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Manage Your Time Like You Manage Your Money, Then You Can Work Much More Productively

Manage Your Time Like You Manage Your Money, Then You Can Work Much More Productively

When it comes to time management most of us try to be efficient by getting tasks done quickly or focusing on the short-term benefits. Everyone has 24 hours in their day but how well do we utilise these hours? A better way of engaging our time management effectively is to look to the long-term rather than what we can achieve in the short-term.

Budget control is all about saving our money now in order to invest and assist us in the long-term. To utilise our time, and learn how to be more productive, we need to apply this concept to our time management and create a better and more efficient way to invest our hours so that we reap the benefits later on.

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Time Assets vs Time Debts

James Clear describes the concepts of time assets and time debts. Just like assets and debts are applied to our finances, they can be applied to the way we manage our time to increase or decrease our ability to prioritise skills, create time and our overall productivity.

Time assets are the actions we take that impact our time positively in the future – in other words, the choices we make today that will save us time further down the line. Setting up automation systems to send reminders or publish blog posts is an example of investing time now to save time later on. Putting extra time and effort into covering all bases in an instruction document will save you annoyances and time explaining things down the line when your employees don’t fully understand it.

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Time debts are the actions we do that will rob us of time in the future, much like a financial debt. A common example of this are emails. For each email we send out, we assume that we will receive an email back at some point that will need answering. Therefore, the more emails we spend sending out, the more time we are taking away from ourselves in the future. It seems productive at the time because we feel accomplished for emptying our inbox, but we don’t think about the inbox filling up again the next day.

Make sure the tasks you do today are saving you time in the long-run. Don’t just think in terms of what you need to complete in the coming work day and ticking off your to-do list because that will eventually become never ending and repetitive. It may feel like you’re being productive, but you’re not necessarily investing in that pot of free time you’ll acquire later.

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How To Be More Productive Using Time Assets

There are many ways you can subtly implement time assets into your daily work life. Sit down and think of ways you can streamline your daily tasks. Are there ways you could do them differently?

  • Set up automation systems that send out emails, updates, blog posts, articles.
  • Set up scheduling systems that take out a lot of the back and forth dealings with colleagues and clients.
  • Make use of money tracking apps such as EasyCost to translate your work tasks into monetary terms so as to decide what you plan to do will lead to time debts or not.

At the end of the day, we all want to learn how to be more productive and so we must think of time assets as a system that takes away unnecessary work and works for us as an invisible assistant. If you constantly fill your day with time debts then no matter how productive you are or how hard you work, it’ll be the same every day.

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So when it comes to your 24 hours, be smart and use those time assets to create more time, productivity and efficiency in your work life!

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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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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