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Much advice about time management is about creating a to-do list, reminding you what you want to do. However, it's more important to use a schedule, which tells you when you're going to do it.
To build a better time management system, you need to know what you currently spend your time on. You need to know where you're losing time to the wrong things.
To track your time, spend a few days writing a "time log" to track how you spend your day.
Goals work great to get you motivated to do your work, but they don't tell you how you're going to achieve your goals.
Ask yourself what you can do every day that will help you achieve your ultimate goal. If you need to write a 4,000 word essay by the end of the month, set a daily goal of writing 500 words. If you can make consistent progress, you'll hit your goal sooner.
Decide what the smallest, most doable next step is. Then list all the next steps with a deadline for each.
It's easy to procrastinate when a project feels overwhelming. Part of proper goal-setting is to be able to break larger goals down into daily tasks. Focus on making progress, not just on the end result.
When you start to schedule your tasks, you may be too optimistic about how much you can get done. You may take on too much work or get stressed when tasks take longer than you expected.
To counteract the Planning Fallacy:
This means that you should do your most important work when you have the most energy and scheduling passive activities when you're more naturally low.
We all have moments in the day where we feel naturally more alert and energetic and other times where we lack energy. It is known as the Circadian Rhythm - a 24-hour internal clock that cycles between alertness and sleepiness. Every person's rhythm is slightly different, but the majority follow a similar pattern.
When you start to feel this way, take a break.
The best way to maintain productivity is to take regular breaks. Our minds naturally crave breaks after every 90 minutes of intense work. Your body may signal it needs a break by becoming hungry, sleepy, fidgeting, or losing focus.
To get over those initial feelings related to procrastination:
When you have a crammed schedule, it's tempting to think you can multitask. But studies find that focusing on a single task can be 500% more productive.
If you find it hard to focus on just one thing:
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This works well for the chronic procrastinator: those who say they will do it later and then wonder why it never gets done.
Instead of getting overwhelmed, tackle your to-do l...
Rather than trying to work flat-out, break down your day into a series of work-sprints with a short rest period after each session.
Set a timer for 25 min and focus exclusively on your work for that time, take a 5 min break, and repeat.
Some people find that taking a 5 min break destroys their flow. But it does help to break long complex tasks into a series on manageable sprints.
The 2-minute rule is a strategy for quickly assessing and taking action on small tasks so they don’t take up too much mental energy.
Ask yourself if a task is going to take you 2 minutes or less. If so, just do it.
Time anxiety is the feeling that you have not done enough to meet your goals or that you're not using the time you do have effectively.
Time anxiety is more than feeling overwhelmed at times - it haunts your days and causes you to procrastinate on essential tasks.
The irony is the more we focus on the limited time we do have, the more restricted our time feels.
Time had little impact on us as children. We used to spend our days with mostly unstructured games and learning. As we became teenagers, time started to gain importance. As adults, time becomes an essential and scarce resource that we have to attempt to control.
There are two main mental biases which add stress to our lives:
Working on high-priority tasks can be hard, but it is even harder to stop working on them. One needs a weekly or monthly review and reassessment to check what is important to us and deprioritize certain tasks which are no longer serving one’s best interests.
There are various mental biases like the sunk cost fallacy, the completion bias, or the Zeigarnik effect that our brains can experience, making it hard to deprioritize certain tasks.