Imagine that you’re Superman, and that Lex Luthor has trapped Louis Lane in a freezing chamber where she could die of cold in a few hours if not saved.
Think of Louis Lane as everything you desire to have in the long run. Saving her is what matters most to you.
However, before you can locate the chamber and swoosh through it to save Miss Lane, Lex Luthor is keeping you busy with his team of super villains.
Every time you stop and try to think about Louis, one of the super villains comes charging at you. Tackling with that super villain seems quick and urgent.
But when you beat one super villain and think you can now start scanning the planet for Louis, another one shows up to divert your attention.
And what’s weird is this: beating each villain gives you a certain enjoyment and instant gratification that you’re actually getting things done, even though you’re losing sight of the main goal: saving Louis Lane.
Nevertheless, you’d have a good excuse to protect you when Louis is dead: that you tried your best.
Same applies to your life.
Two opposite forces are always at work. The most urgent things that demand your attention now, and the most important stuff that you keep putting off for later.
The Time Management Trick
The key to managing your time, then, is to gradually shift focus from the most urgent to the most important.
By default, we are wired to attend to things that call for an instant response. These include things like text messages, social media and email notifications.
And we postpone important things like maintaining our health, spending more time with family, learning a valuable skill etc.
So managing your time effectively means reversing this pattern, which is so difficult because it goes against your current conditioning, habits and societal norms.
Take a closer look at how you spend your day, and you’d see that most of stuff you do isn’t something you chose or planned. It’s the people and things vying for your attention. Here are a few pitfalls and how to fix them.
The Idiot Box
The average person watches 30+ hours of TV per week. Think about how much time you can save by even taking out half of it and doing something that actually matters.
Those celebrities you’re watching on TV entertain you because it’s their job. They do it because they either love it, are getting fame and money from it, or both. But it’s not your job to keep watching them.
They are following their dreams and you should be following yours. That’s not to say you should entirely stop watching TV. But pick just a few shows or movies you really like to indulge in every week.
Schedule The Important Stuff
We humans are a funny lot. If you’re planning a get together with friends, you’ll schedule a time at which all agree to show up at a specific place.
But when it comes to things that matter most in the long run – say building a side hustle or doing Yoga – you won’t set a time for it because you’ll “get around to it in some time.”
Things that you don’t schedule, don’t get done. Whatever is most important should be treated like a flight you got to catch. Pick a firm time slot in advance, and don’t let anything else come in the way.
It is much easier to say no to distractions when you have concrete plans. You don’t have to cook up excuses. You can just say you have a 2 p.m. appointment.
Less Is More
When each day begins, it feels like we have so much time and we could do a million things during the entire day. Some of us also like to multi-task to be more productive in a given amount of time.
But multitasking isn’t making you more efficient, it’s frying your attention span. The ideal thing is give relentless focus to no more than 2-3 priorities in a given day.
Of course, your mind will not like this limit, and so would the people in your life. But get it done anyway. Try it for a few weeks and you’ll thank me for it.
Master The Art Of Saying No
Many of us are raised to be polite and agreeable; to be positive, yes-people who please others and think about themselves later.
When someone requests you to do this or that, how can you say no? That’s so cruel and rude right? And why stir up a conflict?
It may feel very kind to be willing to saying yes to things, but remember there’s a Louis Lane about to die in the freezing chamber.
And when you try to avoid conflicts by saying yes to tasks that have nothing to do with saving Miss Lane, you’re deliberately slowing yourself down.
You don’t have unlimited time to chase your dreams. Humans have limited life-spans, and every time you say yes to something, you are giving a chunk of it away. You ought to take it more seriously.
Turn Off Notifications
Most of social media and communication tools, apps and web browsers have perfected the art of playing onto our addiction for the urgent stuff, whether email, Facebook, Quora, Twitter or others.
They distract you constantly and hijack your day like a vicious terrorist.
When someone gives you a call, you’re compelled to pick up and they have your attention instantly.
But if that same person would have instead visited you in person, he or she would end up waiting for you to hang up a phone call with someone who called you. How weird is that!
However, there’s an easy fix. Turn off the notifications. You can check these messages when you have a bit time to spare from the important things. Or let them accumulate and then take care of them twice a day.
Put First Things First
Think about what you have been putting off for a long time. What’s the one most important thing you should be doing? And make a habit of doing some of it every day.
In fact, make it the first thing you do every morning, before you do anything else.
Distractions will always be there, especially once your typical day has begun. So you’re more likely to do something if you wake up a couple hours earlier in the morning than your usual waking up time.
Wondering how can you buy time? By delegating and automating things which can be done without your intervention.
Instead of doing everything yourself, think about which tasks can be delegated to someone else. Also consider if any of your daily or weekly activities can be done more efficiently, may be with the help of a software or another tool.
Now you may think you don’t have money to spend on these things, but take a look at your monthly expenses and you’d be surprised at how much money you have been spending on things which aren’t even half as important as saving time to do what matters to you. It’s all about choices.
Ignore The Trivial
Why is it so hard to ignore the trivial? Because it makes you feel bad, ranging from rude and unprofessional to guilty and weak.
Yet it’s really okay on so many occasions to just not participate in trivial gossips or debates and not find the time to reply to each text message or email.
And it’s okay sometimes to forget or postpone something which seems urgent but is really not. No harm will come to the world, and you’ll get to spend time doing something that matters most.
Lack Of Time Is A Myth
Do you realize that we have so much more time in our hands than our ancestors ever did. There was a time when the men spent days hunting and gathering food, and the women spent hours doing laundry.
Now, we conveniently place an order in a restaurant for whatever we want to eat, and pop in our clothes into a washing and drying machine.
We save so much time and where does it go? We waste it on meaningless tasks. When it comes to having more time, we have never been so liberated.
We’ve never had so much time ever in history, yet we feel like we have so little. We fail to appreciate the utilize the extent of our freedom.
People who know how to manage their time and get things done inspire us. They make it look so easy. But no inspirational feat ever comes easily.
They didn’t become good at time management by accident. They took tough decisions, kept going and got the important things done. They were not just clear on the things they want to do, but also on the ones they won’t.
You also have the same qualities in you, if you decide to acknowledge and leverage them.