I’ve never taken well to time management techniques. After redeeming a cereal box coupon for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I decided that it would take more effort applying time management techniques just to manage certain techniques (if that makes sense). So I’m not down with the “meta-time-management”, if you will. Therefore, I have decided to present my very un-techniques, which aren’t sexy enough to sell a book, but hopefully useful in their own right. These are principles that help me breathe easier and relax a bit more. A cooler head naturally gets more things done.
Don’t eat so much at lunch
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but how many of us actually implement this? When you go out for lunch with others, there aren’t that many choices for a lighter lunches. But after you eat a big lunch, the need for an afternoon nap hits.
Eat smaller portions throughout the day and you’ll be much more alert. You can manage your time like a pro but if you have no energy to make use of your time, it’s all for naught.
Bring a sandwich and eat only half at a time. Snack on carrots, grapes, cashews, toast, and other tasty but smaller portioned items. Be a nerd and carry some tupperware to the food court so that you don’t have to eat the entire portion at once. When you go to a sushi place, order a few rolls instead of the big bento boxes. This has worked wonders for me.
Force yourself to take a lunch break. Go out for short walks throughout the day. Often a focused one hour of work is more productive than two hours of “I just need to make it through this” work.
Trying to figure something out late at night but can’t keep your eyes open? Go to bed! You might wake up with the answer.
Say no to strict schedules
I know people who are always counting down the hours until they have fulfilled the 7- or 8-hour day so that they can go home. For a lot of jobs, nobody really cares if you leave at 4:00pm one day. Aren’t there going to be other times when you stay later? Just get your work done. If you’re not motivated about your job, then that’s a whole other issue. If you’ve hit a wall, do everybody a favour and go home. Don’t waste an hour looking at Facebook pictures just because the clock says you can’t leave.
You’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes when you keep people in the loop. All it takes is a short message. For example, we all know people whose inboxes seem to be a black hole. You ask them to do something and they know that they can’t get to it for a week. But they don’t tell you that. So after two days you send them another e-mail. No reply. Two more nagging e-mails later, they finally reply with a “Yeah, I can do that on Friday”. So they’ve needlessly stressed you out and made you waste time nagging them and probably complaining about them. Don’t be one of those people. If you’re unsure about when you can get something done, say it. Update the other party when the picture becomes clearer.
Take things one at a time
There is much good in being able to take a step back and analyze what you are doing. However, if you’ve got a million things to do, try… getting on the first thing. When your brain is swirling about all the millions of other things you have to do, how can you even get the first thing done?
Don’t write everything down
A few years ago I ditched the agenda book and started noting everything I had to do in my head. It was a semi-difficult transition, but I’m a lot less stressed out this way. Previously if I’d misplaced my agenda (no CrackBerry for me, thanks), I was helplessly useless!
I must admit, it’s not as spectacular as it sounds, because I do use my inbox as a to-do list sometimes. However, I’m hoping that my brain will stay fresher if I trust it to remember things. I’m hoping it’ll last until old age hits and I turn into Dory.
Managing your time well often has a lot to do with discipline. It’s your own fault if you’ve been playing Solitaire for the last hour when you should be researching something (breaks are important, but seriously, you should be able to limit yourself). It’s also too easy to blame others when things go wrong.
Ask yourself what you can do to make things better.
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