Practical Freedom Hacks
We’ve talked about the medium-term strategy of how to increase your freedom at work.
I’m also really excited about this chapter. Sometimes, you just want more freedom FAST.
This chapter has some really cool techniques that you can use TOMORROW to have a lot more freedom. You can use these as you are expanding your mentality and working relationships. Some of these will even persist AFTER you have achieved liberation. They may be genuinely useful techniques.
Office Hack: Block Off Your Own Calendar
If you work in an office where people frequently send you meeting invitations, and they assume that any free period on your calendar is fair game, this is a valuable technique.
Schedule a recurring chunk of time for yourself and set it as busy. You can use a creative label if the descriptions are public.
Usually, I block off at least 3-4 hours on my own calendar for every work day. If anyone breaks protocol and sends me a meeting invite at that time, I automatically decline and explain that I have an existing event scheduled.
For social purposes, I always propose an alternate time that works for me.
The more of your calendar you block off, the more you are in charge of your time and focus at work.
Office Hack: Keep Your Work Apps off your Personal Devices
One important necessity for freedom is keeping a strong delineation between work and personal life. If you need to check email and messages and respond quickly to everything, your freedom is significantly limited.
I keep a pure separation between the two. I have two smartphones. One is only for personal stuff. The other is only for work. When I get home at night, I take my work phone and put it in its charger. I don’t ever look at it when I’m off the clock.
Similarly, I don’t install any work apps or have any work passwords on my personal computer.
I leave work mentally and technologically when I’m done for the day or week. I can’t access it. This ensures that I’m in right mode.
Office Hack: Turn Off Your Messaging Tool For 1-2 Hours
Real-time chat tools are VERY popular at companies these days. They are useful for support personnel but absolutely ruinous for creative people and thought workers. In order to solve problems effectively, you need deep focus periods, usually of 30-90 minutes.
When you want to work without interruption, kill your chat program for a couple of hours. I promise you, the world won’t burn down.
You will get more done. You will feel more calm. You will be happier.
This is a newer technique in my arsenal. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks and have already been REALLY impressed with the results.
Office Hack: Be An Office Nomad
If you work in an office, you are probably used to people asking you about things in person. Whenever they have a question, they’ll assume it’s fine to interrupt you.
You need to safeguard your time and your ability to choose when you want to interact with people and when you want to focus.
I learned this technique from my colleague Sohail. He has a standing desk in our open office, just like the rest of us. But he is almost never at his desk. Instead, he’ll grab his laptop and pick a spot in the office far from his desk. He’ll be at different spots throughout the day.
This way, you can message him, but you can’t disturb him in person unless he wants to be available.
This is a fantastic technique. Just grab your laptop and work somewhere random, preferably in a quiet room or corner.
Office Hack: Move Your Body Regularly
This is a valuable mental technique for freeing your mind. Every hour, take about 5-10 minutes and leave your work area to do something active.
Lift some weights. Go for a walk in the sunshine. Do some stretches.
This reminds you the most tasks aren’t urgent. It makes people comfortable with you prioritizing your health. It gives you an air of unpredictability.
I’ve been using this technique for over 10 years now, and it is fantastic. Whenever someone wants to have a one-on-one conversation, I’ll usually recommend we go for a short walk instead.
Office Hack: Click “No” On Your Next Meeting Invite
Let’s be honest. Most meetings don’t offer much value. You could be doing something else. Working on a project you enjoy. Getting some fresh air. Building stronger relationships. Taking a nap in your car.
The next time you get a meeting invitation that doesn’t offer value to you, just click “No.” If anyone asks why you aren’t attending, tell them about some important work thing that is due.
Saying no to time-consuming, low-value activities will immediately give you the ability to choose something high-value that you actually enjoy.
Office Hack: Start The Project You’ve Been Wanting
Perhaps you’ve had an idea for a project that you think would make life at the office much better. Maybe it would make a lot of money. Maybe it would save people a lot of time.
You’ve presented the idea to your boss or to your team on one or two occasions, but they say that there’s not enough time, that other things are more important, or that it won’t work.
You can bring the project to life yourself. Don’t wait for resources or approval. Start building it yourself. Put in 1-2 hours a day. Once the project is finished or you have something close enough for a strong demo, schedule a meeting and unveil it to your team.
This is the path to innovation. Bring your idea to life, all by yourself if you have to.
Do you have other clever freedom-enhancing office hacks that you use? Send me an email with your technique! firstname.lastname@example.org