Time Management Tips

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson’s Law

“Earnest men soon discover that if they are to accomplish anything that is successful, strong, and enduring, either in worldly, intellectual, or spiritual channels, they must curb their desires and must sacrifice much that seems sweet; yea, even much that seems important. Hobbies, bodily and mental indulgences, enticing companionships, alluring pleasures, and all work that does not tend to some central purpose in his life must be sacrificed by the man of strong resolve. He opens his eyes to the fact that time and energy are strictly limited, and so he economizes the one and concentrates the other.” James Allen The Life Triumphant

So much to do, so little time. I firmly believe that time is our greatest asset. Unlike other resources, time cannot be increased or recovered. Everyone gets the same 24 hours, but what you get out of them is vastly different and entirely up to you. As a grad student, who wants to do extremely well while still having some semblance of a social life and sanity, time management is paramount. Listed below are a few time management tips that I hope will help you, like James Allen suggests, to maximize time and concentrate energy.

How to use Parkinson’s Law and your available energy to your advantage:

PRIORITIZE – Understand the difference between what is important, what is urgent, and what is nice but non-essential. Identify what you and you alone can do and do better, what Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, calls your “core competencies,” versus what you can outsource which brings me to my next point. (For a worksheet on planning the best use of your 168 hours click here.)

DELEGATE – As a woman, I definitely fall prey to the Super Woman Syndrome where I think I must do everything, all the time, by myself, and extraordinarily well. However, this is just not smart. If there are competent and/or caring people who want to help with tasks that you lose nothing by not doing, then let them.

ASSESS – In order to maximize your workable time, you must allot the correct amount of time to tasks, and to allot the correct amount of time to tasks, you must first know long it takes to complete said task. Figure out how long it takes to do the task at hand and then, if it is a skilled task, give yourself 10-20% less time to do them (Unless by doing so you’re going to jeopardize the health and safety of yourself or others).

IDENTIFY when your energy is at its peak. Some people are early birds while others are night owls. Learn when you have the most energy and schedule your most important or mentally rigorous tasks to that time slot.

ELIMINATE distractions – Yep, turn that iPhone off and disable your Internet (Unless, of course, you actually need the Internet to complete your task.)

MINIMIZE interruptions – Retreat to some obscure place in the house/on campus where no one you know can find you. Carve out time and a place for you to do the things that you absolutely cannot afford to have interruptions while doing. Disruptions break your mental flow and cause you to lose time and focus. To learn how much time and focus loss they cause read this article by Franck Tetard.

STOP saying yes. This is related to identifying priorities. There will always be someone who wants something from you, and although you may truly want to get involved in whatever awesome cause, you cannot say yes to everything without sacrificing quality.

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Bullish: When to Make Massive and Ballsy Life Changes for Your Career

I’d like to think of today’s Internet wandering as productive versus procrastination. I know what procrastination looks like – taking too many pictures of a camera shy cat or eating my way through the pantry and refrigerator – and this was nothing like that. And anyways the work I scheduled to complete had long been done AND I stumbled upon this article that totally explains how I ended up where I am now. And does so in a much more succinct and humorous way than I ever could.

Since quitting two pretty darn good jobs (albeit good in different ways) for seemingly unstable or at least unconventional pursuits, I find myself encouraging other people to do the same. Unhappy with your job? Quit. Rather be doing something else? Quit. But I guess being on the other side of the leap will do that to you. Purposely making radical life altering changes is scary having the possibility of full out failure and unremitting judgment by foes and family alike, but there are necessary risks that must be taken. Even if it doesn’t go as planned at least you’ll have done it and now you know versus always wondering What If. Trite, I know, but so true.

I feel the exact same way Dziura does about her failure when it comes to my own. I’m glad my perfectly planned life did not go as planned or else I wouldn’t be in this far more awesome place that I am in now. My plan was like a little To Do list and my only goal was to check off each item thinking it would bring fulfillment not realizing I’d be no closer to happiness. In fact, I’m guessing I’d be farther away since my only goal was the goal itself.

Before you get to thinking you can’t make the leap to pursue that seemingly impossible but always on your mind goal think about this – The only reason you’re in that somewhat ok, comfortable place you’re in now is because each day you make the decision to remain there. Hmmm . .come to think of it, that’s the same reason you’re in that sucky, life draining place you’re in. You make the choice to be where you are and you can just as easily make the choice to be somewhere else. The only difference is the little voice in your head supports where you are now but comes up with a million reasons why you shouldn’t change your circumstance. Listening to that voice will cause you to become paralyzed, always thinking about the Why Not when really you should be thinking about the How. Change your thoughts, change your world.

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To Start The Day

THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

1. Be impeccable with your word.
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.
Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.

2. Don’t take anything personally.
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t make assumptions.
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.

4. Always do your best.
Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance simply do your best and you will avoid self judgment, self abuse, and regret.

An inspirational and potentially life changing book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz illuminates the self limiting and self defeating beliefs that so many of us hold dear and offers an alternative life approach. Now if I could only remember and live out each of the Four Agreements on a daily basis. That’s my goal this week.

The type of life we live and the way we feel and experience each day begins with the quality and direction of our thoughts. And like anything else practice makes perfect. I first read The Four Agreements over 5 years ago and have since reread it just about every year but I have never made a conscious effort to incorporate it into my daily life until now. Like so many other inspirational and motivational texts, I read it and filed it away somewhere in a back corner of my mind only to be reminded of it when I have strayed so far away from its essential teachings.

In order to reach my week’s goal of remembering and living out the four agreements this is what I’m doing for the next seven, well now six, days:

  • First thing in the a.m. – Read and meditate on The Four Agreements.
  • In the middle of the day – Review how well I’ve kept The Four Agreements specifically thinking about any moments of confusion, misunderstanding, or heightened emotions and understanding how my wrong thinking (i.e. – assumptions or taking things personally) factored into this.
  • Before I go to sleep – Review when I did well and when I did not so well and keep that in mind for the next day.

Here’s to day one of keeping The Four Agreements.

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