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  • The Fundamentals of Time Management: Do What You Actually Want to Do

  • Unfortunately (or fortunately), there are only 24 hours in a day... Unless we invent time traveling. At the current time of writing, we do not have time traveling, so we need to be smart about how we allocate our time to achieve our goals.

    What is urgent is usually different from what is truly important. Short-term and long-term goals do not always align. What you actually want to do and what is expected of you are not always the same either. So how do you manage your time efficiently to do the things that matter to you while taking care of your responsibilities?

    Take Control of Your Schedule

    A lot of people reach out and ask how I manage my time. How do I write posts for the blog and newsletter, balance school work, and manage various other projects? Do I still have time to see my family and friends?

    I will explain how I manage my time and some tips you can use to be more efficient and find ways to align your long-term goals.

    Here’s a screenshot of my actual Google calendar from October 2020:

    My October 2020 Calendar

    My calendar includes a mix of everything, but I follow a few “rules” when using it.

    1. Everything goes in the calendar. Besides the actual day-to-day tasks, I schedule blocks of each day for classes, study time, hangouts with friends, time to think, and even breaks.
    2. Only make time for the things that matter. At the beginning of the week, I schedule as much as I can (while being flexible too) and make a few key goals I am working towards. Currently, these goals include this blog, my optometry degree, and generation of new ideas. I block out time for these things, using the principles of time blocking, and I move them around during the week in case something else pops up.
    3. Say “no” or “later.” If something is not important and unrelated to my current goals, I try to say no or attempt to schedule it in a few weeks.

    As I briefly mentioned before, I try to be flexible at the same time. If a meeting ended up running longer than expected, and I don’t have time to go to the gym anymore, I will still try and fit a quick 15-minute walk instead. This works because I block time for things that matter.

    Time Management Techniques

    Time management is more than just managing your calendar. I try to emphasize on this website that being productive is about managing your time AND energy. Here are five ways you can make your schedule more efficient.

    1. Create mindful routines. This one is so important. When do you feel more productive during the day? Are you an early bird or a night owl? Schedule your time accordingly, in which the most important tasks are done at your highest performance levels.
    2. Plan ahead. Even though planning does not impact your performance, it does impact your ability to actually follow through. By taking the time to plan and “commit,” you are more likely to do them.
    3. Avoid multi-tasking. Humans are terrible at multi-tasking, and it ends up having a detrimental effect on attention. Instead, pick one task to stay focused on and remove all other distractions.
    4. Take breaks. Sometimes, it is easy to get carried away and fill your calendar with lots of things to do. But remember that your brain needs to recharge! Take a walk, meditate, make a cup of coffee — anything that involves getting away from your workspace — and put these breaks in your calendar.
    5. Get enough sleep. I used to sacrifice sleep to get more done, and it does not work. Research shows that sleep deprivation negatively impacts your performance, making it harder to focus.

    There are so many more tips you can use to effectively manage your time, such as the Pomodoro technique, but getting the fundamentals right is the first step. Knowing yourself, planning ahead, and taking breaks are essential to time management and achieving long-term goals.

    Do you feel like you have these fundamentals down? Let me know in the comments!