How to create time

Using apps, docs, automations, and changes to your work mindset

Hey The Discourse fam 👋🏽 Kavir here. I’m back again with a new piece today. Loads of quality content coming up, including a deep dive into one of the newest and hyped-up professional networks to get launched recently. Stay tuned for that piece! With that said, let’s continue to the topic of the day - how to create time.


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We’re all really good with busywork, aren’t we? Let me give you my example. 

In my first product management role at a growth-stage startup, post-business school, I spent a lot of time hustling and putting out fires.

This was because I was the go-to person for a lot of things—following up with the design or engineering team, fielding new product requests from sales and ops, answering questions on how to use the product, or connecting to team members.

And the open office layout didn’t help one bit. If I was within sight, it meant I was available.

No doubt this perceived importance gives you an ego boost but is it the best utilization of your time as a product person?

While it’s true that getting things done is a crucial part of being a product person, it's at the cost of deep work. If you're not careful enough, it can spiral and eventually most of your time goes into communication and execution rather than thinking and innovating.

I remember being able to do deep work only once I was back home from work at 10 or 11 pm. This was before the days of the anti-hustle culture when mental and physical health was your problem alone.

Now that I am a polyworker trying to balance working at a startup and creating on the internet, time is my most valuable resource. 

This is a journey that has accelerated for me only in the last year since the pandemic. Hence, I thought of sharing with those who are still on the early paths of their journey.

Here's what I learned about creating time and productivity in the last year:

Batch process

We tend to impulsively check a few things regularly during the day as part of the routine. For me that's email, Twitter, Slack, and analytics. For you it can be something else.

Last year, I discovered that I was spending around 20% of my work time in JIRA, a tool for project management by auditing my time using RescueTime. But project management wasn’t a high value task to justify the amount of time being spent. So I then batched the time I spent on JIRA to just once a week and brought it down to <10% of the time.

By batch processing, you save time spent checking each incoming Slack, email, JIRA comment, etc., and address them at once. You need to turn off notifications for it to be achieved.

You also need to remove work Slack or email from your phone. The tendency to keep checking will eat away at time.

Checklists, Templates, and Documentation

For simpler repetitive tasks like releasing new features or launching on Product Hunt, you should create checklists that can be followed to the T so you don’t spend time on figuring out what to do next.

Even tasks that require higher order thinking can benefit from using templates. 

For example, if you're a product manager, you will do competitor analysis, user research, and write product specs. You can create templates (like I have) that take some of the thinking out of the work and save you time. 

For the rest of the questions I get from either my team or people on the internet, I follow a rule of thumb: if more than two people have asked me about something, it would be a good use of my time to write something about the topic and publish it on my website, so I can direct people there than continually spend time answering the same question. 

A common question I get is about my On Deck experience. It would save me a ton of time to write down my experience and have that available for folks to go through before they speak to me, so the discussion can be more fruitful. 

Make the most of meetings

We collectively waste a lot of time in meetings that could’ve been an email or Slack message. The best way to create time is to not have meetings. If you have to communicate something that requires contextualization that would require speaking and showing on a screen, send a Loom video.

If you still have to have meetings make sure you're following good meeting hygiene:

  • Have an agenda so everyone is prepared in advance and the meeting flows smoothly

  • Take notes during calls/discussions

  • If the person you're talking to takes notes too, then it will be better

Automate or Delegate

Find things that you don’t like doing and automate or delegate them. 

In a study done by Zapier, they found that knowledge workers spent 17.3 hours on busywork every week. 

Think of simple automations to begin with, like recurring to-dos, meetings, text snippets. For example, I have a text expander snippet to create my morning writing routine. 

I use Calendly to save time in back-and-forth when scheduling meetings. I’m looking to expand it further by sending automatic follow-ups post-meeting, and creating action items from the meetings. Dive deeper into the automation rabbit hole by listening to the Automators podcast.

If you can't automate and you're working in a team with junior folks, you can and should delegate to them.

And if you're a solo creator or an indie maker, get virtual assistants or interns who can do tasks for you, freeing your time further. I have interns helping me out with editing, social, and other tasks. Needless to say, they’ve made my life much easier. 

Working remotely

You create time by working in a remote job where you don’t have a soul-crushing commute. In the early years of my career, I had a round-trip commute that was three hours per day. When you add the numbers I spent 30 full days a year commuting!.

I look back on that time and wonder what the hell I was doing.

People that still want to work out of an office five days a week with a significant commute don’t value their time. Sure, you need facetime to bond and collaborate, but surely not five days a week.

Create content on the internet

This one is counterintuitive. Creating content takes a lot of time, so it doesn’t necessarily save you time, but can help create it. Let me explain:

You can use the experience and learnings you’ve gained to solidify your knowledge and share your perspective with the world through content. This newsletter is an example.

Through creating online (writing, podcasting, videos) you gain social capital, establish distribution, and form community. You get to learn from others, continue upskilling, and creating diversified income streams.

Through building this online presence, you can monetize the social capital in the future through: 

  • Jobs

  • Paid calls

  • Subscriptions

  • Consulting gigs

  • Tips, super follows

  • Investment opportunities

These opportunities increase the value of your time. Once you’ve done that, you can negotiate fewer working hours and in the process — create time.

Final Thoughts

I went from someone doing a lot of busywork to someone who at least gets to choose how they spend their time. That time is spent on talking to users, writing product specs, and spending more on decision making. It’s really hard to go back to the previous life.

By creating time, it makes me mentally calmer while working. I don’t end up overthinking as much, and as a result, have become more present in life.


Thanks to Rika Goldberg, Jilian Anthony, Alex Azoury, and Jesse Germinario from Foster for providing feedback on early drafts of this piece.

📘 Read of the week: Metaverses - Stratechery (13 min)


That's it for today, thanks for reading!

What are ways in which you create time? Reply or discuss with me on Twitter. Give feedback and vote on the next topic here.

Talk to you soon!

Kavir

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