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Time Management vs. Self Management

When we talk about time management we are inevitably thinking externally. There is this thing called time, which hangs out in the corner of your eye, always present yet elusive. Strategies for time management are thus often externally focused:

  • Use software like Leechblock, an add-on to Firefox. This software blocks access to social media and other websites that tempt us to waste time, so that you can work without distraction on the computer.
  • Keep a Master To Do List. I use Draft, a simple text editor for Android, but you could also do a legal pad or a dry erase board. Write on it anything that you’re concerned about forgetting.
  • Turn off notifications on your email or phone. Then, block out an hour or so a day specifically devoted to correspondence and catching up. This saves you time wasted on interruptions.

But what about the internal? What about when you decide to open up Internet Explorer instead, bypassing the well-meaning inflexibility of Firefox? What about those moments when you create a list, but can’t bring yourself to actually do anything on that list? Or when you have time sensitive work and know you need to respond to an email as soon as it arrives?

This is why self management is a powerful concept. You can also think of it as managing your energy. The idea is that you make efforts to understand your tendencies, habits, and patterns–and then work with them or around them.

  • Procrastination. Try scheduling “Procrastinate on Project X” into your calendar at least one week ahead of your deadline. When the time comes, the goal is not to work on Project X–but don’t let yourself work on anything else either. Your task is to sit with your anxiety, boredom, lack of motivation, fear of failure, or whatever mental block you have towards Project X. After a sustained period of time (say, 15 minutes) in which you let your mental block stare at you unblinking and unrelenting, you may find that you’d rather work on Project X .
  • Follow Through. Use multiple reminder systems. Write it on a list. Tell a close friend, family member, or co-worker who agrees to remind you. Set a reminder or alarm on your phone. Write it on your forearm. Put a sticky note in your wallet, and on the dashboard of your car, and on your mirror. You could even write a note to your future self–”Dear Sarah, I know you HATE tracking your business purchases for the accountant. But you know what’s worse? Over-paying on taxes.” Stick that on the wall by your bed or on the fridge.
  • Losing Focus. Schedule at least a half hour every day to do nothing with your brain. This is best done first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, or sometime in the afternoon. It can mean journaling, stretching, taking a walk, sipping tea on the porch, taking a power nap, staring out the window and daydreaming. Your brain can only focus for so long, and then, like your body during a long run, it needs a break. Pay attention to when your brain kicks out on you, and build habits that give you control over when that happens.

Comments

I use a daily action plan. Have you ever used one?
I really like the idea of scheduling procrastination time. I am going to try that when I know I have things coming up that I really don't want to do. Thank you!
Yes, Andrew, I often use a daily list of action items that I need to accomplish in a particular day.  The conventional wisdom is to put no more than 5-7 items on that list at a time, so you don't get overwhelmed.  There are so many ways to manage our time--the best way is always the one that actually works for you.
 
 
Tanya, I'm glad you appreciate the procrastination idea.  I'd be curious to know how well it works for you!
Love the procrastination idea.  I also avoid anything that is too complex on technology (I'm in my 40's trying to keep up with today's fast-paced computer whizzes).  I am a teacher, so I just get a kid to show me how (they don't make me feel as stupid).  Also, the multiple reminder idea is absolutely KEY for a person with ADHD. 
Yes--the trick is to find ways to keep it on your radar when your brain wanders off.

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