What stands between you and time management?
We are eager to get started on our work. We love to get things done.
When we jump right in, we think we are being productive. But are we?
Imagine this scenario:
You asked me to help you move to a new house, and I agreed. We put everything into boxes. Later, we realize we need a truck.
Three hours later we find a truck. We load the boxes and furniture. At your new place, we empty the truck.
We realize we can’t remember what’s in each box. Which box goes in what room. We dump everything in one room.
Overwhelmed and after ten hours, we ask ourselves:
Why didn’t we book the truck first?
Why didn’t we label the boxes?
Why didn’t we hire the movers?
The root problem was our eagerness to start.
The same is true in our day-to-day time management techniques. We are eager. We have many false starts.
Years of frustration taught me: ‘Plan and work are two separate things.’
The opposite of eagerness is patience. Planning with patience allows you to master time management techniques.
Planning is the key to unlock time management.
Time Management Techniques For Long Term Wins
Have you ever seen the classic TV show The Three Stooges?
Moe, Larry, and Curly are not models for time management. They are a bunch of eagers.
Eagers are busy all day. Eagers have no significant accomplishments. Eagers feel overwhelmed.
How do I know?
I’ve been there. I have a few gold medals in eagerness. I hold some world records.
When I realized I was wasting my time, I let go of eagerness. Over time, I built five time management techniques.
These five techniques changed my life. They gave me control. They brought order in my life.
These techniques work for business owners.
They work for stay at home parents.
They work for students.
They work for artists.
These time management techniques are timeless.
Technique 1: Brain Dump Your Tasks
Have you ever tried to remember things to do in your head but forgot?
I have. It sucks.
What do we do before we go grocery shopping?
How about when we pack for vacation?
What do we do when we think of a new task?
For me, I add to a list.
The first technique is to create a system to brain dump. Your mantra: No tasks in my head.
Add your tasks to a phone app, word doc, legal pad, or paper napkin. Tasks can come to you at any time, from when you first wake up to when you go to sleep. Get them out of your head.
When you don’t waste any neurons to remember, you become a clear thinker.
Let go of eagerness, add to the list.
Technique 2- Default to ‘No’
How much is your time worth? What is your hourly rate?
Let’s imagine $50 per hour.
On Monday morning, the first thing on your list is to return one rotten apple. You get in your car. You wait in line. You get a $1 refund and drive back.
Would you really do this? My guess is NO.
Why would you return something for $1, when your time is $50 an hour? We often look at what we would gain from a choice. We can be terrible at noticing what we would lose.
Some good news: You are already saying NO in your life. When you press reject to the telemarketer call, you are saying NO. When you press spam to an email, you are saying NO.
Ask yourself about everything on your list: Is this the best use of my time?
I used to return rotten apples. Now if I get a rotten apple, I throw it in the trash.
Now if I buy a shirt online for $20. If return takes me more time than it’s worth, I donate.
When you say NO, you shorten your list.
Say NO to eagerness.
‘No’ is one of the most underrated time management tools.
Technique 3: Use the Priority Method
A few years ago, I tried my hand at coding.
When I started working on coding projects, my coder friend sat me down to teach.
He said, “Before starting any coding project, set priorities.”
Coders list 3–5 priorities. They understand that not everything on the list is equally important. For coders, p0 is the most important task.
In p0, P stands for priority and 0 for first priority. They list them p0, p1, p2, and so on.
Coders start with this question: What MUST version 1 of software have? The answer might look like this.
- p0 means, don’t release software without completing this task.
- p1 means, if we don’t get to this, move this task to the next version.
- p2 means to wait until p0 and p1 are complete.
He handed me the keys to transform my time management. This priority method supports the idea to separate plan and work.
Resistance stands between us and the most important thing on our list. The force of resistance tells us to do the most important things later. Before the resistance can creep, list your most important tasks.
Our will power tank is full first thing in the morning. Will power gets depleted as the day goes along. Will power refills overnight and it is ready the next morning.
Action Step: Ask yourself these questions:
- If you can only get one or two things done today, what would they be?
- What tasks will have a long term impact?
- What am I most afraid to do on my list(Usually resistance is creating fear)?
Kick resistance’s ass with the priority method.
Good ol’ Abe Lincoln knew a thing or two about priority: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Technique 4: Use Leverage For Bigger Impact
Have you ever ordered a take out dinner?
Ever been inside Uber?
Anyone let you borrow money?
Then you have used leverage. Leverage is when: Someone cooks you a meal, Or driving you around, Or borrow money to advance your dream.
We live in the age of leverage. We use technology and globalization to leverage.
A leveraged person can outperform someone who doesn’t use leverage by 10x or 100x or even 1000x.
Picture Elon Musk in Tesla’s Gigafactory. Did Musk build every Tesla on the road? Musk leverages his team of 50,000 to build one million cars.
When Malcolm Gladwell writes his newest book, who’s on his team? He has a research team, an editor, a publisher, and a marketing team. Gladwell used leverage to publish his New York Times bestsellers.
Musk and Gladwell hate eagerness. They understand leverage.
Leverage allows you to have more impact in less time and effort. Leverage is fundamental to multiplying your time management.
Action Step: Ask yourself these Questions:
- Where do I spend my time on repetitive tasks?
- How much time will outsourcing save?
- What task can I delegate?
Here are some examples of how to use leverage:
- Technology can solve your repetitive work (i.e. Calendar reminders, Gmail templates)
- Technology can do things faster (i.e. Grammarly, Google voice typing)
- Hire a virtual assistant (As low as $100 a month)
Once you leverage technology and people, you can free up time to spend on the most important things.
Technique 5: Use a Calendar The Right Way
What do you do when you have a big meeting?
A job interview?
Or your anniversary?
You add to your calendar.
When you have an important meeting on a certain day, you review your calendar first thing in the morning. You add a pop-up reminder. You don’t want to miss this important meeting.
In the fifth technique, we move the to-do list to our calendar. Calendars eliminate the vagueness from our day. When we schedule something, we commit ourselves.
Calendar accounts for time. When you account for time, your most important thing gets done.
Successful people use calendars and schedule their tasks. Before they commit to something new, they check their calendar. They know only important things go on the calendar. They stick to the calendar.
You can use a calendar to add repetitive and future tasks.
- ‘What can I delegate?’ every Monday at 10 am.
- ‘Add hours for payroll.’ on every 1st and 15th at 11 am.
- ‘Review the proposal.’ at 10 am on Wednesday.
- ‘Get ice cream with my kids.’ every Friday at 4 pm.
When you follow your calendar, you become more purposeful in your actions. You put eagerness to rest.
What Does it Take To Master Time Management Techniques?
If you had to cut a tree, would you rather have a sharp or dull axe?
If you were to go to war with an unfamiliar enemy, would you rather be eager to act or plan your attack?
No matter where you are today in time management, you have a choice. A choice on how to move forward. A choice on how to deal with your time.
A choice to list things doesn’t take years. A choice to eliminate doesn’t take inspirational speech. Prioritizing takes sticking to your guns. Automation and schedule takes a mindset shift.
Once you focus on the five techniques, you can master time management. You will see the benefits of separating planning your day from doing the work.
I am still afraid of my most important thing first thing in the morning. However, most days I conquer eagerness.