Time Management


Our culture glorifies work. Social media show people working long hours and then turn to their side hustle after hours. It's easy to feel you should find your meaning in life at work and that you should constantly work harder.

But we don't have to chase work. We can put work in its proper place and use our free time for something else. While work can be personally meaningful to you, it can also just be a thing you sometimes do. It's not about balance - it's about keeping things in perspective.

Ryder U. (@ryderu698) - Profile Photo


Time Management

Our culture is obsessed with work

The phrase "work-life balance" seems to imply that work and life are in balance.

If one imagines an old-fashioned scale, that would mean work is on the one side, and everything else about yourself on the other side - your friends, hobbies, family, relationships, beliefs, sports, etc. It hardly seems like a balance and really points out our obsession with work.

  • For a flexible schedule, use tools like email and use features like "schedule send." Then you can send an email during regular business hours regardless of when you drafted it.
  • For emails you only want to see later in the day, press "snooze" in Gmail, and let them come back to your inbox when you're ready.
  • For those who prefer stricter hours, set your status on messaging platforms outside your hours as Do Not Disturb.
  • Set your working hours in your calendar so that an automatic prompt will let others know if they try to schedule a meeting outside your working hours.
Use your calendar to set boundaries

You, and only you, are responsible for scheduling personal time.

  • One idea is for employees to have access to one another's calendars. Transparent scheduling and communicating via your calendar can be helpful for setting boundaries with co-workers.
  • For those who do not feel comfortable providing this level of transparency via their calendar, consider leaving the block as "Personal Time - Emergencies Only."

Asynchronous working styles can better accommodate employees' creative flow.

Research suggests the average worker is only productive for 2 hours, 53 minutes within an 8-hour workday. Allowing workers flexibility outside of strict 9-5 hours can positively impact productivity and work-life balance.

Many of us think that we need to cut online meetings down to the bare minimum and remain silent before it starts. When attending an in-person meeting, no one sits around in silence before the start of the meeting. We shouldn't do this in virtual meetings either. Diving straight into the work can also suck the energy out of the virtual room.

Instead, allow time to catch up with one another and discuss topics other than work. Also, try and infuse more fun and energy into your meetings to bring socialisation back.

Data suggests that employees are struggling with software overload. Productivity is declining while burnout is rising. Research from 2018 shows that the average operational support worker changed 1,100 times between 35 applications during a working day.

While good productivity apps can help, there is still a question of whether we really want to become more productive, or just seem to be more effective.

The productivity addict

Gone are the years where most people used Post-it notes or email flags to prioritise tasks.

The tools we use to track our performance at work have crossed into our personal lives and have the potential to control us. It may be time to rethink whether tracking and uploading tasks into various apps is really the path to success.

Global sales of wearable devices that track daily activity and allow users to get notifications will reach $1bn by 2022.

One neuroscientist says part of the attraction for users is the way many of these apps 'reward' users. When you see your step count or sleep hours in an app, it creates a feedback loop where you experience an immediate reward. Progress badges can become more important than the outcome itself.

Before the pandemic people were non-stop on the go, now people are rethinking the qualitative aspect of being productive. Instead of seeing how many items we can tick off our list, we have an opportunity to ask if it was more innovative, purpose-driven or socially-driven.

And some of the solutions linked to discipline can be solved even without technology.

While the desire to complete a set of tasks within a timeframe is not a new phenomenon, our cultural obsession with personal productivity is.

In the 1990s, technology was promoted as a time-saving tool, such as search engines that saved us hours of digging for information. We could suddenly do more with potentially less work. No wonder we started to embrace a lifestyle that could maximise productivity.

Using a variation of the Temporal Motivation Theory, procrastination is divided into four causes, which are interlinked:

  1. Expectancy: Our underestimation of our chances of succeeding, reducing our overall motivation.
  2. Sensitivity to Delay: Lack of recognition that our delaying will affect our chances of completion of the task on time.
  3. Value: We do not appreciate the value of the task being done on time.
  4. Metacognition: We lack the self-awareness about our own thinking patterns and behaviours.
Kick The Habit Of Procrastination

Procrastination in its chronic form is a barrier that prevents us from achieving happiness, health and success. Regular procrastinators skip their exercise routines, and also have high levels of anxiety, leading to various mental and physical ailments.

New research tries to target the root cause of procrastination, looking at it from a psychological angle.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a proven tool to resolve the psychological problem of procrastination, but it is time-consuming and not very scalable.

A quicker way is to ask these four questions to oneself:

  1. How would a highly successful person complete this task?
  2. How would you feel if the task is not completed?
  3. What is the next small and immediate step that needs to be done?
  4. If there was one thing that could be done to achieve the goal on time, what would it be?

When big and exciting things are happening outside the office - good or bad - it can become challenging to set it aside and focus on your work. Negative news can severely impact your mood. Good news can increase your adrenaline, and when you are too excited, can cause anxiety.

Acknowledge exactly what is distracting you; then suppress it by focusing on something like your breathing. It should slightly alter your mood and help you to work with renewed concentration.

When your focus feels depleted, it could be because you are juggling too many tasks.

What you can do about it:

  • Start by controlling your environment. Put your phone in another room. Close your email tab. Put headphones in so you don't hear distracting noises in the office.
  • Make a list of your top three priorities for the day.
  • Try breaking your day into smaller chunks, using the Pomodoro Technique or the 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break.
Quick Fixes For Fatigue Don't Work In The Long Run

If you feel foggy, yawning at your desk, or drinking too much coffee, you're probably overtired, and it is interfering with your ability to concentrate. Scientists hypothesize that a continued lack of sleep might destroy your brain cells.

A quick fix is to go for a walk outside or to drink a glass of water. But these fixes are no replacement for regularly getting a full night's rest.

When you aren't at all excited about what you need to be doing, taking action can inspire a certain amount of pain and cause you to procrastinate.

Buckle down and get that thing done first, before anything else on your list. Then you know the worst is behind you, causing you to feel more focused for the rest of the day.

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