Sometime ago I wrote about 5 common time management truths that could potentially lower your productivity levels if you misunderstood them.
The idea behind that post was to make people realize that sometimes it is good to question even the common productivity wisdom that is being taught over and over again. Rather than blindly believing in it, we should all use our own judgment to decide if the piece of advice is applicable to our life or not.
I came up with 4 additional (and very common) time management tips that you should also take a critical look at.
1. Proceed one step at a time
A very common piece of advice when reaching your goals is to proceed one step at a time.
The idea behind this advice is that this way you are not overwhelming yourself by trying to do too much at once. Also, you are less likely to kill your motivation when you proceed this way.
Although this is sound advice, I don’t always like this approach: sometimes it just takes too much time to reach your destination this way.
For example, when I turned myself from a late riser into an early riser, it didn’t take me weeks or months to make the change – I did it immediately.
One day I just decided: “from tomorrow morning, I start waking up at 5 AM” and that’s what I did. The approach of gradually waking up earlier until I’d reach my goal was just too slow for me.
This happened in 2007 and I’m still an early riser, so a quick change is definitely possible.
2. Procrastination is all evil
For example, I admit that I tend to procrastinate mostly on low-value tasks that are not important to my goals in any way.
This way I have more time to focus on those important tasks instead. So if it means that I’m postponing the cleaning of my home for couple of days, I can live with that.
You could also channel your procrastination to some other activities, which in turn may help you gain momentum.
For example, you might have an important task that you are supposed to do. For some reason you don’t want to do it right away, so you tackle some of the smaller tasks off your list first.
This way you keep the wheels rolling and you may be eager to start working on the more important tasks on your list later on.
Finally, you could channel your procrastination to do something useful.
Once again, if you don’t like working on your main task, you could pick up a book (business, personal development …) and start reading and learning.
Even if you are not directly working on your main task, you learn new ways to improve the other parts of your life.
Although I’m not advising anyone to procrastinate on purpose, I’m just saying that procrastination has its role in making us more productive!
3. Don’t check email first thing in the morning
I can’t remember how many times I have heard that you shouldn’t check your email first thing in the morning.
While this advice is useful, there is also an exception to this rule.
Sometime ago I was on a vacation for two weeks and then I got back to work. I started working on some tasks – without checking my email first.
Later, I opened my email client and I found a message from my project manager saying that I shouldn’t be working on those same tasks that I had just completed.
I was a bit annoyed by this situation, but I could only blame myself. I didn’t check my email first thing in the morning when I came to work. Instead, I started working right away before catching up with the latest project status.
In most of the cases, you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. However, in some other scenarios you have to do this in order to keep yourself up-to-date.
4. Do not use willpower when forming new habits
Very often people are advised that they shouldn’t use willpower when creating new habits. Instead, one should have inspiring and motivating goals that makes the willpower part needless.
Unfortunately, you still need to use a bit of willpower when you form new habits.
Let’s take a person who is trying to quit eating sweets in order to lose weight. Even that person is inspired to take her life in a healthier direction; there are still times when her motivation is going to be tested.
Maybe there is someone eating sweets next to this person or maybe something happens in her life which makes the person to look for relief (for e.g. eating chocolate).
In those cases motivation, compelling goals, or pictures of six-pack abs on your refrigerator door are not enough. You need plain, raw willpower in order to say “no” to those temptations.
This may sound hard, but you need to fight against your old habits — especially in the beginning of your change. After you start, things get smoother and you don’t find eating sweets that compelling anymore.
Forming new habits and relying solely on willpower is not going to work. However, using your willpower in small doses has its place in the process.
It’s important to think…and not take common lessons for granted
Time management advice is valuable, but occasionally you have to take a critical look at how you are performing and rework your strategies until they suit your own needs.