5 Steps to Getting More Time

by Michael Plank

What would you do if you had more time?

Read? Learn to cook? Learn an instrument? Learn a new language? Play with your kids more? Exercise more?

When I talk to people about the things they want to do in their lives, the number one obstacle I hear is time. People are too busy.

A year ago I decided I wanted more time in my day. Here’s the 5-step process I used to get an additional TWO HOURS every day. (WARNING: These steps are simple but radically counter-cultural. I would bet a lot of money that you know fewer than 3 people who do this. That makes these steps difficult. Then again, there’s lots of difficult stuff that’s worth doing.)

Here’s what I did:

1) Deleted social media apps from my phone (just the apps – I still have the accounts).
2) Downloaded a site blocking app and added social media websites (like www.instagram.com) so that I couldn’t access them from my phone browser.
3) Turned off all notifications except personal e-mail and text messages – I left these two because there’s an almost 0% chance that I’ll get anything work related in either of them. Facebook messenger is about 60% work stuff. Notifications off. I told people who would need to get in touch with me that texting my cell or calling was the best way to do it.
4) Started charging my phone overnight in a closed drawer instead of in easy reach of the bed.
5) Made sure to keep a ready stack of books nearby. Instead of browsing my phone before bed or after lunch, I’d grab a book. (Bonus step 6: buy a book light. One thing phones have going for them is that you can use them with the lights off if your partner is asleep. Spend $15 on a book light. Problem solved).

Here’s what happened next:
1) Anxiety that I was missing out on everything amazing that’s happening!
2) Anxiety that I was missing important messages!
3) Anxiety that our business/finances/plans would fall apart!

All of that is real and super powerful. But, I hung in there until I discovered that what I was actually missing out on was…


I would login to facebook.com or instagram.com on my computer. It’s very inconvenient. When I got there I would discover all my notifications and messages and handle them. To post something, I would go to photos.google.com and download the synced photo I was looking for. Not once in the last year has someone complained that I’ve been too slow to respond to something on those platforms (to be honest – when I would incessantly check the notifications, I’d rarely respond immediately anyway – don’t want to look too eager, right?). I still do this. What it’s done is add some obstacles to social media use, which means I use it more on purpose instead of accidentally scrolling for 40 minutes.

What has been different though is that I’ve read almost 50 books in the last year. I’ve spent a ton of time outside. I’ve had tons of great family meals. I’ve felt more connected to God and more connected to the earth and more connected to people (i.e. my life is spiritually deeper). And if you ever check the usage timer on your phone, you’ll know how I learned how many HOURS each day I was spending on social media.

Now I’ve also learned that I like having a smart phone. And that I’m not so smart and evolved that I can resist its siren song. I don’t have any plans to switch to a phone without internet and apps. I don’t have any plans to give up social media.

But I do have a better handle on a piece of technology that’s designed to keep you using it as much as possible. And I have a lot more time than I used to. And with that time, I’ve read more than I have since I was a kid without a care or responsibility in the world. What would you do with an extra two hours each day?