There are many practices and techniques that contribute to and detract from our overall sense of well-being.
Today, I focus on time management as one such practice that can easily take us in one direction—when we are accomplishing the things we wish, and also the other direction—when we become mired in our own work and fail to achieve the visions of our highest self. Whether we wish to fully realize our higher self ,or just fit our yogic practice into our daily life, time management is crucial!
Time management boils down to efficiency and effectiveness.
In order to be efficient, we must be organized, having the ability to work quickly. To be effective, our work must have a significant impact—a direction that serves our interest. It’s like archery: we must have a target to aim at, and we must have a means for practicing and improving. If we can be both efficient and effective with our time, then we will have managed our time successfully.
Efficiency and effectiveness breaks down into organization. When you’re organized, things are efficient because they’re streamlined, and as long as your work is directed towards a productive goal, it will also be effective. Think of the mis-en-place in cooking: by organizing all of your ingredients and laying out the steps for preparing the dish, you have instantly made your efforts efficient and effective.
The next ingredient is motivation.
If you’re not motivated, then you’re not going to start the task or stay on task. The first distraction will derail you. Motivation also gets us to work in ways that may be more difficult but procure greater results (for example, taking the time to get organized).
Put together, my principles for time management are: organization and motivation.
In what follows, I present the ten principles of time management from James Randel’s book The Skinny on Time Management for specific techniques on managing your time.
1. Without awareness no conscious change is possible.
First of all, if you don’t know where and how you’re spending time, you have no references. You could be winning without keeping score and feel like you’re losing. However, by identifying how you’re spending your time, you can optimize your time. Let’s say that I want to improve a recipe. If I don’t know what the ingredients are, how can I make it better? Second of all, without awareness you’ll have no power in the moment to change your behavior. If you’re not aware of the clock when the oven is on, you don’t get a perfectly cooked soufflé.
2. Writing things down is essential.
I study many techniques for keeping more in mind at once. However, it takes a lot longer to think things through in your head versus out on paper. Writing things down allows us to see the problem clearly. We catch all of our fluttering ideas like butterflies—to keep them all in one place at one time. This prevents looping: going over and over the same problem. Writing things down helps remind us of what we need to remember. There are many things you can’t think of right now not because you can’t remember them, but because you’ve forgotten some access cue to the information. Writing it down, we can review it frequently. We can also keep this information close by to our goals/results, values/vices, and priorities to help us decide what to do. Writing out what we have to do helps us see it all and plan it all and reminds us of something we may have neglected.
3. Create time by using net time—or by cutting out fat time: waiting in line, driving, eating, etc.
There are pockets of time that you can utilize to increase your efficiency. More often than not, this time is wasted—for example, you can get right out of bed in the morning instead of snoozing or just waiting there. Pavarotti didn’t shave his beard in order to save the time. You can also shower quicker; buy a stop-watch and time things. The possibilities are endless as long as you see where you are simply wasting time, either because you’re spending too much time on a useless task or because you do not utilize the time you spend waiting or commuting between tasks.
4. Use high energy hours for the most challenging tasks.
Perform hardest tasks at times you are most alert and apt to perform them. I’ve seen many people begin their day full of energy, but accomplishing the easy tasks. By the time they’re done with these things, they’re exhausted, unable to perform the harder task. Therefore, as David Whyte says,
Take the first step, close in
not the second or the third
start with the first thing, close in
the step you do not want to take.
Beginning a task requires overcoming inertia. Inertia ends in an instant: once the ball is rolling it may continue to roll. The hardest thing is to overcome that initial inertia. Understanding this, we can create intellectual inertia by trying to do something—thinking about how to do something—as opposed to actually doing it. Trying does nothing. As Einstein says, nothing happens until something moves!
5. Defeat the impulse to procrastinate.
This is simple enough. Anthony Robbins says,
“the secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, your life controls you.”
We have to know the difference between satisfaction and fulfillment. Things that are merely satisfying may not be fulfilling—like eating junk food. Things that are fulfilling aren’t always immediately satisfying—like practicing an instrument. Our inclination may be to procrastinate with satisfying things that aren’t fulfilling; however, if you can recognize the impulse to engage in merely satisfying behavior, sacrificing fulfillment, you can help defeat this distraction.
6. Reduce Clutter Whenever Possible.
We want to make things as easy as possible. Clutter and complexity are the enemies of action. Once we are “overloaded,” it becomes impossible to continue. For example, once our inbox is full, there’s no getting anything else in there. Like RAM on a computer, once we’ve become “overloaded” by any stimulation, physical or emotional, our ability to concentrate diminishes dramatically. Cut the gristle out of your mind and operate more efficiently—devote more RAM to your tasks at hand!
7. Planning and preparation are critical.
Without a plan, we enter into situations blindly, creating fear and anxiety or foolishness. However, taken too far, there is the paralysis of analysis: planning so much we do nothing. Having a sense and structure for the efforts of your day is tantamount to staying on task, moving from task to task gracefully and remembering/completing everything we wish to complete.
8. By prioritizing, we increase our effectiveness.
After we’ve mapped out our day, say with a to-do list, Alan Lakein suggests that we grade the items on that to-do list: A, B, Or C.
A = things we must get done: important and urgent.
B = important or urgent.
C = neither important nor urgent (or at least, less so).
Without priorities, we can complete 500 things in a day and accomplish literally nothing important. Related is the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of action. Ask yourself, what is the goal? What five things are you doing to achieve it? Which of these five is most likely to give you the result? Do that. Or, as David Whyte says, “take the step you do not want to take.”
9. Single-minded focus maximizes your impact.
I have written a whole audio blog post about this. What is focus? A Zen proverb says,
When walking walk. When eating, eat.
In other words, don’t multitask. Multitasking is impossible.
“The scientist Harold Pashler showed that when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an 8-year-old – it’s a phenomenon called dual task interference: if accuracy is important, don’t divide your attention” (Your Brain at Work, David Rock 2009).
10. Experiment with the time management techniques that work best for you.
This is simple enough. The key word here is experiment. If you’re unwilling to try, then you’re unwilling to succeed. Most people I work with or observe fall into the dangerous trap of dismissing viable options without investigating them. Try it first; allow yourself to fail in pursuit of better techniques. This is how all innovation happens. Just imagine if Edison hadn’t allowed himself to fail after the thousandth time making the light bulb. You have little to lose—and everything to gain!
Ben Rolnik is LA’s Premier Holistic Healer & Trainer: a certified teacher of yoga, meditation, healing, self-mastery, and learning & memory practices — a systematic trainer for the good life—working holistically by integrating body, mind, and spirit — with over 10 years of experience successfully helping people feel happier, get fitter, and become healthier! Let me know what you discover and which of these techniques worked best for you! [email protected]
Ed: Terri Tremblett