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Time and Procrastination: Using Technology To Become Efficient With Your Time

Time and Procrastination: Using Technology To Become Efficient With Your Time

Ever since I started school I have had to battle my procrastination. Sometimes it almost feels like a disease; one that is treatable at times, but just seems to never go away. Because of my bad procrastination, I adopted systems like GTD,  a calendar and scheduled and time-blocked everything,  reminders of important tasks and due dates “dinging” from everywhere. What I found is that unless I am on top of my game and choosing to “be productive”, I easily fall back into the pit of procrastination, where time is never “of the essence”.

Objective and subjective time

I’ve read quite a few books and essays on the psychological effects and reasons of procrastination. Something interesting that has stuck with me is in the book Procrastination by Jane B. Burka (not an affiliate link) having to do with the way that “procrastinators” perceive and interact with time. According to Burka there are two ways that we deal with and understand time: objectively and subjectively. Objective time is “measured by clock and calendar” and is predictable where as subjective time is measured by our own personal understanding and is outside of clock time.

As you can see, if your personal subjective time isn’t lining up with the world’s objective time you can have some serious issues, especially since your boss, your professors, and your spouse tend to base everything off of objective time.

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I have this problem with objective time and after reading through Procrastination I decided to break myself of it by employing some different techniques when it came to my “time management skills” or lack thereof.

Track, track, track

    Some bright person once said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and that holds completely true with managing your time. The first thing that I had to do to understand how I use my time was track almost everything. For instance, I found myself being late in the mornings for work and always blamed it on something external; like the winter weather, traffic, how long it took to get gas in the morning etc. It wasn’t until I started tracking how long it actually took me to take a shower and get out of the house did I understand that I needed to get up about 20 minutes earlier. It sounds stupid, I know, but to someone who thinks they understand time and where it goes, it takes the detail of tracking the real world to understand it.

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    You can track your time many different ways but some of the best apps that I have found for Android and iPhone are great when you are on the run and need to get a quick statistic to use for planning. There are a ton of options on both platforms but in the free category I would go with Eternity Time Lite and aTimeLogger for iPhone and Time Recording – Timesheet App and Track Task Time for Android. All of these offer the user the ability to track multiple activities, create their own categories, and gives them reports and statistics they can use to help understand just where there time goes.

    You can also track your time use on your PC or Mac with RescueTime. RescueTime basically tracks what applications you are spending your time with and can give you a realistic view of where your computer time is going.

    Starting now and time blocking

    One of the most elusive ways that procrastinators abuse time and do not sync their subjective time with objective time is underestimating how long a task will take to complete. I’ve been told my many former and current software project managers that when they ask a software developer how long it will take to get something done they usually multiply their answer by two or three to set realistic expectations. Many of us are confident (sometimes overconfident) and do not set realistic time constants on ourselves.

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      This is where starting a task or project immediately and then time blocking the rest of it is a great way to balance time. The idea is simple, when given a task or project to complete,  jump in and start working on it for at least 25 minutes. This allows you to understand how big the task or project is which allows you to make realistic predictions of how long it will take to complete. This is syncing your subjective time with objective time. After this you can time block the project.

      Time blocking, the idea of blocking out a certain amount of time on your calendar for a task or project, has been around forever and works well if you have a realistic view of how long something will take to complete. After starting your task or project, take out your favorite calendar app and start “blocking” out time in your schedule to complete the task. Usually, if I think something is going to take 2 hours to complete, I block out about 2.5 total hours. This gives me some starting and stopping leeway. I also suggest only blocking out 50 minutes at a time to prevent burning yourself out. It seems that 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of rest/play when you are in a working period is ideal.

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      When it comes to generic timers for PC or Mac I highly recommend FocusBooster. It’s an Adobe Air application that lends itself to the Pomodoro technique of task timing, but you can use it for setting your working time on a task or project. For calendaring, I have to admit that I solely use Google Calendar for all my calendaring needs as it is everywhere I go and I can sync it to just about any device I want to. That isn’t to say there aren’t a bunch of good calendaring options out there, it’s just that Google Calendar has met all of my needs thus far.

      Conclusion

      Having an understanding of how to sync your subjective time and the world’s objective time can save you a ton of pain in your personal and professional life. But, if you are anything like me you will need a some help along the way to understand where the objective time goes. Hopefully if you understand the difference between your “inner clock” and the real world, track how long it takes you to accomplish tasks, and think more realistically about how long it take to accomplish something and schedule accordingly, you can say goodbye to procrastinating your time away.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on July 27, 2020

      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

      Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

      If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

      1. Create a Daily Plan

      Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

      Here’s How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity.

      2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

      Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

      3. Use a Calendar

      Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

      I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

      Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

      4. Use an Organizer

      An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

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      These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

      5. Know Your Deadlines

      When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

      But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

      6. Learn to Say “No”

      Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

      Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

      7. Target to Be Early

      When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

      For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

      Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

      8. Time Box Your Activities

      This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

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      You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

      9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

      Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

      10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

      Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

      You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

      11. Focus

      Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

      Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

      Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

      12. Block out Distractions

      What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

      I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

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      When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

      Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

      13. Track Your Time Spent

      When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

      You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

      14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

      You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

      Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

      15. Prioritize

      Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

      Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      16. Delegate

      If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

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      When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

      17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

      For related work, batch them together.

      For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

      1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
      2. coaching
      3. workshop development
      4. business development
      5. administrative

      I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

      18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

      What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

      One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

      While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

      19. Cut off When You Need To

      The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

      Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

      20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

      Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

      More Time Management Tips

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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