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5 Tips for Reducing Friction and Freeing up Space to Advance Your Career

To be effective in your professional life—not least of all in terms of how you spend your time—you will need to have a clear and specific, though also achievable, goal to be working towards at any given moment.


Image via Pixabay

We all have dreams, and many of us have dreams which reach lofty heights, and encompass such things as becoming world-renowned authors, or inventors, creating a business that will revolutionize our particular industry, becoming rich, or at the very least, making a sustainable living doing what we love.

Yes, all of us are prone to sitting around and fondly fantasizing from time to time — but when pressed, we all too often fail to take any meaningful action to pursue our dreams and drag them into reality.

There are, arguably, many reasons for this. Startup capital may be required. Perhaps you feel you don’t have the required experience yet. And, perhaps most commonly, time seems to be working against you, with barely enough of it available to get through your 9-5, eat a bit of food, and unwind before bed.

It’s a hard fact of life that these excuses are just that—excuses—and that even the busiest, most successful entrepreneurs in the land have no more time in a given day than you. And many of them also started with very little in the way of investment capital, or extensive industry training.

The key isn’t to imagine wistfully that your life was fundamentally and essentially different. Rather, the key is to structure and massage your professional life, as it is today, so that you can advance your career and find the time and energy to invest in projects, developments, and enterprises that feel genuinely meaningful and important to you.

This is essentially a mission, or quest to pare down the non-essential elements of your current professional routine, in order to remove friction and free up the time and space required to nourish great things.

Here are some tips for doing just that.

Outsource basic admin work to virtual assistants

Entrepreneurs and small business owners frequently put themselves in the unenviable position of having to juggle the work of a full team, solo. They are responsible for plotting out their own strategy. And for producing their own graphics and branding motifs.

They are also their own copywriters. And the busywork responsibilities of sending out cold emails, answering phone calls, and researching the market, fall on their shoulders, too.

As you might expect, all this admin work can be immensely time-consuming. In fact, it’s a major part of the reason why entrepreneurs frequently work breathtakingly long hours. More often than not, they’re just trying to juggle a dozen different balls at the same time.

The thing about much of this admin work, however, is that it typically doesn’t require much in the way of a specialty, niche skillset. You don’t need a special degree in order to send out cold emails — likely you just need a template. And you don’t have to have 5 years of professional experience under your belt to enter relevant data points into an Excel spreadsheet for later review.

This means two things.

Firstly, by preoccupying yourself with these admin tasks, you are largely wasting your time and energy — the same time and energy that you should be spending on the particular aspects of the business which really demand and benefit from your unique skill set, vision, and personality.

Secondly, you can quite easily get a lot of this admin work handled by other people, without much if any training or fuss required.

And, of course, we live in the digital age, meaning that you can quite effortlessly find Virtual Receptionist services running toll free numbers, or even hire a Virtual Assistant to plan your meetings and prepare presentations on your behalf, as recounted by Tim Ferriss in his hit book “The 4-Hour Work Week”.

(In fact, Ferriss even used his Virtual Assistant to book his vacations for him).

Use distraction-blocking software to keep you from mindlessly surfing the web

It would be one thing if all the time we lost was spent on hyper-productive activities, but unfortunately, that’s far from the reality.

In fact, if you’re anything like the average person, you probably spend at least a couple of hours of each working day “looking busy” as a pretext for browsing social media, checking out web forums, communicating with your family, pals, and significant other on WhatsApp, and just generally doing anything except work.

Procrastination is, as they say, “the thief of time”, and virtually everyone gets robbed blind by this scoundrel on a stunningly regular basis.

What’s even worse; conventional workers generally have some fairly robust accountability measures in place to prevent them from absolutely going off the rails. There are, at the very least, supervisors and colleagues to question how you’re spending your time, and network monitoring to ensure you’re not spending your entire working day watching cat videos.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are at their own mercy — and for those who struggle with being their own taskmasters, procrastination can easily become the entirety of the working day, every day.

Keep this distraction at bay to the best of your ability, and rely on whatever tools and tricks are available to facilitate that. Distraction-blocking software has, thankfully, been growing in popularity in recent years, and many tools have been developed to the point of being remarkably effective.

RescueTime is one distraction elimination tool that not only tracks which websites and programs you’re using, for how long, during your working day — but which also assigns each activity a score, ranging from productive to unproductive. Built-in distraction blocking tools can then keep you on course.

Then again, you could use a more pared-down tool such as Cold Turkey Blocker, which, nonetheless, allows you to block individual websites, or the entire internet, or even lock you out of your computer, as required.

Timeblock your days to allow clear segments of time to be spent on meaningful tasks

One of the most consistently-shared success and productivity tips of some of the world’s most dynamic and pioneering entrepreneurs is to plan your days out in timeblocks.

This process — known as timeblocking — essentially refers to the practice of scheduling your days out, hour by hour (leaving appropriate buffers for the unpredictable, and for lunch, and so on) to ensure that enough time gets dedicated to each meaningful task as possible.

It has been shown that people are more productive and better able to enter a “flow” state when they have sizable chunks of time to dedicate to a given task. By contrast, people who try to multitask and who switch back and forth between different projects every few minutes, are always less productive, less focused, slower, and generally less effective.

Begin each day by identifying your core tasks, and timeblocking them on your calendar or in your schedule.

Ask yourself the question; “what am I willing to sacrifice?” in terms of idle comforts, luxuries, and entertainment

According to an article from The Atlantic, the average American watched 1 hour 23 minutes of television per day in 1949-1950. By 2009-2010, that number had risen to a staggering 8 hours 55 minutes per day.

Like it or not, a huge number of people spend vast swathes of their waking life absorbed in distracting entertainment media, whether it be TV, the internet, or videogames.

If you’re trying to find the extra time and energy to carve out a meaningful niche for yourself in your professional life — or to revolutionize your professional life altogether and get a new business off the ground — one of the most logical places to look is to your leisure hours.

Of course, you need relaxation, and you need to be mindful of work-life balance. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t fat to trim, and it certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t sacrifices to be made. In fact, it’s virtually a truism of business and life that you only success in proportion to how much you’re willing to sacrifice for it.

As yourself, “what am I willing to sacrifice?” in terms of idle comforts, luxuries, and entertainment. Maybe you can go without the videogames — and even without the TV. Maybe your evening downtime could involve playing board games with your family, instead? This way, you might find you have more meaningful family interactions, while also having time to write a book and work on a side-hustle.

In any case, it’d be pretty audacious to watch more TV each day than you spend in the office, and expect to be able to take your career to lofty heights.

Set clear and specific — though achievable — professional goals, to orient yourself

As you might have heard, “if you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, you’re just going to wander aimlessly.”

We humans are naturally target-oriented creatures, in the sense that were continually striving to obtain things, and to move ourselves towards ever-more desirable states of being.

To be effective in your professional life—not least of all in terms of how you spend your time—you will need to have a clear and specific, though also achievable, goal to be working towards at any given moment.

Set yourself objectives for a year or two into the future, and then chunk them down to identify monthly and weekly actions that you should take to ensure you remain on track. Then, reorder your life in whatever way you need to, so that you make steady progress in that direction.