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22 Time Management Lessons You Need To Learn Now

22 Time Management Lessons You Need To Learn Now

Can’t get it together? Projects not on schedule? Life moving at a snail’s pace?

You may just need to get your mind around managing your time. Following just a few of the time management lessons below can make a huge impact on your projects and your life.

1. Labor over the important parts of your project. 

Avoid fussing over the details until you’ve got the main points and parts down. Most of us don’t complete projects because we get bogged down in the weeds.

2. Say no.

Most things coming your way (via your inbox, for example) are other people’s requests to meet their agendas. You don’t have to say yes. You don’t even have to answer.

3. Stay true to your vision.

Get present to your Why. This may involve a visual display you see every day or a daily meeting with your colleagues or teammates.

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4. Ask people to hold you accountable.

Some people adopt accountability buddies. Others hire coaches. It’s been proven having other humans remind you of what you said you’d do is the key to getting things done.

5. Notice if you are keeping yourself busy or doing things that move your commitments forward.

If you take a look at each of the things you do throughout the day, are they time-consuming activities or actions that make a difference for your projects? Keep your eye on the actions, not on busywork. Course-correct throughout the day.

6. Get up early.

You’ll feel like you got a head start on the day. Early-morning hours are dim and quiet, perfect for clearing your mind, getting present to your priorities, and taking care of yourself before you start work or take care of the kids.

7. Write down your top priorities for the next day.

Keep it to a consistent number, like the top 3 things or top 5 things. Doing so demands that you look into the future. You’ll be at ease because you’ll know what you need to get done when you wake up.

8. Tackle small and large things in a day.

By getting through the smaller tasks, you’ll feel like you accomplished something. That will give you the momentum to do the complicated or time-intensive things.

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9. Work on one thing at a time.

Multi-tasking is overrated. Studies by experts like Clifford Nass at Stanford University show that we are way less productive when we’re jumping between our smartphones and the work before us.

10. Get the “hard” work done as early in the day as you can.

Then you can fool around and “procrastinate” as much as you want.

11. Practice clearing your mind before you work.

Write down the sad stuff. The angry stuff. The happy stuff. All of it.

12. Take naps.

Just under 30 minutes will refresh you, without sending you into deep sleep mode. Any more than that and you may be at risk for an early death, according to a recent study.

13. Plan breaks (or vacations).

And have them be actual breaks, instead of answering business calls or emails. You may have to unplug from those devices if you’re addicted.

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14. Keep the distractions you love out of your sight.

That means placing your phone somewhere other than your workspace and logging out of all social-media accounts before working on your projects.

15. Practice Hours of Power.

Do this with a buddy. Start at the beginning of the hour sharing declarations with your buddy. Work to create those results and get back on the phone to report what you created.

16. Work on a team.

In doing so, you can delegate priorities to people you trust to keep your time focused on things only you can do.

17. Keep travel to a minimum.

Work from home. The effort put into moving around, driving, packing, unpacking, checking into hotels and so on leeches energy.

18. Keep the number of choices you make each day to a minimum.

Take a cue from President Barack Obama, who was quoted in a Vanity Fair interview: “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”

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19. Keep the same morning routine, even on weekends.

Do you get up at 5 a.m. on Fridays? Do the same on Saturdays and Sundays. It’ll make waking up again on Monday morning easier.

20. Think of time like money.

You have a budget for money: Money comes in. Money goes out. And you have money left over. Consider creating a “time budget.” How much for working on things that make move your commitments forward (or make money)? How much time for things that don’t move your commitments forward?

21. Be self-centered like Benjamin Franklin.

Create a daily routine that focuses on you, so you get your work done. Be unwilling to give away those chunks of time (like Ben Franklin), so you can be flexible to handle emergencies and interruptions (like Ben Franklin). Read this LifeHack article to learn more about his schedule.

22. Create artificial urgency.

Most of us set deadlines for when the project needs to be done. When we get too close to the date or don’t meet the deadline, we can get desperate and finish off a product in poor quality. Or we quit. Practice creating deadlines that are way ahead of the time the projects are needed to prevent the last-minute rush.

Featured photo credit: Creative Commons/Dennis Hamilton 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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