A quick lesson about time management
New year always means making new promises and setting new goals. I am the kind of person who is super-efficient when I am avoiding something. Usually this has something do to with calling someone or having to book an appointment. When I am avoiding these things, I happen to clean the whole apartment in no time and organize my wardrobe. Cooking is something I normally pay little attention to but suddenly I spend double the time in the kitchen. Often I find myself irritated at my own behavior when I notice I do this kind of nonsense. Important things get pushed further in my calendar and my to-do-list does not seem to get any shorter, rather vice versa.
At the beginning of this year I set a goal for myself to take care of all errands within 24 hours. Always when I noticed that I was thinking about postponing something I did it right away or at least during the same day. I was positively surprised how efficient I was when I stopped avoiding things. They were still the boring or unpleasant things I did not want to do but I did them anyways. I actually felt that I got more energy by doing those things and this easily carried me through the whole day. I was my own motivator for performing better. But then after some time I forgot this noble cause of mine. I was back at postponing things again. Writing my daily to-do-list had me believe I was efficient when the truth was the opposite. On paper it looked like everything was taken care of because it was written down. The problem was that I did not put any time limit for myself to deliver them.
When Proakatemia started I was determined to start managing my time better. I am aware of wasting my time on irrelevant things, I am very good at it. And who does not like being good at something? I just have to get a grip on myself when it comes to the hours I spend on things not getting me further in life. I have always thought I am good at managing my time but when I take a glimpse on my calendar for the next few weeks it looks like I am not. As complex as it sounds the more free time I have the more inefficient I am. Being busy suits me, it pushes me to do better. Having a traditional calendar has one benefit over the digital ones: when I manually have to cross out a task and write it to another day I easily notice when I postpone things. Feeling guilty about this finally makes me do the tasks at some point. It does not however override the fact that I should try to do them earlier.
The time I sit on the bus is about thirty minutes one-way. This is a very long time just to stare outside the window or flip through the many apps on my phone twice a day. This one hour in total is something I really want to spend wisely. Thus for the past two weeks I have read several thought-provoking essays by other students and watched many inspiring TED talks. One of these talks that hit me was by Laura Vanderkam talking about “How to gain control over your free time”. She encouraged everyone to keep track of their days and calculate how they spend the 168 hours they have in a week. I also visited Laura’s website where she gives eight rules for better time management regarding the things that really matter to you:
1) Log your time
2) Do the math
3) Get real
4) Dream big
5) Give goals a timeline
6) Break it down
7) Plan to plan
8) Hold yourself accountable
I did the math and even though I rounded up the numbers it remains a mystery to me what happened to about 20 hours of my week. It is almost one day I have lost somewhere. This clearly indicates that my time management needs improvement. Laura’s third step “get real” is a step I must make if I want to be more efficient with the time I have. According to Laura this means that instead of saying I do not have time for something I say that “it’s not a priority to me”. Rather than trying to do everything on my to-do-list I need to start prioritizing them. And if something is not a priority to me maybe it does not belong to my list after all. This is a very good point that I need to consider and start thinking about what things on my to-do-list get me further with my goals and which ones I can cross out without feeling guilty about it.
When it comes to steps from four to eight I first need to set my goals more clearly before I start breaking them down and planning further. Lately I have noticed my goals are pretty vague and need an update. I keep telling myself same goals I had years ago, but I am not even the same person I was back then. How can I reach my goals if I do not even know how to describe them to myself? As Laura puts it well “Big dreams are great, but if you don’t create space in your life for making progress toward them, then they’re fantasies, not goals.”
Last but not least I would add one thing to the list myself: stop multitasking. I fool myself to believe I am efficient by trying to do many things at the same time. I know I can but this has cost me the ability to concentrate. Sometimes it is hard for me to focus on one thing for more than ten minutes or so if it is not something I am passionate about. One big factor I know causes this is the social media and the feeling that I need to be available 24/7. Thus the ninth personal step for me includes learning to be selfish and ignoring my phone for at least an hour a day non-stop.