How Does One Manage Time More Effectively?
The secret to time management is simple: Jedi time tricks.
Imagine you are a Jedi master called Bob (your parents, whilst skilled in the ways of the force, weren’t the best at choosing names). The love of your life – Princess Lucia – is trapped in a burning building as you hurry to save her.
You might think of Lucia as the embodiment of your dreams, your aspirations – she is your most important thing.
Unfortunately, before you can reach her, an army of stormtroopers opens fire. The incoming stream of lasers demand your attention – if you fail to dodge them, you’re dead. You might think of them as an urgent distraction from saving your princess.
We all know how a hero resolves this dilemma. If he takes his eye off the ultimate goal – his princess – then all his other efforts are for nought. He can engage an army of stormtroopers, cutting them down with graceful ease, but their numbers are limitless, and whilst momentarily satisfying they only distract him. Delayed too long, his princess will die.
And so it is with your life. You have things that are most important and things that are most urgent in permanent competition:
The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency. Humans are pre-wired to focus on things which demand an immediate response, like alerts on their phones – and to postpone things which are most important, like going to the gym. You need to reverse that, which goes against your brain and most of human society.
Look at what you spend your day doing. Most of it, I’ll warrant, is not anything you chose – it’s what is being asked of you. Here’s how we fix that, young padawan:
- Say no. Most of us follow an implicit social contract: when someone asks you to do something you almost always say yes. It may feel very noble, but don’t forget there’s a dying princess you need to save, and you just agreed to slow yourself down because you were asked nicely. You may need to sacrifice some social comfort to save a life (as a bonus, people tend to instinctively respect those who can say no).
- Unplug the TV. I haven’t had a TV signal for 7 years, which has given me about 12,376 hours more than the average American who indulges in 34 hours a week. I do watch some shows – usually one hour a day whilst eating dinner – but only ones I’ve chosen and bought. You can do a lot with 12,000 hours and still keep up with Mad Men.
- Kill notifications. Modern technology has evolved to exploit our urgency addiction: email, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and more will fight to distract you constantly. Fortunately, this is easily fixed: turn off all your notifications. Choose to check these things when you have time to be distracted – say, during a lunch break – and work through them together, saving time.