In my last post, instead of offering you my advice on how to better manage your time, I asked you for your advice.
After spending a lot of time thinking about this problem, I’ve realized that the problem for me (and many of you, it seems) is not a lack of motivation or drive, but perhaps it’s too much motivation and drive.
Obviously there’s nothing inherently wrong with being motivated, but the problem stems from having to deal with the consequences of trying to do too much.
We simply have too many commitments and responsibilities, and not enough time.
How do you juggle 18 credits, a part-time job, and 5 different clubs, without going insane?
Or, in my current situation, how do you work a full-time job and still find time to grow a blog and build a business on the side?
These are difficult questions to answer. And while I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the answers to these questions myself, I still don’t have all the answers.
Fortunately, I have some of the greatest readers in the world, and when I asked you guys what your best time management tips were, I received some excellent advice.
Today, I’m going to share the 5 tips, shared by my readers, that stood out the most to me. These tips are things that I am either already doing that have made a really big difference in my life, or things that I haven’t yet tried but that I think might make a really big difference my life.
Lots of great tips were shared, which made it difficult to pick just 5, but I tried to pick the ones that you probably won’t find in a normal “time management” blog post. That being said, I’d recommend reading through all the comments from my last post to see all the tips that were shared.
In no particular order, here the 5 that stood out most to me.
1. Set Alarms.
This tip came from Amber. She said,
“I set alarms for everything. It keeps me from forgetting and from being late.”
I love this tip! I like setting alarms to give myself time constraints. It’s easy for me to get caught up doing one thing, spending way too much time on it, and then never getting to the other items on my to-do list.
Setting alarms is such a simple thing to do, yet one of the most effective time management tips I know of. I’ve written before about the importance of giving yourself a time limit and using methods like the Pomodoro technique to force yourself to stay focused in shorter, but more productive intervals of time.
Right now, for example, I’m writing this post on a time limit. I have 15 minutes left to finish. I realize that I’m only on the first tip, which means that I really need to pick up the pace… but even if I don’t finish in the next 15 minutes (which, to be completely honest, I probably won’t), at least I’ll still get it done faster than if I hadn’t given myself a time limit at all.
This tip plays off Parkinson’s famous law – “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Or, in other words, the more time you have, the more time you waste.
2. Choose tasks based on how you feel.
This is an interesting tip from Darryl, who talks about the importance of being “aware” of yourself and “learn[ing] what tasks to do depending on how you feel.”
“For example, you probably won’t be able to fully concentrate on homework after being full from a large meal, but you’ll probably be able to clear and respond to emails. Or sometimes, it would actually be more productive for you to nap for 45 minutes, and go to the library for two very productive hours, rather than forcing yourself through homework while you’re half asleep.”
This is something I’ve only recently started to recognize the importance of and am still figuring out. But I think it’s a very advanced skill to really be in tune with yourself at this level.
It comes down to recognizing that you’re not always going to be at your peak mental performance, but that you can still use this time productively by working on tasks that require less mental focus. I think a big part of time management has less to do with managing your time, and more to do with managing your energy.
3. Create check points to re-prioritize.
“If it’s getting to 7 or 8 pm at night and I have loads of things left to do then I PRIORITIZE. What absolutely has to be done tonight and what can wait until tomorrow. I allow myself to postpone the non-essential to the next day or another day where I can see I have less tasks in already. And the essential I do. It becomes a bit of a game and I don’t allow myself to go to bed without having completed or reallocated all my tasks for the day.” – Gwen
I really like the idea of setting a time, or maybe even multiple times, each day to take a step back and re-prioritize the remaining items on your to-do list.
For work, I’ll often send my manager an email around 2-3 pm to let him know where I’m at and what I’ll realistically be able to get done by the end of the day.
Sometimes, things come up during the day that prevent me from getting all the things done that I had originally planned to do. As long as I communicate this to my manager, and let him know what happened, he’s usually completely fine with me putting things off for the next day.
I think we should all practice a similar habit, even if we’re not reporting to anyone but ourselves. By making a point to “check in” (whether it’s with yourself or someone else), at certain points throughout the day, you make sure that you’re getting the most important things done, while allowing yourself to adjust, or re-prioritize, and put off the less important things for another day.
4. Assign each day of the week to specific tasks.
“Maybe you should opt to tie your days to different tasks. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sunday’s, you work on the blog. Wednesdays and Fridays, you finish up work-related tasks. Saturdays are for fun!”
This is something I’ve thought about doing before, but have never really implemented. I know some people who do this and have had very positive results from it.
The idea relates to an industrial and systems engineering principle known as “batching,” or working on one specific task for longer, scheduled periods of time— rather than working on multiple tasks sporadically. The result, as mentioned by someone in another comment, is a faster rate of production.
Rather than wasting time every day figuring out what you’re going to do that day, it’s already set for you. Which means that you waste less time thinking about what you’re going to do, and spend more time doing.
Like I said, I’ve never actually done this before myself, but it’s something I plan on experimenting with in the next couple weeks.
5. Do less.
I’ve written about this before, and I hinted at it in the beginning of this article, but I think sometimes the answer is simply to do less. Ransom Pattersom says,
“My top tip time management tip would be to ruthlessly eliminate unnecessary commitments. I took on way too many extracurriculars my first couple semesters of college, and it’s only now in my first semester of my Junior year that I finally feel like I have enough time to work on my side projects and freelance work in addition to my class commitments. I still get overwhelmed at times, but it’s a lot better than it used to be.”
Prioritization has been one of my biggest learning over the last few years. For some reason, it’s incredibly difficult to be okay with doing less.
It’s okay to set something aside, temporarily, in order to focus on what’s more important.
Forget about trying to achieve “work-life” balance.
I remember reading somewhere that there’s literally no such thing as achieving perfect “balance.” For example, if you look at some doing a handstand, at any given moment, they’re never perfectly balanced. In reality, they’re constantly shifting their body weight and adjusting to varying degrees of imbalances.
It’s simply a matter of being able to respond to these imbalances quickly enough, before it’s too late.
Thanks to everyone who shared all their great tips! Hopefully you found some of these new and interesting, and maybe even worth a try.
For those of you that were just absolutely crazy about all of these and want to try implementing all of them at once, I’d advise you to just pick just one at first. If you get one down, then go ahead and try another one. Don’t be afraid to experiment with one of these ideas and make them your own, but don’t try to do everything all at once or nothing will stick. Focus on one habit at a time.
Right now, for example, I’m experimenting with waking up super early (like, 5:30 am) every day and creating a consistent morning routine. It’s still a work in progress (I don’t consider myself a morning person, at all…), but I’m giving it a shot because what I was doing before clearly wasn’t working. This may not end up working either, but then I’ll just be back to square one. I lose nothing by trying.
If what you’re doing right now is working for you, great. Keep doing it. But if it’s not, that’s your cue to try something else. One of these tips could be a good place to start.
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