Not Enough Hours in the Day?
Has this ever happened to you?
You wake up with grand plans and goals, but as much as you try to tick the boxes of your to-do-list, time seems to slip away?
You end up asking yourself “ Where did the time go?”
Technically you can do whatever you want with your life. You can spend time with whoever you want and experience anything that you want. So why does time seem to fade when it would seem that we should be in control?
If we were to contrast time to money, we notice that is not equally distributed. The top 5% of high net-worth individuals possess 95% of the world's wealth. The curious phenomenon is that even the ultra-wealthy have the same limits as us when it comes to the time in a single day.
Time is the ultimate equaliser. Each one of us gets the same 24 hours in a day. No more, no less.
We might not all live the same length of time, and some of us will die young, but there is not one person who has an unfair time advantage because we all get the same amount of time in a day.
Why then, do some people achieve so much and have an immense impact, while others accomplish very little. How do people like Bill Gates and the Dalai Lama spend their time to allows them to positively impact the world?
Managing Time | Priorities
The trick to accomplishing more with the limited time you have is to shift your thinking.
Your language will help with the paradigm shift by focusing on replacing the words “Time Management” with “Priority Management.”
It is also helpful to use the words “Productive” instead of “Busy” to frame your state of mind.
By reframing your language, you can affect your emotional response and alter your reaction in situations where you may have previously felt overwhelmed.
Structure Your Day
Similar to building a house on a firm foundation, the essential part of the building is the structure that you do not see.
Having a system for prioritising your time and tasks will ground your frantic brain and lead to higher levels of productivity.
Approach your calendar as the CEO of your own life, and take responsibility for your time. The CEO is in charge of the direction and current focus and knows how to prioritise tasks that are important over activities which are urgent.
The CEO is accountable for growth, even though they cannot control everything, they steer the ship in the right direction, create the environment/culture, and manage the managers.
Asking a person what they do in their spare time is usually telling. People who know how they are spending time are much better at managing and finishing tasks.
Those who spend time wisely seem to be more productive, similar to how people who spend money wisely seem to be more wealthy.
Using clocks as our system of accounting and method of synchronisation have allowed us to synergize and create impressive things together.
People often find that by scheduling in time that is less structured, like "Family Time", "Focus time, "and Rest Time" you can have spontaneous moments within a structured day.
It might seem counter-intuitive that planning your time would make life more fun.
It may seem stressful when you see a jam-packed schedule, but when you are in the flow of life, it is barely noticeable how much one can achieve when living in a productive state with a framework for time-prioritisation.
Productivity Hack 1: Audit Your Time
Many scholars, such as Jim Rohn and Steven Covey, recommend an annual audit of your activities.
“Time Accounting” is where you take a period of up to a week to record everything in a pocket notebook that you take note of what you do in intervals of 15-30 minutes of the day.
The audit is the first step towards taking control of your schedule.
Like filing your taxes, it is worth doing this for a few days in the year to understand how you are using your precious minutes.
Becoming conscious about how you prioritise your time may be confronting, but it allows you to become aware of your habits.
It is worth noting that the things that you spend the most time on, are currently the most important thing to you.
Productivity Hack 2: Assess the Outcome
Are your current activities in line with your goals?
If not it's time for some change.
Read more about setting goals here.
Outcome based thinking is one of the most powerful tools to help you to move in the right direction.
When you are deciding what you will do, it is important to know what you want as a result.
If you know your ideal outcome in advance, you can work backwards, and ensure that you remained focused on the key elements to move you towards your desired results.
Take an honest look at your to-do list, or a week in your life and decide if it is time to enact some discipline.
Are the things you are doing truely necessary, or is there some things that are restricting you from making progress.
We all can come with an endless string of to-do’s. More importantly, we need to assess what it is that we want and then work backwards to ensure the things we are doing are moving us towards that outcome.
Consider forming the habits of spending your time more productively. You may completely disregard some of your list of things to do when you consider what is truly important on the road to getting what you want.
Productivity Hack 3:Time Management Tech.
Three elements of time management technology:
Task-Based - Some people like to have a list of to do's, and that is perfectly fine as long as you are working towards a specific outcome.
