Time management

As a productivity junkie, I have spent many years trying to optimizing how I manage my time to get the best out of my life. Below are some summarised tips I have curated over my life.

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The biggest key about time management or taking actions to lead a better life is self-awareness. That means being conscious of your daily tasks and habits; how much time goes into them; and do you need them in your life?

System #01: Using Math to plan your life

I believe the toughest part about time management is often about managing motivation,procrastination and expectations. Daunting tasks can drive us into a state of procrastination. One way to counter this problem is to calculate the hours you want to spend on tasks or projects.

We tend to work with an abstract number of hours when going about our tasks;; it seems that we never have enough time to do what we want to. An analogy to describe our dominant way of how we spend our time is like using a credit card; payment is easy and convenient but we do not know how much is left in our bank account. However, say you tell yourself your monthly spending limit is $200 and you withdraw that amount in cash and put into your wallet. Magically, your spending range will be around $200; maybe a little bit more but it is still controlled. That is the power of defining a goal or a parameter for you to work with.

If you aim at something and work towards it, there is a high probability that it will occur than if you don't aim at all and act randomly. — Jordan B. Peterson, Psychologist & author of 12 Rules for Life

We all have 24 hours in a day, no more no less. Time and money (and energy) are probably the most important assets in our lives.

Time = money mental model

  1. Time into money to avoid stress. It is very easy to overwork yourself if you do not set limits. Yes I do believe you need to grind harder than most to make the most progress in the creative journey. But there is a strategy to it to avoid burnout, and achieve optimal gains. Number one is self-assessment and awareness.

  2. How much can you get done in X number of hours. When is your optimal work hours.

    One of problems I faced in college was the fact that I feel stressed when I am not working or taking a break. I feel terrible if I sleep in on weekends. I somehow conditioned myself to be a work machine. That's not good. Balance needs to be retain.Imagine you are working for a company, and they can only pay you for 40 hours a week.

System #02: Prioritizing

  1. Write down the things you have to do in your life on paper on an Kanban board app like Trello

  2. Sort your to-dos into 4 categories: important urgent, important, urgent, none

    1. You can create own categories; I realized that time management articles and books often recycle the same content but authors simply describe them in a language that makes sense to them the most.

      1. The first model I encountered was How to be the Jedi Master of Your Own Time

      2. In the book Eat that Frog, the author uses A-B-C-D to rank your to-dos

      3. KonMari method:i Discarding personal items that no longer sparks joy

    2. To make it simple, you can even have just 2 categories: things I give a fuck about, things I don't.

  3. Use a visual planner like Google Calendar or a scheduler; use whatever that will allow you review your schedule consistently; most of the time people plan something and never go back to review them. Time/task management is a skill that you need to implement every single day; when this habit transforms into a lifestyle; it is easier to navigate through life with organization.

  4. Develop a routine or system. Eg. Create your "working hours"

    1. When I was in college, I designated "office hours" during days when I have no class or just one class. From 9am to 12pm, I would go to the school and go to the same computer

On waking up early

I am sure most of you have always wanted to wake up early, and start working on personal creative projects, exercising, or read a novel but you often succumb to the pleasure of laying in the comfort of your bed. I am not immune to that but over summer of 2019, I found a routine that allowed me to wake up at 4am every single day without much sleep inertia.

I am not going to advocate for that productivity trend in which they say waking up at 4am changes your life; you do you and what's works for you. If you get the best work done as a night-owl, then stick with that. I personally just find my energy at the highest in the morning allowing me to do work. Here is what you can try:

  1. If you are using your phone as your primary clock then before you sleep, charge your phone in another room or at least 5 meters away from you AND put a glass of water on top of your phone. Hence, when you have to deactivate your alarm, you have to pick up the glass of water (and hopefully drink it; that should freshen you up.

  2. Put a chair or something you can sit on near your phone/alarm clock so you can sit down and ease into awakeness.

If you are unable to wake up early or at whatever time you set yourself to, chances are:

  1. You are actually sleep-deprived from school or work

  2. You sleep at late hours, and unable to get your 7 hours of rest

  3. You spend too much with screens and blue-lights before you sleep

Do a self-assessment, and see what habits in your life are inhibiting your sleep schedule.

Traps you may fall into:

  • When conversing with people about a good habit ( reading, gym, watching tutorials) on trying to develop one, there is this weird somewhat defensive mechanism that people activate. They would start saying:

    • Oh, that is something I want to get to when I have more time...

    • I can't find the time to exercise or read...

    • I have been so busy lately

  • I am not trying to call people out but I want to you to call yourself out. How often do you repeat those lines to yourself when you see a good habit or practice you can adopt into life?

  • More importantly, ask yourself "by when?". By when are you going to start

  • There is this 20-second rule I often used to get to tasks that I am procrastinating. For example, I had been putting off cutting a new showreel but one day I thought to myself I can at least open Davinci Resolve/ Premiere Pro at my office workstation and import the footage. I did that but then I continue to cut my reel for an hour or so. I did not close the application and every day I would just review my reel and edit it. When the task is so accessible ; procrastination decreases.