How To Free Up 60+ Minutes During Your Workday

Have you ever felt the conflicting emotion of wishing there was another 2 hours in the day so you could finish everything at work while simultaneously hating that thought because you don't want to work any longer than you have to?

If so, you're not alone. 

The good news is that it is possible to free up an hour during your work day. Yes, 60 more minutes. There were a few other elements regarding prioritization and delegation that impacted this change, but the most important part was this...

I changed my standard meeting block to 20 minutes.

The results? I've been the top performer on any team I was a part of every year while working an average of 33 hours/week.

The other 7 hours I spent starting a business, investing in markets and spending time on family and hobbies.

Here's how it works.

A Thousand Years Of "Productivity" History In 1 Minute

Did you know that prior to the invention of the lightbulb, people slept for an average of 11 hours! Some of you can't even fathom that amount of sleep every night.

The average person squeaks out about 7 hours a night. If you have young kids, you're grateful for 3 hours of unbroken slumber.

So 200 years ago when there was no lightbulb, people only had about 13 hours of consciousness in their day.

They had to hunt for their food and farm it out of the ground. Fix their own houses. Tend cattle. Attend community meetings. Help the neighbor get his oxen out of the mud. Occasionally fight off some invading force. There was a lot going on!

So what happened? 

The Second Industrial Revolution brought us machines like railroads, steam power, and mass produced steel and iron. This enabled us to become more productive like never before.

Then, ironically, the Third Industrial Revolution made US the productive machines by the machines we created. Computers, the internet, planes and new energy sources sent us into a new stratosphere of unchecked productivity.

To give the most basic example, let's look at how many people one agricultural worker could feed.

Forget ancient times when oxen plowed fields. In the past 60 years alone, we have increased food production by 200% per agricultural worker! Not only is that incredible, but it also frees up a lot of people to do non-agricultural work.

The 30-Minute Standard

Now that you have a basic understanding of how we've progressed with "production" individually, I have an important question to ask.

Do you know where 30-minute meeting became the standard time block for all meetings in every industry?

The creation of Microsoft Outlook.

Engineers building the tool needed a standard block for the calendar and 30-minutes is what was chosen. I'd like to ask them if they knew they were about to change the entire course of human productivity across the known world?

As the popularity of the software and eventual copycats spread through the world like wildfire in a dry forest, the 30-minute block was adopted as meeting standards. 

Before that, meetings were just held for as long as they needed to be. But then Parkinson's Law was discovered.

"That Meeting Could've Been An Email"

How many times have you thought that a 30-minute meeting could've been wrapped up in 5 minutes or even worse, a simple email?

There's an effect called Parkinson's Law that states "work expands so as to fill the time available for it's completion." In everyday speak, if you set aside 15 minutes to do something, you'll take 15 minutes to do it even if it could be done in 5 minutes.

That's why so many of us have been a part of or contributed to meetings lasting longer than they needed to or having a meeting at all when it wasn't really needed.

So by standardizing every single meeting in 30 minute blocks, we are leaving time on the table since we are going to find a way to fill it all regardless of whether or not that amount of time is needed.

But there's a simple fix to all of this and its powerful.

It's Time To Rethink Your Time

When I started changing all of my meetings to 20 minute standard blocks and it changed my life. 

Here's how it works.

If you have 10 standard meetings every day, then

10 meetings x 30-minute blocks = 5 hours/day of meetings

10 meetings x 20-minute blocks = 3.33 hours/day of meetings.

That's 1 hour and 42 minutes BACK IN YOUR DAY!

"But Stephen, I can't do all my meetings in just 20 minutes. That's not enough."

Okay, I hear you. So if it 20 minutes isn't enough, then schedule it for 40 minutes. And if that's not enough, then do 60 or 80 minutes. But the point is add the time in 20 minute blocks instead of 30 minutes. 

It might take a little adjusting at first, but soon you'll start to realize how much fluff and unnecessary information is included in your regular meetings. 

Take ownership of your time. It's the one asset you can never get back once its gone and you can't make more of.

But you can free it up.


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