5 Tips to Gain Hours Back Every Week

March 21, 2023

Read time: 5 minutes

This issue may contain affiliate links to products I use and recommend (marked with a *). When you buy something through one of the links, I may earn an affiliate commission – which helps fund this newsletter – at no cost to you!

This newsletter kicks off with the most important tip I will ever share.

Consider it the non-negotiable foundation of finding more time and freedom.

Fair warning – it can feel painful.

You see, we’re getting rid of distractions.

Maybe that doesn’t sound painful to you at first. But we’re getting ruthless…

I’m not talking about setting your iPhone app limits (see: “ignore limit for today”) or putting your phone on silent (see: checks for pings anyways).

We’re talking: fantasizing about all the “important people” that must be emailing you, but you can’t even access your email.

We’re getting uncomfortable

That’s how you know you’ve done it right.

Why This Matters So Darn Much

This stat doesn’t factor in emails, Slack, Zoom, and the smorgasbord of other technology forcing us to respond to other people’s priorities.

Also factor in that every time we get distracted, it takes another 15+ minutes to re-focus.

TLDR; we’re giving up half our day, every day to distractions.

Mentally and emotionally – distractions take a huge toll.

They are draining. Leaving energy for nothing else even if you have the time.

If you can reduce distractions, you will work less hours and get more done. I promise that.

Now, let’s dive in.

#1: Start With A Time Audit.

The best way to add motivation is to see for yourself.

Don’t skip this step. I thought I was great at blocking distractions (cue: hair flip). I had an app blocker setup (more on that later) which blocked social media and email for long blocks of time.

Then I did a time audit (with methods in place!) and I was still spending 41% of my week on emails and 7% on social media. Almost 50% of my week was on reactive, draining tasks.

If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I’m not sure I would have the same motivation.

Emails, texts, social media, Slack – I can’t repeat this enough – these are other people’s priorities. What could you do with that time back?

Practical Action Steps:

  • Download Toggl or another time tracking app.
  • Track your time for at least two days. (I recommend a week because we often are really mindful on one day when we know we’re being “watched.”)
  • Have the Toggl app visible on your screen and log every minute.
  • Review the results by grouping similar tasks together (ex: Emails, Social Media, Client Work, Phone Time).
  • Divide the total hours by your total working hours that week and multiply by 100.

What percent of your time was distractions? No shame – knowledge is power that we can turn into action.

Reply to this email and let me know your number!

#2: Get Uncomfortable With App Blocking.

Unless you remove access to distractions, you will still reach for that distraction.

When you’re tired, when you’re hungry, when you’re procrastinating – you will reach for it.

For example, I was so excited when Apple released app limits to their native settings. I set my Instagram limit to 30 minutes per day (cue: hair flip). Well, the amount of times I tapped “Ignore limit for today” is laughable.

Instead, I installed a true blocker application. This app doesn’t allow me to access social media OR email (my two biggest vices) on my phone or computer. Instead it gives me a little tough love and says:

Practical Action Steps:

  • Choose a block of time that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. I do 8pm to 11:30am every day
  • Block access to your biggest distractions. I recommend the app Freedom*. It allows you to get really specific on what you want to block.
  • Schedule two “check-ins” per day to respond to all your “pings.” Go wild during this distraction time! But put a time limit on how long.

You will start to realize that time-sensitive information actually doesn’t come through that often between your check-ins.

You are free. Go do great things.

#3: Reduce Visual Noise With Your Project Management Tool.

Put everything you need to complete a task within your task management tool. Then close out all other tabs.

Remember, the name of the game is to remove temptation. We are conditioned to respond to visual stimuli. Next thing we know, we’re sucked into 15 minutes of emails when all we needed was one.

What we see in front of us matters.

I’m a big fan ofClickUp* because it provides robust features, like the ability to send email from the tool itself.

Practical Action Steps:

  • Most task management tools have a web browser extension. Download that extension so you can add emails or other content into a task quickly. I created a Loom tutorial to show you.
  • When creating a task, copy and paste all the info within the task description. 

This eliminates opening up distraction-filled applications where that information might live (social media, email, Slack, webpages, etc).

#4: Create A “Brain Inbox.”

Our mind wanders constantly. You will think of great ideas, things to do, or things to tell someone.

If you have no where to put that, you will be tempted to “just get it out of the way” right then. This opens the door to now catching up on Slack for the past hour.

Practical Action Steps:

  • Create a note or doc in your task management tool called Brain Inbox. Use this doc to throw all thoughts that come to you throughout the day.
  • During your check-in times (from tip #2), spend a few minutes sorting through your Brain Inbox. Do you need to create a task for it? Do you need to send an email? Do you need to add it to an ideas list for later?

#5: Get Ruthless With Your Notifications.

This goes out to all my iPhone users. (But Android users, the action steps still apply.)

iPhone now allows you to setup summaries which batch all your notifications together. 

This stops your pesky apps from pinging you every time they have useless deals when all you wanted was to be notified that your food has arrived ( ahem, Doordash).

Use technology to your advantage.

Practical Action Steps:

  • Start by remove notifications in general. Ruthlessly. Think about when you truly need to be notified. Example: when I order an Uber, I’m always checking for it by opening the app. I’m not waiting for a notification. But Uber loves to send me useless promo notifications when they want me to re-engage with their app. Maybe the thought of turning off Uber notifications just made you squirm. That’s what I mean by being ruthless!
  • Add 1 – 2 notification summaries under Settings > Scheduled Summary. Only check notifications 1-2x per day.
  • Put your phone on Snooze and out of view. (For parents and caregivers, adjust your settings to allow calls and texts with sounds from specific people. Settings > Focus > customize a focus category, like Work.)

Let Technology Hold You Accountable, Not Captive.

The list above is actually using technology (aka the source of distractions) to thoughtfully eliminate distractions. I don’t believe in planning around willpower. 

We have far too much on our plates – and far too many sources vying for our attention – to burden ourselves with relying on willpower.

The goal of these tips is to make eliminating distractions easy by turning them into default, automated conditions.

Challenge yourself. It should feel a little uncomfortable because then you know you’re creating change.

And as with everything, show yourself grace. Doing one of these things, even on one day a week to start, is going to build momentum and take back your time.

Always in your corner,


Systems Strategist & Fractional COO

If you implement any of these tips or learn something interesting, I’d love to hear from you! Just reply to this email or connect with me on social.

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Want to free up 10+ hours of your week? Here are a few ways I can help:

  • Book a 1:1 strategy call with Alex and get the answers you need to get unstuck and move forward with confidence in your systems.
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  • Monthly Strategy & Support: Let’s make the magic happen – monthly! As your virtual COO, I’ll manage your key initiatives and back-end operations (i.e. launches, systems & processes, business ops). (Currently at capacity. Join the waitlist here.)