If only you can manage your time better…
You’ll do more in life. You’ll complete all your tasks. You’ll allot time to everyone who needs it. You’ll achieve all your dreams.
So you read articles. You try every new time management ‘hack’ you come across. You try new techniques every week. But things revert to the way they were faster than a toddler sheds tears. You spend more time on your smartphone than you would like, wondering what you must do to manage your time better. But it doesn’t work.
Because ‘managing your time’ is a flawed assumption.
You can manage your thoughts, because they belong to you. You can manage your life, because it’s an outcome of your actions. You can manage your beliefs, your behavior and money. They’re yours.
But how can you manage ‘your’ time?
Time is eternal. It’s relative. Yet, it’s constant. It’s the same for everyone, regardless of gender, social status, money, and everything else. It belongs to no one. How can you manage an entity like that?
Another reason why trying to manage time is flawed is because it means you try to do more within the available time. Doing more doesn’t matter. Doing what’s important, does.
So how can you make better use of the time you get?
1. Manage Tasks
Don’t manage time. Manage tasks instead.
Each night, list the tasks you want to accomplish the next day. Choose tasks which align with your long-term goals. How long is long-term? Well, it’s alright if you don’t like setting audacious 5-year goals. Set 6-month goals and take action every day to get closer to them.
Avoid anything which will make you stray from what’s important. This includes people.
2. Say ‘No’
“All those who call you to themselves draw you away from yourself.” — Seneca
If you don’t learn to say ‘no’ to everything which doesn’t make you go “Hell Yes,” you’ll remain at the mercy of others forever. And you’ll complain about how tough it is to do what you want to.
You might argue that saying ‘no’ is selfishness. And in a tiny, remote part of the universe, you might be right. But this act of selfishness is one which pays off handsomely.
3. Do Deep Work
According to author and deep work expert Cal Newport, deep work is high quality work which gets you closer to your goals (point #1).
High quality work is the time spent times the intensity of focus. The deeper your work, the better you use the available time.
Spend four to six hours each day (not more) doing deep work. Watch your productivity and output skyrocket. But don’t forget the next point.
4. Batch Your Work
Human beings suck at multitasking. It’s a proven fact. Yet, we persist with it. Answering emails, refreshing notifications, and other activities in between… each of these adversely impact the time you spend and your intensity of focus. Guess what happens to your work.
Batching means working on one task at a time. If the task is part of your deep work, spend more time with it. If it’s not — like answering emails and returning phone calls — allot a specific time for them.
James Clear keeps his phone in another room when he does deep work. Ryan Holiday groups his phone calls together in large blocks and goes for long walks. Like James, I keep my phone out of reach while working and block social media using the SelfControl app.
Completing an activity which will take ‘just 5 minutes’ between deep work is a bad, bad idea. Rarely does a five-minute task take just five minutes. Avoid it. Instead, batch all such tasks together, and allot 30 minutes at the end of your deep-work day to finish them.
5. Halve Your Deadlines
Shorten your deadlines so you stop squandering time. But don’t just shorten it. Halve it. You won’t achieve your outcome in half the time. But you’ll go beyond ‘working harder’ and start working smart.
After you complete the task, examine what worked and what didn’t. Cut out the fat. Rinse. Repeat. You’ll discover the optimal time it takes to complete your task. It’ll be about 40 percent lesser than what you currently take. Think about how much you can do with 40 percent more time!
6. Take Time Off
‘Hustling’ 24/7 makes you complacent. You feel you always have time. Not to mention it’s exhausting.
So take time off to refresh yourself. This will also create a restriction for the amount of time you use to complete tasks.
Don’t just look at things a certain way. You won’t get far. Do all you can to make yourself better. To achieve this, you need time, which never did, and never will, belong to you. You cannot manage time. Let go of the fallacy. Make the most of the present moment — that’s all you will get.