Your list will be more powerful and compelling if your tasks can are goal orientated with a strong purpose
If your to-do’s have a sense of purpose attached, your choices will become more deliberate and will accelerate the process of achievement.
For task-based tech, I use Asana and Post-It notes. Once my notes accumulate, I will write them all down on a single piece of paper and dedicate some time to go through them.
Calendars & Time Blocking Schedules - Scheduling specific time has a power. You know what you need to do and when you need to do it.
By planning your next day and next week, you can relieve the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed.-(This is a free resource I created if you want my personal productivity system)
Colour coding can help to identify what your day will look like quickly. Recurring events can help keep you accountable for tasks.
Establishing a purpose for each block of your day will make a massive difference for your productivity. It is helpful to dedicate short and strict timelines to minor activities while blocking out significant time slots to ensure you spend time on the major priorities and deep work.
If you can focus on one task at a time, you can produce more quality content.
After implementing these tactics for a while, you will learn how long it takes to complete tasks and also how often you need to take breaks.
Cultivating a Work Environment | Distraction Avoidance - The purpose of avoiding any novel stimuli like your phone and notifications while you are in a state of deep work is to hone in your attention on one task.
Remove as many notification and pop-ups as possible to avoid context switching and cognitive overload when it is time to focus.
Not one person can genuinely multitask while giving their full attention to the task at hand. If you manage to concentrate on one thing for an extended period without distraction, you might surprise yourself with the quality of work you can produce.
For distraction avoidance, use flight mode and do-not-disturb mode If possble, physically remove your phone from your line-of-sight.
To avoid distracting notifications, periodically check emails, instead of always having your inbox open. That way, there are no popups or distractions while you are concentrating.
Many tools will help block and limit specific distracting websites and applications including social media.
I am most productive in the morning, and during this time, as you might imagine, it is extremely difficult to contact me.
Organisation Systems For Filing and Retrieving- Using apps such as Instapaper and Google Keep, allow you to archive a webpage for later viewing.
Instapaper helps because if you come across something interesting while you are in a state of focus, You can save it for later and review all the exciting content in a controlled manner.
Having a similar system of storage and retrieval can help you minimise the amount of information that you need to hold while avoiding cognitive shifting between tasks.
It also helps to keep your browser healthy, as an alternative to having 20+tabs open.
Otherwise, it is too easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole vortex of the deep web, and shift your attention when it is time to focus.
Course Correction - Falling off the Time Wagon
Trying to stick to your schedule all the time can be stressful, and as such, you should not take yourself too seriously. There will be times that your plan falls out of whack.
Coming back from a holiday, and you might find it hard to keep on track.
Give yourself some leniency because life can be challenging, and sometimes you do need to rest.
If you are adament on forming a new habit however, the 2-Day rule will help you stay on course; Allow yourself only one day off. On Day 2, you have to follow through, because it is that easy to break a good habit.
The 2-Day rule has the added benefit of deterring us from skipping a day, because we will then be forced to do it tomorrow no matter what happens.
Last but not least
Managing time is a process of trial and error, and if you want more out of life, you will need to become a student of time.
You have a limited amount of time, so I encourage you to prioritise it wisely.
The final consideration is to appreciate the current moment.
The current moment is the only unit of time that we truly control. It's easy to get caught up in the past and the future, but what is the time control for, if not to make the present moment special.
You might ask yourself "What can I do right now, in this moment?".
If you can enjoy the present moment and make it unique and memorable, then you have conquered the time paradox.
In The End
Time is a precious and limited resource, and you know what happens when your time is up.
Life is better when you can manage your priorities and create productively, even though it may seem rigid and counterintuitive.
You can take control over your time, using some basic strategies and technologies.
If you want to be more productive, you must practice a state of deep work, free from distractions.
It is also essential to schedule time to rest and reflect.
Remember that the only time you can truly control is now, so seize the moment if you so choose.
Thank you for spending your precious time reading this article and reflecting in deep thought with me. I only hope that the gratitude and respect shine through by brightening your day.
Yes, time & tide wait for no man. It is precious indeed and seems to run away so fast! When one has no particular deadlines it sure is easy to be distracted with so many other options.
2 schools: one is organised & focussed, other is to procrastinate. What is important? you choose.
Excellent, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I will explore some of the tools you recommended as well.