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Race Against The Clock: 15 Time-Management Lessons Should Be Learnt In Our 20s

Race Against The Clock: 15 Time-Management Lessons Should Be Learnt In Our 20s

Time management means getting the right things done, not more things done. It’s about identifying the goals that are most important right now and the most efficient ways to accomplish those goals. Here are 15 lessons to accomplish more goals in your entry-level job.

1. You can’t possibly get everything done on your To-Do List, so stop trying.

It’s a tough reality to come to terms with but a necessary one, especially for professionals working in a fast-paced environment. By simply understanding that you can’t do it all, you’ll bypass unnecessary stress and be more equipped to check off the most important items from your list.

2. Learning how to prioritize is key.

When under the gun, workforce newbies need to learn how to identify which tasks directly contribute to fulfilling immediate corporate goals – like arranging a meeting with a prospect – and which ones – like organizing files – can be reserved for a less strenuous week.

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3. No two brains are alike.

People listen and hear things differently, which always leads to communication issues and misunderstandings, ultimately contributing to lost productivity. When given directives, repeat what you understand back to your boss to make sure that you are both on the same page. Also, try taking a workplace behavioral assessment – they work wonders for understanding different communication styles and how to approach them.

4. By knowing when to multitask, you minimize the risk of shotty work.

We’ve been taught that multi-tasking is a crucial soft skill. But the truth is working several complex projects simultaneously can have disastrous effects on the brain. Cognitive ability is best when spent on one task at a time. While it’s okay to multitask sometimes, many projects require your full attention. A good worker knows when it’s okay to take a phone call while finishing up an email, and when he needs to close himself off from the world to finish a proposal for a client.

5. Being a workaholic isn’t always a good thing.

Taking the time to step away from your work and relax can be the perfect medicine for an overloaded brain. When faced with a desk piled mile-high with paperwork or up against a difficult problem, sometimes it’s best (for your productivity levels and your sanity) to take a deep breath and come back to it with fresh eyes.

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6. More hours do not equal more productivity.

I’m sure you’ve heard all about the decline of the 9-5 worker. Companies have been embracing flexible work hours and remote work options to appeal to the millennial generation. Studies show that people work smarter and better when they’re judged on the outcomes of their projects rather than the time they spend doing them.

7. Coming to terms with your own limits makes you a pro.

Some people lack organizational skills and are bogged down at the end of the week by an office that appears to have encountered a tornado. Others are so detail-oriented that the bigger picture often escapes them. Whatever your limits are, figure them out soon and own them – not everyone’s perfect. What makes someone successful is how he or she responds and deals with inadequacies.

8. Inhale today’s potential and exhale yesterday’s failures.

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t bring your emotions to work.” Well here it is again. Beating yourself up over a bad performance review or a fight with a friend will surely put a damper on your work ethic. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to view each new day as a new opportunity.

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9. There’s a reason why successful people always ask, “What’s the point?”

Great leaders don’t have time to take every meeting that comes their way or seize each and every opportunity. They achieve their goals by ensuring that everything they do is purposeful and results-oriented.

10. We deal better with hard deadlines.

Deadlines help keep us on track and organized. Assigning someone with an open-ended task always leads to chaos, missed communications, and frustrated tones in the office. People work best when they know exactly what they need to do and when it needs to get it done by.

11. Knowing your “peak hours” will enhance productivity.

Everyone works to a different tune. It’s important to become self aware by studying your own behavior to find out what times during the day you work best. Are you a night owl or an early bird? If you love watching the sunrise, arrange to work on strenuous projects in the a.m. and reserve easy stuff for later on.

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12. Delegating doesn’t make you lazy – it makes you efficient.

Young workers and die-hard perfectionists often shy away from delegating tasks to others. If your swamped with a project or you run into an issue that’s not within your jurisdiction, ask for help. Trying to be superman and accomplish everything will lead to mistakes and wasted time.

13. Procrastinating is ok…sometimes.

Everyone has parts of their job they absolutely hate. Whether it’s spreadsheets or public speaking, we all have one. Ease into your work by accomplishing the tasks you enjoy most first. By the time you get to those spreadsheets, you’ll be “in the zone” and more likely to crush those insufferable responsibilities.

14. Tracking your time is the best way to hold yourself accountable.

By logging the time you spend on certain projects throughout the day, you can see how your time is really being spent. People are always surprised by how often distractions and white noise get them off track.

15. There’s always a way.

If you don’t trust your social media addiction and are on a tight deadline, find an app that will hold you accountable. The Cold Turkey app, for example, blocks Internet access for a specified amount of time so you have no other choice but to get work done.

Featured photo credit: VFS Digital Design via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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