Whether you are thinking strictly with regards to your personal life, or strictly with regards to your professional life, there are few resources that you will have at your disposal that could ever be as important as your time.
Although other things may be more immediately pressing – such as money – time is perhaps the only resource that you can never “save up,” “stockpile,” and that you’ll never have any clear idea of how much of it you can expect to enjoy, over the course of your life.
Everyone understands this on some intuitive level, which is part of the reason why so much emphasis is placed on good time management, particularly in certain settings – such as for entrepreneurs looking to make the most of a given business venture. After all, as the saying goes, “time is money.”
But time management isn’t just something that applies – or should apply – to your professional life. Your ability to effectively manage time will also massively influence how well you are able to live a fulfilled and balanced personal life as well. If your time management skills simply aren’t up to par, those hobbies that you want to explore might never have their time, and you may miss out on precious moments with the people closest you.
In a general sense, here are some of the best things you can do to optimise your time, so that you have more of it at your disposal to spend on the things that really matter to you, rather than finding it constantly slipping through your fingers.
Look for jobs that offer flexible time management, and working schedules that are better suited to you
Not too long ago, flexible working arrangements – including opportunities for regular remote working – were very rare in the general scheme of things, in most industries and professions.
In fact, a big part of the motivation for becoming an entrepreneur or starting a business has – until recently – been the fact that this particular career path gives you a lot more autonomy over your own time than would typically be the case in a conventional “9-5” office job setting.
At this particular point in time, remote working is becoming more and more of a norm across a broad swathe of different industries, and many employers are open to various forms of flexible working schedules that may be better suited to their employees’ particular lifestyles, requirements, and preferences.
While there are 9/80 work schedule challenges, for example, it’s also the case that this sort of working arrangement – which allows you an extra day off every other week – might really help you to manage and make the most of your time, in a way that makes a real and tangible difference to your overall quality of life.
of course, it may be the case that your current employer is not at all willing to budge on the topic of scheduling flexibility – and it’s certainly easier said than done to just “find another job.”
All the same, considering the fact that we all spend so much of our lives at our jobs, working to find a job situation that allows you to use your time in a more optimal manner, can be a great idea for your overall quality of life.
Understand where you should and shouldn’t try and “free up” time
Since we all know that time is valuable – and that anything we want to do has to take up a certain amount of time – most of us will intuitively look for ways to “free up” a bit of time over the course of everyday life, so we can spend more of it on the things that we like.
While this is a great idea in theory, it’s unfortunately also the case that people very frequently try to “free up” time in the wrong areas, while “spending” the time that they’ve freed up in distracting ways that often don’t align with their overarching values and goals.
In order to improve your time management, one of the best things you can do is to understand which features of your life should not be manipulated in order to try and free up extra time, in addition to knowing what some of your most common distraction-focused time sinks are.
Perhaps the most common way in which people get it wrong here, is that they cut back on sleep in order to fit in more work, more evening entertainment, or any number of other things.
This is ironic considering that research shows that sleep deprivation makes people less productive, less focused and disciplined, and less healthy as well.
Sleep is certainly not an area where you should do with less in order to free up time. But that three-hour YouTube rabbit hole that you fall into every evening might be a good place to cut back a bit.
Strive to simplify as many aspects of your life as possible, and to reduce decision-making moments
A lot of time – and a lot of energy, momentum, and drive as well – tends to get lost on what can be generally referred to as “analysis paralysis,” and an overabundance of complexity and decision-making moments present in a given day.
According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of the book “The Paradox of Choice,” whenever we have too many choices available to us and too many potential decisions to make, stress levels rise, and a very common response is inertia. In other words, we hesitate, give up, and fall into general indecision.
In order to optimise your time, you have to be able to “flow” from one activity to another, and from one part of your day to another, in as seamless a way as possible. What this means, in practice, is that striving to simplify as many aspects of your life as possible, and to reduce decision-making moments in general, can work wonders for your overall time management.
Try to create a clear list of your priorities for any given day. Cut out as much of the “non-essential” stuff as you can, and make it so that there is a very clear path from where you are now, to where you need to be.
Structure your environment to nudge you in the direction you think you should go in
Good time management involves being able to reduce moments of procrastination, and to stay as engaged an “on point” as possible, when dealing with the assorted tasks and obligations that you have to deal with each day.
One of the best ways of helping to ensure that you stay on task in this way, is to structure your environment – whether your home environment or your office – so that it “nudges” you in the direction you think you should go in.
“Nudge” is the title of a widely acclaimed book on psychology, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein – and it investigates the wide variety of ways in which people’s decisions are influenced by subtle features of their everyday environments.
For example, people are more or less likely to purchase sweets and other junk food, depending on which section of the shop those items are placed in. Items placed closer to the cash register are more likely to be purchased, for example.
In your own life, try to arrange things so that there is “low resistance” to pursuing the things you think you should pursue, and “high resistance” to pursuing the things that are simply likely to waste your time to drive you into a procrastination spiral.