We just want more time to do the things that matter most to us, whether it is studying Japanese, taking up pottery or just reading more books. Yet it also seems difficult to carve out any time to achieve such objectives. Every waking hour, work and family obligations, housework and social commitments seem to be eaten up, leaving no time for you to devote to your personal growth.
But Jeff Sanders of the book, The Free-Time Formula: Seeking Satisfaction, Concentration, and Efficiency No Matter How Busy You Are, argues that the lack of time is not so much our perception of it, but our perception of it. In short, we were thinking the wrong way about time. The most prevalent error? Dividing our days into distinct categories, above all, “work time” and “free time.” Sanders claims that the trick to getting the best out of life is to remove the distinction and learn to see it as’ free’ all our time. What really matters is how we use it.
We also break time into distinct compartments. On the one hand, the time we spend on the things we have to do, above all the jobs, is there. We get to enjoy our free time once that is over, or so the thought goes. The question, though, is not that you don’t have enough time off, it’s that the whole definition of “free time” is false. The truth is that, with your time, you are already free to do whatever you want. But wait, that can’t be true—you’ve got your job and family, after all, right? Ok, yeah, but there’s nothing really keeping you from quitting your work and leaving your family when you get down to it; it’s just that most people do not!
There’s no such thing as free time, in fact. The hours of the day when you’re not asleep are what you have. And you should be thinking about all your waking hours if you want to start making the most out of your life. That takes us to the first main time management point: learning to prioritize and beat procrastination.
But it’s difficult prioritizing. There are distractions waiting around every corner, whether it’s the sheer number of options on offer or the impossibly long to-do list you bring around with you in your head. The simpler it is to end up not doing something, the more you set out to get done. This comes down to the fact that multitasking is simply not so well for the human brain. In fact, when you only prioritize one mission, it works best.
In reality, procrastination is closely linked to poor prioritization, one of the greatest time-management challenges in life. Say that you have an important project that needs to be completed by the end of the week. If you don’t prioritize it, drive it to the top of your list and get down to work right now, you’re going to eventually end up spending half the week watering your office plants, browsing the internet, and getting lost in the small details of an event that’s coming up in two months. Needless to say, it is extremely detrimental to leave the most significant activities to the last minute.
People also talk, in the plural, about their goals. That’s a common error and it’s a fairly recent one. About why? Yeah, the brain isn’t really prepared to deal with many jobs at the same time, as we’ve seen. Ask it to concentrate on several simultaneous obligations, and it will end up totally losing its concentration. In reality, jumping from one task to the next quickly is the best the brain can do. But that’s not a solution that is viable. As you would doubtless remember from the last time you tried to do it, it contributes to tiredness and distraction.
That means that tuneing out all distractions is your best bet to get something important done. It does not matter whether you are writing a report or drawing a picture; focus is what you really need. So turn your phone off, collect the necessary equipment and find a quiet room. Better still, make sure you’re in the bathroom and have a snack before you start. Do that and you will have a good few hours to concentrate on nothing but the assignment at hand.
But wait, let’s rewind for a moment. When you’ve gone through everything else on your to-do list, you can only start the report or painting, right? Uh, well, no. It’s all about making them your focus, singular, getting down to the things that are important to you. So take another look at that list and ask yourself if any edits can be made.
Chances are, there’ll be some assignments on there that you can only cross out. Take another look and you’re going to find others that next week can be taken care of. You’ll find work in other situations that you might potentially assign to someone else. Eliminate all of these, and you’re not only going to have a shorter list, you’re also going to have a much better idea of the work you need to start working on right now!
Nothing more important than your wellbeing is there. After all, you’re not going to be able to take care of your other obligations if you’re not in good physical condition. That means exercise, rather than an afterthought, should be at the forefront of your plans. But how do you, particularly when you’re busy, fit it in?
A good place to start is to remind yourself that it’s not a diversion from work to make time for exercise-it’ll actually help you get through your tasks more effectively. In reality, by freeing up some space in your schedule for your workout routine, you will most likely be gaining time. That means exercise rather than work should be your number one priority. So in your morning run or midday yoga class, start by penciling and then add your other commitments around that.
But in the gym, you don’t have to spend hours. Short workout sessions are actually much more effective. It is more than enough to set the body up for a productive day, just 10 to 15 minutes of vigorously working out in the morning. If you’ve decided on weightlifting to keep yourself safe and fit, then strive to complete quick bursts followed by breathers of 15 to 30 seconds. Free weights or even your own body weight probably operate on more muscles than machines, and you don’t need fancy equipment.
The trick is to begin your workout gently and gradually increase the pace and strenuousness. Build up slowly, and in just 15 minutes you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish. Outcome? You are going to feel more concentrated and ready to take on the world! One of the key lessons from today’s increasingly common spiritual teachings is that it will help you declutter your home and free up precious headspace by letting go of needless burdens. Like Disney’s Frozen movie soundtrack, the new motto seems to be “let it go!” “When it comes to handling your time as well, it makes a lot of sense.
Your wardrobe is the best place to start. Most people usually wear just about 30 percent of them on a daily basis, out of all the clothes they own. It doesn’t just declutter your home by contributing the other 70 percent to charity; it also streamlines your everyday life, taking out needless choices on what to wear and reminding you the true worth of the stuff you have.
Minimalism, however, is not just about throwing out unnecessary material possessions. Really, by jettisoning psychological baggage, you’ll actually benefit a whole lot more. Catch perfectionism. He inherited a big, dilapidated yard when Jeff Sanders moved into his new house in Nashville, Tennessee. A landscape architect was his next-door neighbor and had lovingly designed an impressive lawn surrounded by carefully cultivated borders.
When Sanders was in college, he learned that the cafeteria at his school served an all-you-can-eat buffet three times a day. For a hard-up student, it was a terrific deal, and he soon found himself consuming most of his meals there. Soon enough, he piled on the pounds-every day was “cafeteria day.” It wasn’t great for his wellbeing, but the experience taught him something important: one of the smartest ways to boost your time management is to plan themed days.
Check out my related post: Do you have the joy of work?