Time Management

91 STASHED IDEAS

Your to-do list may be stuffed with half-baked ideas, empty projects, and tasks you forgot to check off. Make a complete inventory of all the tasks and projects on your to-do list. Then see what you can delete. The purpose is to cut away the nonessential to make space for what's important to you now.

As you do your inventory, ask yourself:

  • Does this task bring you closer to the life you want to live?
  • Some items you have to keep, such as doing your taxes.
  • If you don't want to let go of long-standing tasks, such as writing a book, save it in a "Maybe later" file and archive it.
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Time Management

Now that you have the right tasks, it's time to sort and organize. Every task on your to-do list should be related to your goal.

  • Keep your projects visible. Seeing every project you've committed to keeps you from adding too many.
  • Sequence your tasks in a logical order before you get to work.
  • Add priorities. Some tasks are more important to your goal.
  • Give each task a due date. As a rule of thumb, estimate how long a task will take, then double it.
  • Ensure your to-do list sparks joy. Consider the wording, colour theme and emojis.
Marie Kondo

"To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose."

Once your task list is clear and aligned with your goals, take steps to keep it clear.

  • For every new task that comes to your to-do list, ask if it leads to your vision. If not, discard it immediately.
  • Unhelpful tasks will sneak in from time to time. Weed them out with a weekly review so you can start each week with a clearly prioritised to-do list.
  • Check in on your big-picture every few months.
Decluttering a to-do list

Your to-do list should be an extension of your mind. It's a way of storing away tomorrow's work so that you can focus on what you have to do today.

However, if we don't regularly tidy up our list, it can get cluttered. Instead of a reliable to-do list, it can become a cumbersome task in itself that cease to fulfil the function it was designed for. Learning from Marie Kondo, we can declutter our task list in a similar way she tidies physical belongings.

We can't know what is worth doing if we don't know where we are going.

  • Before touching any clutter, visualise what it would mean to have a clutter-free to-do list. Maybe you want to have a successful business, or get in shape.
  • Then identify why you want to get in shape or have a successful business. Write down your "why". This is what you will use to determine if a task is worth doing.
  • Break your vision down into several goals for each area of your life, and create a task for each.
Micro-breaks

Micro-breaks are quick impromptu breaks that workers take in order to keep our energy levels steady in order to get through the day.

The Journal of Applied Psychology and a research from North Carolina State Univeristy showed that workers who take micro-breaks actually lead to higher work engagement.

Employees who are fatigued but take micro-breaks frequently helped maintain their energy levels when taken at the right time.

We all have good intentions about getting work done, but we rarely stick to them. Instead, we allow distractions to use up our time until there is nothing left.

We need to choose what is worth paying attention to. A system of focus will help you to keep track of deep work. Knowing where your time goes is an essential first step to taking control.

The Difficulty of Depth
  • Quantity: We don't do enough deep work. Shallow work seems more urgent and is easier to pay attention to.
  • Quality: We don't do deep work for long enough. To be effective, we need large, uninterrupted chunks of time.

We may intend to get more deep work done, but doing the work week after week is another thing.

  • Shallow work is all of the routine activities that accompany work, but don't require skill or concentration, such as answering emails, attending meetings, or paperwork.
  • Deep work is what you're paid for. It's a hard-to-do, attention-demanding activity. Those who can spend long periods of time engaged in deep work get to do truly meaningful things.

The system to perform your best work is simply to continuously track your deep work hours. Keeping this record can be an eye-opener to how you spend your time. You may find that only a quarter of your available working hours are spent on deep tasks.

  • Note the starting time you start your deep work. When you get interrupted or stop, note the ending time.
  • Only count the chunks for deep work that is longer than half an hour.
  • Add up the deep tasks.

It's easy to fall into the habit of doing something repeatedly without clarifying what the steps are. Explaining how to do things ensures tasks are done properly, and that no one has to spend time constantly re-teaching how to do something. Once the system is defined, it's possible to start automating and delegating it.

Before you consider automating or delegating a system you've defined, go through each step and see if it can be removed, combined with another step, or if you can create some new step that removes a handful of others.

  • Look at each individual step of your refined process and ask if a machine could do this. But be careful not to skip straight to the automation step without defining and refining the system first. Skipping to automation might create unnecessary complexity.
  • Once you have defined, refined, and automated the system to the greatest extent, you can delegate it. Invest in someone who can take the system you started, implement it as you designed it, then continue to improve and refine it. If someone was doing this work instead of you so you could focus on other things, would you eventually be able to afford them? Taking a step back financially often gives you the ability to take two steps forward. If someone else could do the work at least 80% as well as you, delegate it.
  1. Decrease the amount of time something takes you. You can get 10% more productive.
  2. Pay a machine or person for their time. You can get 10x more productive.


The best way to extend our work beyond ourselves and take advantage of personal leverage is to go through the Personal Leverage Loop: define, refine, automate, and delegate.

Financial leverage involves using other people's money to improve everyone's returns. The very rich had the confidence to take on some leverage to increase their upside if they succeeded.

We all have access to another form of leverage which can be the difference between increasing your salary by 10% per year and doubling it every year. It's called Personal Leverage and is a measure of your ability to extend your productivity beyond yourself.

We all have the same amount of time

Some use their time to accomplish an impossible amount of work, while others waste their time repeating the same few tasks, perhaps gaining 10% improvements each year.

Even if you believe you're in the first camp of making heroic progress, if you're focused on finding the right productivity app, you're in the second.

To feel motivated, you first need to act, then motivation will follow.

Look at your time well-spent activities and fit them into your day. In other words, think how and when your most meaningful tasks will fit into a real day. Understanding how to use your limited supply of time on what truly matters will help you cut out time-wasters that add to your time anxiety.

Maria Edgeworth

"If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves."

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.

Ask yourself what a good day looks like at work and home.

  • Body: What do you want to do to feel healthy?
  • Mind: What engages your mind in a good way?
  • Love: Who do you want to spend your time with?
  • Work: What work or tasks make you feel good?
  • Money: How do you want to use the money you do have?
  • Play: What hobbies or activities do you really enjoy?
  • Maximizers try to make a choice that will give the maximum benefit later on.
  • Satisficers make choices according to their set of current criteria. Nothing more.

Trying to maximize every day will lead to more time anxiety. Instead, use your time well-spent activities and decide on what fits your time best now**.**

Truths about time:

  • Time exists.
  • You can't stop the clock from moving or slow it down.
  • You only have control over what you do in the future.

Time anxiety increases when we try to ignore or manipulate the ways time impacts our day. Acknowledging these truths can reduce anxiety and help you move forward.

Time anxiety shows up as:

  • Daily time anxiety: It is the feeling of not having enough time in your day.
  • Future time anxiety: You feel paralyzed thinking through every 'what if?' that may or may not happen.
  • Existential time anxiety: The feeling of only having a limited time to live your life.
William Penn

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst".

Overcoming time anxiety boils down to awareness, understanding, and action.

Being aware of what you spend your time on can lessen your anxiety. But too much observation over every aspect of your life can add to your time anxiety. It's about finding a balance between awareness and action.

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.

We often think 8 hours of work time means we can schedule all 8 hours. However, most people have at best 2.5 hours of real productive time a day.
At work, most people spend:

  • 15% of their time in meetings,
  • 25-30% on email, chat, and video calls, and
  • 40% multitasking and working sub-optimally.

This breakdown can help you understand the limitations you have to work within. The goal is to be realistic about what you can do with the time you do have.

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