The 3 Step Process to Becoming a Time Managing Machine
When it comes to time-management, humans, for the most part, suck at it. We truly suck at it. Why? Because it takes a lot of energy to continuously move with intention and foresight, to move with efficiency. As humans, we have a tendency to overload our plates with tasks that don't necessarily need to be there. We are good at keeping ourselves busy, not so great at keeping ourselves productive.
Over the past few years, I've had multiple daily obligations just like you. Whether that be school, work, family, errands, etc. I struggled to find time to do it all. Where did the time go? After a while, I got tired of not being able to get everything done, so I wanted to find out where it went. I asked myself, "What's my outcome?" to whatever I was doing. I made it a habit to ask that question pretty much hourly. I needed to consistently check myself and make sure that the actions I was taking were producing an outcome that made it worth it. If it didn't, I stopped doing the task.
However, humans are habitual beings. I wanted to become more efficient, not from draining myself from consistent analyzation of my actions, but through habitual actions that produced desired results. After a while, I had to come up with a better way to stay time optimized. Once I decided to scratch a task off my list, I needed to instill a habit to keep it off of it. By approaching time management from this angle, I curated a three-step process for becoming better at it.
Step 1: Identify
Step 2: Create Obstacles
Step 3: Repeat
Let's break it down.
In order to manage your time, you must identify how you are spending it. You need to layout your typical day. Either do this through reflection or if you are really serious, take a day and write down every time you start a new task. Write down what it is, and write down the duration of time that task takes up.
Then you need to get specific. Identify what tasks actually get you closer to your goals or desired results. Identify what tasks just burn seconds away.
Once you've identified the tasks that don't actually bring you tangible outcomes, scrap them. Take them, crumble them up, and throw them away. Now, I get that this is easier said than done. Some actions are habitual and hard to break. Others seem obligatory (but maybe they aren't). However, whatever the action is, you are in control. Remember that. This brings us to step 2.
Because we are habitual beings, it's important to break habits that make us less efficient. To break habits we must make the habits we want to stop doing more uncomfortable to do than the actions we want to pursue instead. The more uncomfortable the action is, the less you will want to do it. So how do you make inefficient actions uncomfortable? Create obstacles. Example:
Joe has a habit of getting sucked into a time-sucking vortex (his phone) when he works at his home office. One moment he is working relentlessly to get his report typed up, the next minute two hours have passed and 20 cat videos are in his YouTube history. We can all relate to Joe.
Now Joe wants to become more productive, so he must break this time sucking habit. He, therefore, needs to make it more uncomfortable to check his phone than to continue working. To do this, he decides to place his phone on the opposite side of the house before he begins working. Out of sight out of mind right? But more than that he has now created work for himself. In order to check his phone, he can no longer just pick it up, he must walk across his house. When we are talking about mindless habitual actions, this can be enough for some to stop the trigger action of the habit.
Now for you, you might need to create even larger obstacles.
Over time, once the habit is formed, creating obstacles might not be necessary. Sometimes, it might be. To figure out which one it is, continue to step 3.
Once you've identified tasks that you should strip off your plate and create obstacles to instill habits that keep them off your plate, you must repeat this process. This could be a weekly repeat, a monthly repeat, or a yearly repeat. Because your responsibilities change over time, and your habits mold and shift subtly over time, it is important to reevaluate your actions and your outcomes. Time management is a continuous process. As I said, it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of assessing with intention.
So if you know that you can be getting more done, I suggest to at least try out this process. Living in this mindset has brought high amounts of productivity into my life.
Parting advice: You only have one life, so live it....with intention.