It's the Little Things that make a BIG Difference
What follows are two golden systems that I have implemented in my life and I recommend you try. I guarantee that these two small things will change some people's lives more than any major changes that they could implement. These systems are easy, and the pay off is huge. They’ll help you use your time more efficiently and give you more time overall. Let’s start with a seemingly irrelevant quote. Before you read on, please, do not take this as an advocacy for eating elephants, I disavow all, and every attempt to eat elephants.
“There is only one way to eat an elephant, a bite at a time” -Desmond Tutu.
Now you may be asking, what does this quote have to do with anything? Before I give you that answer, I’ll have to give you a bit of context. Your time is precious, as is mine, so this won’t take long.
My home is relatively clean. I manage to maintain a level of cleanliness where it rarely, if ever, falls into a state of disarray. I manage to keep this relatively high standard, not by setting aside an entire day to do all my cleaning, but by spreading all my cleaning out over the course of a week. I do roughly 10 minutes of cleaning every day. This can be anything from wiping down my kitchen benches, dusting or vacuuming. Once I’ve done a job or two, I stop. That’s all that needs to be done for the day. The 10 minutes is so insignificant that I can always find time to do it. Everybody can find a spare 10 minutes, maybe just before you go out, or while you’re waiting for some food to cook or cool down, get a job that you’ve been putting aside for a while and do it.
10 minutes may seem insignificant if you do it once, and it is. But this is a compounding investment (a recurring theme of this blog post). 10 minutes every day equals 70 minutes a week. Not only do I do more cleaning per week than if I were to set aside 1 hour on a Sunday as most people do, but I maintain a higher standard throughout the whole week due to continuous cleaning AND I get the added bonus of it not feeling like a big deal.
There’s the context, now lets get into the good stuff and apply this to the rest of your life. As I’ve said in previous posts, I have multiple activities (let’s call them projects) that I can work on during the day. Whether it be reading, writing, video editing, house work - whatever. I do this because when I don’t feel like doing one, I’ll work on another one. One that matches my energy levels. Each of these projects I could easily complete in one sitting if I dedicated a whole day to it. But I don’t. I break it down into small, bite sized pieces and work on each of them everyday. Starting out small helps build habits. Once you get more into the routine and start to enjoy them a little more, you can spend more time on it.
Take this blog post for example, I first wrote it physically into my book where I do all my writing, then once I decided I was going to make it into a blog post, I sat down and put the rough draft onto the computer. I wasn’t concerned with grammar, structure or the coherency of it all, I just wanted it typed out. The next day is when I started to form it more, I moved some things around and added extra stuff in. But I didn’t complete it. Each time I do this I look at it with a fresh pair of eyes, I catch any mistakes and improve on it bit by bit. After a few days of working on it, each day consisting of about 20 - 40 minutes of work, I’m ready to fight my paranoia and self-doubt and I’ll publish it.
So if you need to clean your super messy room, or you need to work on something that will take a lot of time and is very daunting, start with 10 minutes. Because doing 10 minutes of the bare minimum, is better than doing nothing. And soon, you’ll have eaten the whole (metaphorical) elephant.
Speed your life up.
Now let’s fast forward and I’ll show you how you can get 10% more time out of your life. As I said earlier - little things add up. Compounding interest is the name of the game. Here’s a question for you, how much TV do you watch? Probably a lot, like everyone. Well, I can give you THOUSANDS of free hours added to your life, with no perceivable downside. Who wants a free, few hundred hours added to their life each year? (probably to reinvest into watching more TV, but that’s up to you)
Where do these free hours come from? How can you attain free time by doing next to nothing? Well next time you decide to watch something, speed it up. If you watch a 10 minute video and speed it up by 10%. You just saved yourself 1 minute. How noticeable is it when 10 seconds worth of footage is compressed into 9? Not noticeable at all. Never. So do it. “But it’s only 1 minutes that I’m saving, what’s the point?” you ask. You’re right, if you only do this once you are only saving yourself 1 minute. But if you did this once per day, you just added 6 hours per year to your life. Compounding interest. Do this for every TV show you watch and you’ll save yourself days worth of time every year. If you watch something 20% faster, you just doubled the amount of time you saved. Netflix has the option to speed things up by 1.25x and 1.5x. With YouTube you can do it up to 2x. Utilise these features.
This strategy shines when it comes listening to podcasts. I probably listen to around an hour and a half’s worth of podcast every day. Well it would be an hour and a half, but it’s more like 45 minutes because I listen to them at double the speed. It seems crazy right? But when you listen to an unscripted podcast people do not talk perfectly. They stutter, they um, they ah, they pause to think. When you speed it up, these gaps can be used for you to process what was just said, it may take some time getting used to, so start with 1.5x speed and see if you’re able to hear everything that’s said. I bet you can do it easily.
Don’t believe me? Listen to a bit of this clip below (extraordinary clip about mindfullness by the way, worth a complete listen). Start it off at 1.5x speed, listen for 30 seconds then drop it down to normal speed.
See how when you dropped the speed back down it felt like someone has just applied pressure to the brakes. It’s slow. Painfully slow. I honestly can’t handle listening to conversations at normal speeds now. This system is a phenomenal addition to your life that will make you more time efficient. It turns a 3 hour JRE into 1.5 hours. It turns a daunting 50 minute TED talk into an easy 25 minute listen. You don’t really miss anything either, if you do have a lapse in concentration, that’s fine, just go back and relisten to it. Sometimes, depending on who is talking and what the topic is I’ll have to slow it back down. If it’s Eric Weinstein and Lex Fridman talking about AI and mathematical principles, yeah, I’ll drop the speed back a bit. Can you blame me?
Cooking videos are a MUST to watch at 2x speed. You don’t need to spend 3 seconds watching someone pouring in the 2 teaspoons of garlic powder (you'll put more garlic powder in anyway). You can cut that in half by watching it at twice the speed. I’ll stress this again, doing this once is meaningless. Doing this thousands of times across the span of your entire life is life changing.
There you have it. I just gave you thousands of free hours to your life. How are you going to spend it?