For the open-minded, non-topical internet user...

Monday, 27 January 2014

How To Manage Our Time

It's a little big of a subjective topic, but I'll talk a bit about how can we best manage our time. If you're a person like me - you have a variety of interests and have numerous hobbies. Then you must know how impossible it is to do all the things you want on a regular bases. For me - I'm a freelance content writer. I write content for various internet sites and get money for it... Cool, however, I usually write pretty boring stuff for my clients, so my cravings for writing are not at all satisfied.

What do I do ? I write some more in my free time, on topics I actually like. But, I don't like only writing, I love art as well. When I was younger, I wanted to be a graphic designer. Later, decided against it, but still continued to do it for my own amusement. Combine those with all the normal time consuming things I have to do, to actually survive, like doing grocery, cooking, cleaning, sleeping and tens of others, and there is no possible way to get into the 24 time frame of the day.



Well, there is no perfect solution and what works for some might not for others and definitely wont for everybody. It's something personal, so this blog post wont fix it for you. However, I hope to give the general hints set a base to work from. These six points bellow are the most common problems that occur when we talk about time management. They are a part of my life and probably of yours as well.

1. Prioritize



You've heard this before, you'll hear this again. We can spent our whole life wasting our time with random activities. If we're to be productive at all, there is a strong need to set up some priorities. Even the most basic ones work. Take care of the most pressing and important tasks first and then move downwards into a smooth gradient. At the end you'll have free time which can be enjoyed, because it's not fouled by thoughts about all the critical things you haven't done, but should have.
Take care of you working responsibilities, then your home chores, then your social engagements and at the end.. Of yourself.

It's not at all as easy as to just say you're going to do it. Resolutions don't make the difference, action does. If it's to work at all, it requires industrial ammounts of perserverence and stubbourness.

2. Make Less Plans



It's good to devise a bulletproof schedule and uphold it. It's actually one of the best things you can do to optimize your time. However, a lot of times, I have caught myself spending most of the day planing what to do the same day. At the end you have a master plan to solve all the problems and zero time to actually do everything in that schedule.

Make a rough, five minute list at the start of the day, while you check your e-mail and drink your coffee and after your coffee is out, get up and get to it.

3. Limit Your Internet Time



You might not feel it, but the world wide web soaks up a hell of a lot of time. In reality, you need maybe two hours a day to maintain social media profiles and surf the web. The rest is pointless clicking through memes, pictures of cats, somebody's profile pictures and refreshing news feeds. You don't need to check the email every ten minutes, unless, of course, you're about to receive something and face it - 99 percent of the time that isn't the case.

You've experienced internet downtime at least once. Try to remember how much things you were able to do in a single day. That is the only example you need to fix this issues. Now, that doesn't suggest to be primitive and never ever open the browser, but be reasonable with your Facebook time.

Set up an RSS feed and include only the important sites you want updates from. Such are local news website, organizations you're a member of, causes you support and such. This is the core of information you require each day, as it still leaves you informed about the important matters and events, but keeps all the time bandits out. I go through my RSS in under an hour, provided I actually read most of the articles and posts. This is the prime internet time I need each day. Everything else, I can go without or do in my leisure time.

4. Stop Procrastinating



This is the bane of any productivity. Just stop, there is no other solution.

"I'll do it later...", "It's not for tomorrow" and "I'll get up early tomorrow.." is everything you will not do. Face it - if you postpone once, there's a high chance you'll do it again. And again and so on, until there is no time or possibility to handle the given task.

Procrastination can take various forms - from hyper organizing your photos to polishing your nails for the third time today. It doesn't matter what you're actually doing, if you're not doing what's important or pressing.

One thing I do, is to the the worst and most annoying tasks and responsibility first. Since I don't at all enjoy, for example, cleaning the toilet, I will want to be over with it as fast as possible and move on to something far more entertaining. This way I rush through the worst of my day, mostly before 2p.m. and then I'm free to enjoy the next 10 hours with hobbies and recreation.

5. Multitasking - Do's and Dont's



A rather controversial term because simultaneously doing two activities can be damaging to the quality and quantity of work you can actually do.

For me, multitasking is generally a bit dangerous, so I only multitask minor and unimportant activities. For instance, If I start to write an article on a cool new thing I have found and make sketch work for new design at the end of the day, I will have a crappy article and a garbage design. Tasks of high priority and importance must definitely have to get their fair share of time and attention, if want to have work done, in the end.

However, for the last six months, I have only watched a movie, while I cook and then eat my meals. Last year, I was spending at least two hours a day average to watch movies and TV only, whereas I only cook and eat for about an hour and a half daily. And I still cooked and ate last year. So, all those hours, now go into more productive activities.

6. Distractions 



Like procrastinating, you want to drown distractions in a bucket of sulphuric acid. Distractions get you out of synch, they waste your time and kill your productivity. Do whatever is humanly possible to kill all distractions. That means, close social media, set the phone on silent, pull the curtains and so on. The perfect environment to getting work done is total and utter isolation from everything not tied directly to what you're doing. Even a simple cigarette can distract you enough to lose your though. Distractions can do a lot of wrong on your work. They can get you to multitask, without you noticing, or even make you completely abandon you so important work to a secondary or tertiary responsibility.

I have quite the trouble with distractions, and to be honest and I don't think I'm winning the battle. What helps is some times to take breaks. If I see my focus is at zero for too much time, I take an hour of brake and go do something less important. I feel it's counter-productive to force my concentration. Please note though, I only do it a couple of times a day at maximum. Don't mix this with procrastination, as you want to still do something from your daily schedule, only a more relaxed activity, like cleaning or doing grocery. At the end, you still have all the responsibilities taken care of, but in a different order.

Conclusion


It's important to realize there will always be a certain amount of everything I've listed so far and more. We're only humans, not machines. You can't do or have everything. Get real. However, with certain compromises, you can somewhat fit a normal life into the frame of a day.  It helps me, and I think it will help you, even if it's a little bit.