Suddenly Without Free Time: A Case Study on Productivity

By: Jonathan Guerrera In: Maximizing Productivity 5 Jun 2010

TimeHonestly, I didn’t realize how easy I had it in college until I started my full time internship in NYC this past week. I wake up to get ready at 6:30am and oftentimes don’t get home until 7:30 or 8:00pm. And considering that I aim to be in bed by 9:30pm (I need at least 9 hours of sleep to feel rested, so I try to achieve that amount), I have very little time to do much of anything during the week outside of work. Compare this to the 3 hours of class I usually had on any given day in school, and it’s not hard to see that I’ve lost a considerable amount of free time. Thankfully, I’m well versed in the art of Holistic Productivity.

Side note: In a nutshell, Holistic Productivity draws from not only time management, but also the areas of nutrition, mental and physical fitness, emotional health, psychology, and motivational theory. This transforms productivity into a system that allows you not only accomplish your tasks with greater efficiency, but also improve quality of life through maximizing our limited time on this planet. A blog post detailing this concept will be written in the near future.

So considering that I went from having free time 7 days a week to pursue my personal goals (such blogging, reading new personal devo material, working out, running, cooking, socializing, etc.) to only having Saturday and Sunday free, here are the steps I took to ensure that I still found time every day to pursue my goals.

1) Preparedness – In the middle of May, I analyzed my productivity system and determined a particular bottleneck that was preventing it from functioning optimally. I fixed the problem and had my productivity system running at it’s best for the start of my internship. Always make sure that your system of handling tasks and events isn’t slowing you down unnecessarily. Any sort of bottleneck is simply wasted time.

2) Identifying “In Between Time” - Considering how little free time I now have available, my “in between time” has become immensely valuable. I have discovered that my primary “in between time” is when I am commuting to the city every morning and evening. I like to enjoy watching the scenery passing by as I am on the train, so I have identified audio books as my preferred medium for taking advantage of this down time. Right now, I am using this time to stay engaged with Psycho-Cybernetics (which I recommend as my all-time favorite book on personal development). I also do many of the mental exercises and visualizations recommended in Psycho-Cybernetics while I’m on the train. If I’m not engaged with Psycho-Cybernetics, I am usually reading a book on marketing at this time. I can’t stress enough how important it is to identify and utilize every spare second of “in between time” when you’re on a tight work schedule.

3) Removing information sources – A significant reduction in free time calls for a significant reduction in information sources you are exposed to. The reason that people today have less time than ever before, despite major advancements in technology used for convenience, is because there are infinitely more resources competing for our attention at any given moment, which makes our time extremely valuable. If one isn’t careful, information overload will rear its ugly head. I made sure to avoid information overload by cutting out most of my Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Youtube, and general web-surfing time. I don’t miss it much now, but it was a bit difficult to be without for the first few days after cutting myself off. I now save these activities for weekends when I’m not out doing something.

4) Keeping energized – This is often an ignored step when maximizing productivity. Nutrition, sleep patterns, and fitness play a huge role on focus and productivity levels. Although I stumbled a bit in keeping my diet clean this past week, cramming yourself full of fresh fruits, fresh veggies, and healthy protein is incredibly important for keeping you energized all day. If you eat anything fried or sugar-filled, or you tend to overeat, you will feel sluggish and develop the dreaded “food coma”. From there, productivity will either plummet, or you will need to rely on a stimulant such as caffeine to help you through the day. Caffeine shouldn’t be relied on because of its addictive nature and ability to wear out your adrenals over a long period of time. Along with diet, you should optimize your sleep patterns so that they match your work schedule. And finally, make sure to get some exercise a few times a week so that you sleep better at night (exercise earlier in the day helps most people fall asleep quicker) and so you don’t begin to suffer the side effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Keeping your body in shape is important for keeping your energy levels high.

5) Work hard, play hard – If you’re working very hard all week and then laze around and do nothing over the weekend, do you actually feel refreshed and ready to start a new week on Sunday night? Probably not. If you have a difficult week with little free time, it is wise to use your weekends to their max. Meet up with friends and do something you really enjoy doing. Living in the moment and doing things you truly enjoy is what rejuvenates you after a tough week. It’s okay to spend a lazy few hours watching TV and reading blogs, but make sure that you also attempt to maximize your weekends by actively doing things you are passionate about. You want each weekend to feel like you couldn’t have lived it any better. Each week, my goal is to explore a new area of NYC and try a new food or restaurant. I met up with a friend this weekend and ate at a small Korean place in K-Town. I love trying new foods and exploring new parts of the city, and it’s these sort of activities that re-energize me for the upcoming week.


So there you have it. Those are my 5 Holistic Productivity secrets (well, I suppose that they’re no longer a secret) that can be used to achieve your goals in spite of little free time.  The links contained in four out of the five steps are there to provide further guidance in implementing each of these concepts into your own life should you decide to. Never let a lack of free time prevent you from pursuing your life goals immediately. Where there is a will, there is a way. Remember, the person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other person finds an excuse.

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I'm Jon Guerrera, a life hacker at heart, and the man behind the scenes here at Living For Improvement. This blog documents all of my successes, failures, and lessons learned as I hack my way to happiness and fulfillment.

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