We all battle with time, every single day. It’s not uncommon to hear, ‘I didn’t have enough time’ or ‘If only I had more than 24 hours in a day’. Yet, there are these super-humans who tend to accomplish more than what we could imagine. Leaving out the option that they have more than 24 hours (unless of course they took a trip to Venus), the only other alternative is to accept that some people are just excellent at using the time at hand.
I am in no way attesting that I’m at the epitome of my productivity. I have a long way to go, and I hope I keep getting better. However, over the years, I’ve had the fortune to learn a few skills (from people around me, watching videos, reading articles..) that helps in me getting more out of my time. If you’d rather watch a video of me talking to you about this, check out my channel (Yes, do check it! BLOOPERS are there as well): https://youtu.be/uWU6luuBiuU
So, here it goes:
1. Time Boxing and Journaling:
I am not saying plan every minute of your day. That is insane. You would probably spend a few hours doing that. Rather, take out a piece of paper now and write down how you want every hour of your day to look like. Here is a glance at how one of my day was:
Follow this schedule not just at work, but after you leave your office as well. Having a structure makes all the difference in time management. But definitely give yourself enough breaks in between – these are more of a requirement than a luxury to have.
When it comes to journaling, I have started writing down the major/minor tasks in a day in this Daily Planner that I bought from Amazon (link:***). Every time I complete a task, I give myself points for finishing it. A way to positively reinforce myself and keep doing more. As a fun extra activity, I write down ‘Quote of the day’ and ‘Word of the day’, because why not? You should never stop learning English!
I want to end this point by saying that, the last one month I’ve been spending my day in such a way that I don’t spend more than an hour doing a specific task. Whether it be going to gym, going to yoga class, writing an article, shooting this video, reading a novel. Whatever it may be, I put a cap on the time I spend there. I realize that when you hit a 40 minute mark, your brain begins to saturate slowly. Once I was writing an article, and I couldn’t finish it even though what was left was not time-consuming to finish. So, I went out, had dinner, spoke to my parents, came back and finished it in 5 minutes.
Moral: Time box your entire day based on the hour, start using a journal to write down the major tasks and keep jumping from one task to another to keep your brain active.
2. Change Your Environment:
Two weeks back, I used to work on my couch, eat on my couch, read novel, watch videos, and sleep on my couch (even though I had a perfectly good bed). I watched I realized that I needed a change in environment. From then on, I made sure I worked only on my dining table, ate at my dining table, reading novel and watched videos on my couch and went to sleep on my bed like a normal human should.
There’s a reason why your desk at office is a desk, and not a bed or a couch. The posture that you’re in while doing a task matters. So, whatever tasks you currently do, see if you can introduce a change in the environment as to where you do it. Observe if it results in a positive or negative change, and act accordingly.
Moral: Observe your current environment. Do you feel it requires a change? Go ahead and implement it. Now observe if it gave a positive or negative result, and act accordingly.
3. Physical and Mental Health:
Hear this from someone who never took it seriously. When it comes to physical health, you have to take of your most precious asset – your body. And that means sleeping and eating enough. I used to sleep at very odd times at Columbia – 5 AM, 6 AM, sometimes even 10 AM. And eat probably two meals a day, or sometimes just one. But I told myself that no matter what I will ensure that I get 7 hours of sleep during my internship. And eat all three meals. Guess what? Not surprisingly, I genuinely feel much better now.
When it comes to mental health: I recommend each and everyone to practice yoga or go to the gym or play badminton or just do any physical activity where your entire concentration is focused on one task. I am fortunate as there is a Hot yoga class right outside, and every day after that one hour of class, I feel absolutely at peace. Extremely calm. Aside from keeping you fit and healthy, there are just way too many other benefits you get from it: lower stress level, better flexibility, improving posture, improving muscle tone, strength and so on.
Moral: Eat three meals a day and sleep for 7 hours, as much as you can help it. Find any physical activity that requires intense concentration from your side, and you’ll be good to go.
4. Fighting Technology:
I use my phone a lot. In college, I had a reputation of replying quickly to messages. While that is good if you’re needed to reply quickly, it was obviously a huge waste of my time. When I joined Salesforce, and I did this in some of my other internships as well, I put a strict no mobile data usage at office policy. Unless under extreme circumstances.
And when I leave office, I use it until 7 PM. After that, I check again at 9 PM on most days. So, give yourself time when you are absolutely away from distractions. But, that’s not enough. The time that you do spend without your phone, you need to focus on one task at a time. I used to say one of my major strengths was multitasking. But later, I realized that it is not. In fact, it is a severe weakness.
Being able to multitask is good, but multitasking is not.
A study conducted by University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. Please, hear it from someone who has been doing this for a long time. DO NOT MULTITASK.
Moral: Allocate time every day when you are completely away from your phone. But that’s not enough, the time that you do spend without distractions, focus on one task. And, DO NOT MULTITASK.
5. Maximum Output from Minimum Input:
We’ve all heard of the Pareto Principle. The 80/20 rule – get 80% effects from 20% cause. If you really take a look at your every day routine, you will start noticing gaps which could be filled. Examples: Walking from home to work, or driving from home to work, standing in queues, waiting for the bus to come, going in an elevator and so on. If you’re someone who has a blank mind at such times, you can start by changing that.
Take out that book you’ve always meant to read while waiting in the queue. Watch that video on TEDx while walking to work. Or better yet, start interacting with someone near you when you’re waiting to get your coffee. And most of all, start thinking. Think about that idea that you had a few days back about starting a blog, remember?
Great ideas come from thinking hard. But, there is a disclaimer. I remember this entrepreneurship course from undergrad where creativity was explained beautifully:
“Creativity is when you throw a dozen balls in an empty room, and two of them collide to give you that spark moment.”
So to have that spark moment, you first need to have enough balls to throw in the room. And that comes from having the knowledge and in turn, from reading. Other examples of getting maximum out from minimal input are: organizing your email into folders such as Important, Not Important, Check Later, Spam, etc. Recording your every day as experience as an audio diary entry at night – something that I started doing few months back. Great way to save time instead of writing in a diary.
Moral: Start noticing all the small gaps in your daily routine which could be filled. And begin by performing tasks which will increase the number of knowledge balls that you have in your hand. And start thinking.
I hope those points were useful for you in some way. But do remember: finding what works for you is similar to finding what food helps you in your diet. Everybody’s metabolism is different, so you have to find your natural rhythm. But you can do that only by experimenting different techniques. So it’s high time you started!
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