at home. At work, you might hire anyone from a virtual assistant to a business coach to a bookkeeper to a graphic designer.
At home, you might hire a house cleaner, gardener, mechanic or handyman. (As Vaden writes, “anyone who runs a household runs a business.”)
And, if you have kids, Vaden says, you can always put them to work.
“In what areas of your life do you need to learn to be okay with things being just okay and to trust that time will help sort things out?”
Sometimes it’s important to be patient. Sometimes, it’s important to let yourself procrastinate today so you can create more time tomorrow.
For instance, according to Vaden, if you’re not at least 75 percent sure of what the right decision is, don’t make one. Wait.
He notes that time lets ideas incubate and relationships grow. It gives people the space to mature. And it lets our dreams adjust so they align with the true purpose of our lives.
Anything in our lives can wait. If you’re having a heart-to-heart with a loved one, the phone call can wait.
“What do you need to give yourself permission to concentrate on? How would concentrating on that create more opportunity for those around you?”
The last permission is about protecting ourselves, and concentrating on your next most significant priority, Vaden writes. He notes that this may be a task that’s moving you toward your greatest contribution or making the impact you’d like to make.
It may be the thing that’s helping you become your highest self in the moment.
This is really hard to do because we want to serve others, and we want their approval. So we let others’ priorities take over.
But, as Vaden writes, “Your highest obligation to other people is to be your highest self.” And if you aren’t your highest self, then you inhibit others from being their highest selves, too.
Multiplying our time isn’t about doing things as quickly as possible. Rather, it’s about giving ourselves the permission to eliminate, automate, delegate and procrastinate — and then to concentrate on what truly matters.