Sustainable Time Management
August 17, 2022
To increase my productivity I often make my plans for the day a bit (too) ambitious.
This is often recommended in the industry.
The idea behind that being that a bit of deadline pressure + Parkinson’s law will help you squeeze that bit more productivity out of your day.
And it absolutely works. It squeezes a bit more productivity out of you.
Only problem is that most times you’re not going to be able to accomplish everything you so ambitiously planned.
And thus you get to the end of the day pretty much disappointed.
Indeed you were more productive than “usual”.
Still, you weren’t able to actually accomplish what you set out to.
It feels like a defeat. It stings.
And what I usually end up doing after a couple of days of forcing myself through such a regime is…
DROPPING IT ALTOGETHER
It’s the old intensity vs consistency conundrum.
We lose the forest for the trees.
We focus so much on being (insanely) productive during one day that we drop it shortly thereafter and end up losing productivity over a longer period of time.
It’s not sustainable.
Consistency trumps intensity.
In terms of overall productivity, being consistently productive over a month is obviously going to win against being intensively productive over just 3 days before dropping it and contemplating a jump through the window.
So here’s something more sustainable.
A time management technique that not only will make you more productive (overall) but will also let you be happier at the end of the day.
Thus enticing you to use it again and again, and be happier and more productive consistently.
1. Begin with the end in mind
Easy question: by what time do you want to be done today?
Then take a piece of paper and write that time on the bottom of the page.
At that time today, your work will have to be done.
2. To-Do lists are evil
Your To-Do list is just an INBOX. AKA just a plain ol’ list of stuff you jotted down for remembering.
Don’t go about your day trying to check everything off your To-Do list like a headless chicken.
Your time deserves better.
So take your list and…
3. Schedule everything
At least everything you decide to do.
Take that piece of paper from before, go through your To-Do list, and for each item that you decide to do, schedule it on your sheet.
Can’t fit everything, can you?! Good! That forces you to prioritize.
Iterate over your schedule till you’re satisfied with the tasks you have on it AND you’re confident that you’ll be able to follow it.
That last bit is CRUCIAL.
Err on the side of slack, especially in the beginning. Allocate a bit more time than you think you need.
Chances are your time estimates will be a bit off. Having that slack then increases the chances that you’ll be able to STICK to that plan.
And that’s worth the slight inefficiency of overestimation.
Done is better than perfect-ly not done. Or a mental breakdown.
Got your schedule? Great! Now lock it and load it.
Make your goal during the day to EXECUTE and DEFEND that schedule as fiercely as you possibly can.
Make it non-negotiable.
FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.
And when THAT time – that you scheduled! – comes to call it a day:
And if you did it correctly, you’ll leave with a deep sense of accomplishment knowing that all the tasks – that you decided! – got done and dusted.
There’s no better feeling.
Now go do your magic.
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