How To Free Up 500 Hours In The Next Year

AdVance Leadership » How To Free Up 500 Hours In The Next Year

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #031. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll free up 5-10 hours of time every week.  

1 Insight

You need time, energy, and attention to lead, but busyness cripples your capacity. By deleting, delegating, or negotiating the tasks you shouldn’t do, you’ll gain the capacity you need to lead others well.

We see leaders make a common mistake: they try to cram the work of leading others into the spare moments of the day. But, if you’re busy like most leaders, you don’t have spare moments in the day. In fact, you probably get to the end of the day and have a list of twenty more items you think you need to do.

You need capacity in your life to lead others well. Capacity means that you have the time, energy, and attention you need to lead well.

You need time, energy, and attention to:

  • Envision and strategize for the future.
  • Align the work of the team to the goals of the organization.
  • Remove obstacles that prevent your team from succeeding.
  • Meet with each person to help them accomplish their business goals.

The single biggest killer of your capacity is busyness: an overcommitment to too many good commitments. 

There are a million reasons you overcommit.

  • You’re a people pleaser who can’t say no.
  • You get excited by new opportunities and possibilities.
  • You get bored by the same routines and want to do something new.
  • You don’t take the time to delegate repeated tasks or areas of responsibility.
  • You love to help other people because it makes you feel good about yourself.

Whatever the reason(s), you’re busy because you commit.

           And commit.

                   And commit.

                           And commit.

You don’t make time for Relationships, Recreation, Rest, and Reflection. When all those commitments pile up, you become stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed, a recipe for bad leadership.

In my book, Gettin’ (un)Busy, I take you through a simple exercise to help you increase capacity. I’ve modified the exercise here to make it faster. Here’s my promise to you: if you will spend 15 minutes doing this exercise, you will free up 5-10 hours per week of time. 

In other words, spending one-quarter of an hour on this exercise could free up 250-500 hours in the next year.

We call the exercise Commit to (un)Commit, and it involves five actions.

  1.  Identify all the commitments that you should get out of. 

    If you lead a team, chances are high that you have actions on your plate that you don’t need to do. There are three types of commitments that you should stop doing:

    1Commitments you hate.
    2. Commitments you’re bad at.
    3. Commitments someone else should do (either because it’s not your responsibility or because it’s not the best use of your time).

    Write down a list of all those commitments that you should not be doing. The goal is to get rid of as many of these as you can.

  1. Write down how long each commitment takes.

    Beside each commitment, estimate how long it takes. This action helps you identify how much time you will free up by getting rid of this commitment.

  1. Determine your (un)commitment category.

    Now it’s time to categorize what you can do with each of these unwanted duties. You have four possible categories:

1. Quit. If you’re not obligated to do it, stop doing it. We had a client who spent two hours every month preparing a report for his boss, only to find out that his boss never looked at the report. He asked his boss if he could quit doing it and freed up over 100 hours that year.

2. Delegate. If the responsibility needs to be done, you don’t have to be the person who does it. You can delegate unwanted commitments. For example, we have a wonderful Virtual Assistant who handles calendars, invoices, reimbursements, travel arrangements, posting newsletters, etc.

3. Negotiate. If the commitment needs to be done but you don’t love it, see if you can exchange services with someone else. I (Garland) did this when I worked with another company. A coworker and I were responsible for creating content and designing materials. I loved creating content but hated designing materials for the content. My coworker was the opposite from me. We worked out a deal where I did most of the content creation, and she did most of the design.

Before we discuss the fourth option, it’s important to note: Whether you quit, delegate, or negotiate, do it with honor. Don’t break promises that you’ve made. If you promised to help with a service opportunity for a year, keep your word. But (un)commit from the service opportunity when the year is done.

4. Accept it. If you don’t have any way of getting out of the obligation, then keep it. But don’t simply keep it. Accept it. We all have responsibilities that we don’t love. Aim to have as few of them as possible. If you must keep a task, then don’t resent it. Accept it as part of life.

  1. Choose your next action.

    For each (un)commitment you’re making, determine your next action. You must do something.

  • If you’re quitting your book club, your next action is to tell the leader you’ll no longer be there.
  • If you’re delegating a report to your administrative assistant, your next actions are to document the process and schedule time to train your assistant.
  • If you’re negotiating a trade, your next action is to think through what you could trade with one of your coworkers.
  1.  Do It!

    In your final step, execute on the action in #4. It will take some time to quit, delegate, or negotiate all those commitments. But in the end, you will get back a significant amount of time, energy, and attention and increase your capacity.

1 Action

Schedule 15 minutes this week to do the Commit to (un)Commit exercise.


Want to help your company unleash its leaders?

  1. Get your team to subscribe to the Friday411 newsletter.
  2. Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as “one of the books everyone on your team should read.”
  3. Email Garland to train your company’s leaders. We will equip them with 7 traits that solve 95% of their leadership challenges.
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