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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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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