Learning to easily manage your time, keep your shit together and make sure you get things done is a pretty daunting prospect. There’re always people that you meet who are late to everything, never hand anything in one time or are always asking for an extension. Sometimes they never even show up. Believe me, there’s people like this all over the place. You probably know a few yourself, hell you could even be one of these people.
Time management is daunting.
I used to be like that, not the kind of person that was constantly late to everything though. I was always on time, but the manner in which I got there was always hectic, disorganized and lacking stability. I was disorganized, cluttered and was always rushing to get things finished in a timely manner.
Then I finally got my shit together, put everything in gear and actively learned how to properly manage my time. And believe me when I tell you that its tough, there’s more to it than simply handing everything in before the deadline, getting to go to bed early the night before a project is due or always having a checklist to complete.
I never had a strong sense of time management until I realized what was making me manage my time poorly and why.
I was distracted.
I was distracted. And I think that’s the same thing for a lot of people, especially with how short our attention spans are now in 2019. The time that we dedicated to focusing on one specific project or task is typically so short, we can’t be expected to get anything productive done. I was distracted and I didn’t know how to get focused. I thought that being focused was sitting down and working without looking at my phone for three hours in hopes of finishing something.
I mean, yes, technically you could be focused by doing that. You might get a lot of stuff done in that time, but what happens when those three hours are up? You go right back to being on your phone all the time and that sense of focus that you tried to instill is now gone. I used to be the same way.
The shift came when I started to look at my time as less of a metaphorical window to get things done in and more along the lines of what I couldn’t do. We all have the same twenty four hours in a day, all around the world, no matter who we are. I started to define my time management capabilities not by what I finished, but by what I couldn’t get to in that time. Quite often I found myself with nothing that I couldn’t do. I would finish my work with enough time left in the day, that I might as well start something new, try and learn something else. I would try and learn a song on the guitar or finish up some pages in my sketchbook.
I did these things not because I felt like I had to fill up my spare time with other tasks, but because I could. There was nothing stopping me, nothing holding me back from pursuing these things.
I have the time now, I may as well use it.
So why wouldn’t I? I have the time. I might as well use it.
As I mentioned before, time management isn’t all about checking things off of a pre-existing list. But…it does help a lot!
Before I sit down for an hour of uninterrupted work each morning, I write down a plan of how I want the day to go. I know what I need to get done, what I need to do and what I need to start that day. I’ll write them down in my personal Moleskine, ranking in order from highest importance all the way down to least importance.
And when I sit down to work on those, I focus and I execute. When I think of what I can’t get to in a day, most often the things on my list never cross my mind. In fact, nine times out of ten I’m able to get through everything and that’s the beauty of it. If I thought of how long this list was, all these different things I had to get to…I’d get so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t be able to function. Knowing that an ever growing list was always piling up, day after day is no way to work.
But focusing on what you can’t do…that’s where the mindset shifts.
Lastly, you need to be consistent.
Consistency is key.
If you’re not consistent with it, then what’s the point. It needs to be a daily practice, not something that you slip into for two or three days a week. Managing your time is an essential part of my definition of success. If you can’t manage your time and the items within your life, it says something about your own personality.
Give it a shot. It’s not an overnight resolution by any means though, so don’t expect instant results. It takes time to shift your mindset and time to practice proper focus.
Focus, execute and check those items off your list.