Time Management


What you can do about the urgency effect

Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritise your tasks. The matrix is a framework to help you decide what work is really important and what work is not urgent.

  • Block off your most productive 2-4 hours each day and dedicate it to your most important work.
  • Only check your communication apps at specific times of the day instead of responding to the messages as they come in.
  • Give your important tasks a deadline.
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Time Management

Mere Urgency Effect - Urgency trumps importance

The effect shows our tendency to prioritise perceived time-sensitive tasks over non-urgent tasks, even if the non-urgent jobs carry greater rewards.

This cognitive bias reveals why we will rather respond to emails at the expense of meaningful work. Moreover, research shows that people who feel generally busy are more likely to fall for the Mere Urgency Effect and are less likely to use their time well.

Giving attention to your workspace

When we want to improve our productivity and output, we frequently overlook the environment where we do our work.

We may be undisciplined about keeping structure in our environments. We may notice when we don't have space to put our papers, so we push them to the side. We can't find a pen. The computer "desktop" looks no better, and even a spotlight search can't locate our documents. But, a well-organised workspace can give us focus, energy, and a clear mind.

When your space is cleared, ask yourself what kind of workspace you need.

  • What will make your work easier and more effective?
  • What environments make you feel most productive?
  • Do you prefer colour coding systems and fancy poster cards?

Ensure to give yourself a lamp, a charging station for your phone, and a place to put a drink.

If you have too much clutter, try some Marie Kondo-ing. This should only be done when it's necessary. Afterwards, try to maintain what you've built.

  • Sort through everything in your workspace. Throw out what you can.
  • Then make judgement calls about the leftover according to their true value to you.

Once in a while, block off a day to try and get back to inbox zero in your digital and physical workspaces.

Sift through the clutter that's built up in your office. Pre-sort your mail. At the very least, try to start every Monday with an empty inbox. This will help to keep you running without getting overburdened.

This is your place of work, even if it is a home office or a shared space. As much as possible, treat it so.

People are having real success by tricking their brains into thinking their office is for serious work. Calibrate your workspace to serve you best:

  • Only do work here. If you can, don't play games or browse the internet. No Netflix.
  • Physically leave the room to take a break or do another type of activity.
  • Leave it vacant when you're not working.

Once you have a new and workable workspace, consider what will consistently inspire you. Some enjoy famous smart-sounding quotes or motivational videos.

When you feel bored or disinterested, look for the little sources of energy you've created that will give you constant inspiration to work productively.

  • Make a list of the things that knock you off your game. What stuff consistently distract you or pull you away from your seat? Kids crying, a TV playing? Consider noise-cancelling headphones.
  • What do you feel would help you in your day today? Or what do you reach for the most often? Put those items within arm's reach.
  • Consider where to store items that you only reach for two to three times a month, such as speciality cables, certain pens or art supplies, etc. It could be stored in a filing cabinet under your desk and out of sight.
  • Run cables at the back of your desk's legs so you can't see them.
  • For those who work with lots of paper, a filing cabinet could be useful.
  • If you are comfortable scanning documents to have electronic copies of them, consider using a matching electronic system on your computer.

A steady routine can give your brain the signal that you need to shift to a working mode: for example, every morning when you enter your workspace, flip on the desk lamp or Bluetooth switch, then pull out your chair and sit down with intentional posture.

When you end your workday, focus on a routine so that your brain knows it's time to switch off. Ensure to leave a clean and tidy office before you turn off the lights.

Three Forms of Time Anxiety

For us to be able to manage the eerie feeling of never having enough time we must know the three different forms it can manifest as:

  1. Daily Time Anxiety: the feeling of never having enough time in your day.
  2. Future Time Anxiety: dwelling on the “what ifs?”
  3. Existential Time Anxiety: the sense that you only have a limited amount of time in your life, and that it’s slipping away.

All three forms are valid and we must learn to soothe our anxieties ourselves because it's not like someone will be able to soothe them for us all of the time.

  1. Create a schedule that serves your goals. Whether you want to put more time in your body, mind, in love, for work, money, or play, keeping a balanced schedule is a healthy way to see what is important to you.
  2. Eliminate distractions. If you spend hours on end on social media just mindlessly scrolling, you won't be able to finish the things you need to do with this.
  3. Don't do everything by yourself. Learn how to delegate tasks, saying "no," and maximizing the value of your time.

In 713 BCE, King Numa Pompilius introduced two new months, January and February, added to the end of the Calendar.

As February was the last month on the list, it ended up being short (28 days) while other months were also modified to be either 29 or 31 days.

As the years went by, the Romans realized they had to add or subtract days to sync itself with the seasons. So many days were out of sync that they even had to add a 27-day leap month called Mercedonius.

The confusion reached its peak in Julius Caesar's time, resulting in a year that was 445 days long(in 46 BCE). Caesar aligned it and that is what is being followed even today.

Early Roman Calendar

In 8th Century BCE, when the Romulus Calendar was used, there were only 10 months, with January and February missing. Each month had either 30 or 31 days.

Winter months weren’t counted as planters and harvesters didn't care for those unproductive, cold months, resulting in 61 days of non-calendared time, and years with only 304 days.

Knowing When To Take A Break: Pay Attention To Your Body

When you start losing focus or are unable to concentrate on the littlest tasks, do these to recharge:

  • Take a 10-20 mins break, nap, or breather
  • Take up less demanding tasks
  • Walk around the office while listening to something that relaxes you
  • Wind down with a snack
  • Look away from the screen because your eyes need resting to

The more you ignore your body's natural cycles the more it will trigger its responses towards stress, the fight-or-flight response. We then become less active in hearing out ideas, unable to respond rationally, remain hyper-vigilant and anxious.

So many workers are generally stressed out on a daily basis and although not all workplace environments are stressors, it is important that everyone gets to relax and recharge whenever then can to improve productivity and overall well-being.

The Ultradian Rhythm

It is a biological cycle that lasts less than a day and happens in alternating periods of high and low frequencies of brain activity. Some researchers argue that it involves the balance of sodium/potassium in our system.

The brain works harder than any other organ and when we work harder than the usual what and tends to happen is that there will be a disruption to the balance of sodium/potassium and makes your brain call for a break. We also lose the ability to focus and concentrate when tired.

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