Welcome back to my personal blog!
In this one, I’m going to write the second part of my tips and tricks to beat time. So in case you haven’t read the first part which I posted last week, you may read that one initial part, and then come back to this blog post to read the second one; or you can also read this one first, and then read the first part after. Either way, I don’t know which one has the highest position in importance, so I really encourage you to read both of them.
Hi 👋🏽 we meet again!
But anyway, if you don’t care enough to read the first part of this, then don’t worry, I’ll just summarize what I’ve written there for you (because I’m all that amazing and kind-hearted person who doesn’t seek for views 😛 pfft LOL). There were five ideas.
- Time and distractions
With a few examples and theories, this is where I explained how distractions are the main enemies that will push you away from using your time efficiently. I mentioned a couple of research and study that should support my explanation as well. Anyways, it’s six paragraphs long, I don’t think I can summarize every point of the idea here;
- 30x rule
- Time multipliers
- And last but not least, learn to say No.
And after the quite broad themes that we’ve discussed in the first part, in this second one we’re going to focus more on one keyword: control. And so the question, how do we control our time? Let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the answer to that question..,..
■ Label the energy drains.
There are two things that are getting in the way of using your time efficiently. One, is energy drains; and two, is incomplete items. Addressing both drains and incompletions can help you free up bandwidth and be more present and efficient at using your time.
A creative coach by the name of Tina Essmaker explains that the term of “energy drains” is used for things that you have to do and can’t necessarily be removed from your day, such as long commute times, unnecessary meetings, endless phone calls, putting out fires, to even stuck in email land; and on the other hand, she refer the term “incomplete items” for things such as conversations to be had, deferred dreams, promise to deliver, projects to wrap up, to even unresolved relationships.
And on the same page, more precisely in his book called Deep Work, the author Cal Newport reminds us that clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not. Therefore, if you caught yourself spending your time, energy, and attention on tasks that don’t really support the overall mission of your work, or key priorities of your life, then it’s time to re-evaluate where your time should be spent.
▬ There are few steps to get off of these dilemmas.
- Identify your drains and incompletions
Make five minutes of your schedule to list down all of your drains and incompletions. There’s no need to categorize them, you just have to write every last item you can think of, from buying a toothbrush to negotiate an apartment price, until there is nothing left swirling around in your mind.
- Understand what you can and cannot control
Now, this is a critical step. You have to categorize them into two categories: what you can control, and what you cannot. In case you’re still confused about which is which, then let me tell you this: there’s a high chance that if you’ve spent too much time worrying, problem-solving, and fixating on something that never resolved … that means that thing is out of your control.
- Make a plan of action that works for you
Last, you gotta take a look at the drains and incompletions items left on your list. Confirm that they are all items you can directly address, meaning that you have some level of control over them. And for this last step, you must decide how you will tackle each item.
■ Avoid the planning fallacy.
Basically, the planning fallacy is a cognitive bias first proposed by two famous psychologists in 1979. They defined this phenomenon as “the tendency to underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a future task, due in part to the reliance on overly optimistic performance scenarios.” In short … many people —which most probably us, too— are overly optimistic about what we can get done in a day, which then causes us to overschedule and take on many time debt (will be discussed later).
Says, how many hours do you work each day? Seven, eight hours? Well the thing is, just because you work for eight hours a day, doesn’t mean you actually do eight hours of working. Believe it or not, pretty much every statistic puts that number significantly lower.
According to the more modern psychologist, Ron Friedman, most people typically only have a window of about two to three hours where they’re able to really, really focused in a day. There are also many studies that have backed up his statement, stating that the average knowledge worker such as writer, developer, designer, and manager, only productive for 12.5 hours a week, which roughly 2.5 hours a day.
So now, after you realize that your actual capability is far cry from the myth of 40-hour work per week, I hope you can start to set some realistic deadlines in the future, to use your previous data and experiences wisely, and probably start to consider all the three scenarios we’d likely run into in the future: best-case scenarios, worst-case scenarios, and the most likely scenarios.
In short … let’s not overly optimistic, and remember to plan your best to avoid the planning fallacy.
■ Stay away from time debt.
One of the main consequences you will get if you don’t try your best to avoid the planning fallacy is your drowning, accumulated time debt. These are the choices we make to ‘borrow’ our personal time to get the work done, which actually will work AGAINST us in the long run.
Just like the money borrowed from a bank, which has to be paid back with interest in the future, this time we have to pay back with more focus and attention. While previously, they have been robbed from us, together with the time that we chose to loan out to the other tasks —or even worse, to unintentional procrastination. This means, to get things back on track in the future, we have to pay our time debt with more work of expenditure of resources.
You don’t want to be like Sierra Black, who wrote this at Forbes, “Pretty soon, I needed to start repaying some of that borrowed time … I ran into the same problems I’m familiar with from money-based debt, (which is) I owed more than I could pay.”
Basically, the more time debt you take from not using your time efficiently, the less time you will have in the future. And if you don’t take care of this immediately, there will come a day when every hour of it going to be spoken for your time debt before you even get out of your bed. 😟
Fortunately, now that you know how foul the time debt works, remembering it and planting it in your memory is the first step to stay away from it. Plus, I have prepared a few works rounds to prevent this time debt from getting over you, and those are schedule, schedule, and schedule! 😀
■ Track where your time is going.
One of the ways to avoid time debt and the planning fallacy is to manage your time accurately with time blocking. Tim Urban over at Wait But Why says that most people sleep about seven to eight hours a night, which then leaves 16 to 17 hours awake each day, aka about 1,000 minutes. And with that data, Tim recommends us to divide about those 1,000 minutes with time blocks.
But in case you don’t know what a time blocking technique is, let me explain. 🤓 Make sure you take notes!
Time blocking is one of the most popular productivity methods. And if you are to use this technique, it should be integrated with your to-do list. The difference between this and the normal to-do list is that this one will add a time schedule to your list. Their mixed elements will give you the benefits that will leave you ready to tackle the day, or even week … rather than stare at the overwhelmingly long to-do list and wondering how the hell you’re going to get it all done.
It says that the human brain needs guardrails to work its best, otherwise it will fall into what’s known as Parkinson’s Law, which is the scenario where the amount of work required adjusts (usually expanding) to fill the time available for its completion. 🤔 Have you heard about this? Sounds like time debt to me!
The simple reason why time blocking has worked for many people is … because it’s designed for focus. By scheduling every hour or even every minute of your day will not only guard you against distraction, but also multiply your focus. Because if you don’t start from here, it will get difficult to remind yourself every now and then to find out just where your time is going currently.
It’s just like Laura explains it, “If you don’t control your schedule, it will control you.” Therefore, with our belief that our schedule is beholden to our calendars, the more we can control what’s on there, the more we will be in control of our time! So as the first step in this idea, I recommend you to start working on your calendar. But not to create events, but to create alarms and reminders —more detailed, more jam-packed … and make sure you build your schedule strong!
■ Start everything with your high-level priorities.
Prioritization is one of the most important steps, this is the process where you arrange items and activities in order of importance relative to each other. This way, you can make sure that you will only be doing the mission-critical tasks that cannot be avoided at any cost.
I know very well that deciding what to prioritize is such a struggle. But oftentimes we’re faced with the seemingly urgent work that was not really important, but you wasted your time doing it anyway, only because you have it on your to-do list. Indeed, deciding what deserves our attention can quickly become overwhelming.
But, mastering prioritization can change your life. 😎
You might feel beaten out in doing this exercise for the first time, but at a later time, knowing your priorities will reduce stress, should help you focus, help you ignore the fear of missing out, improve your productivity and overall time management, to even help you balancing your work-life as you create better boundaries for your work and fun categories in your day to day schedule.
In case you’re a first-timer, it’s crucial to be hyperaware of your priorities, because only then you might be able to keep yourself in realization about which task or to-do that deserves your time. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who knows which one is the most important to yourself.
But let’s make this straightforward … says that you have 10 tasks on your priority list, you may want to make sure to do them all one by one according to the importance level of each of them; you can even drop two or three to-dos that are in the bottom. Easy, right? You may start from there. 🙂
■ Bonus: make one!
Make one? Yes, let me explain..,..
This world is full of things to learn, people to meet, adventures to explore, to even games to play. But sadly, we always have a reason that forced us to enjoy our life lesser and lesser. Whenever there’s an idea popped up in your head, your calendar says, “You don’t have time for that,” or your body says, “You don’t have enough energy for that.” Here, I’m not encouraging you to break out of your schedule, not at all. But the next time when you design your to-do list, why don’t you also add a little bit of fun to it?
I was really surprised when a friend of mine asked about what’s my schedule after this, and I answered, “I should meditate. I meditate five times a day.” And suddenly there’s a surprised Pikachu face, and with it she asked, “How come you meditate five times a day? Where’s that energy come from? I can’t even meditate once a day!” And so I answered, “Duh! You meditate to regain energy. You’re not giving up energy to meditate.”
So, did you get it? 🙃
Says, maybe in the future, there’s a girl (or boy) asking you to go out —or even go backpacking, you never know— you don’t have to answer her with, “I don’t have time for that,” but instead, “I can make time for that, let’s schedule it together …” or something like that —I dunno, I’m bad with girls LOL. The point is, oftentimes we have to make time instead of only using the available ones.
The same thing with energy, you can make some; and the same thing with motivation, you can make one; I want you to remember that you can make beautiful memories; and I want you to remember that you can have a wonderful relationship. You just have to work on it. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who has the total control of your time, not your boss, nor your annoying co-workers. It’s up to you in terms of what or who you will give your time to … but just make sure that you’re totally, 100 percent, consciously in charge of it. 😉
[ . . . ]
Thanks for reading! 👊🏽
If you fancy reading more about my tips and tricks to beat time, I have another part of this series that explains the five bullet points that you’ve already read at the very beginning of this blog post. But you know, those are just the summary, and I can sure you that you’ll get more understanding of those five different elements if you read the original blog post together with its discussions. Click here!
And my name is nesha, by the way. If this is your first time visiting this personal blog, then welcome to my home on the internet! Apparently, I write about lifestyle and productivity, so if you enjoyed reading this kind of article, please consider following me!
Follow me on Twitter, too … twitter.com/nesha5971
Thanks again for reading! Stay healthy, stay safe, and I’ll see you in the next one! I love you ❤ and bai-bai for now!
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
— American author, Zig Ziglar.