Time management, in my experience, is less about getting things done and more about not doing too much. I want to share a story that was helpful to me, but if you prefer videos, this YouTube link say the same stuff I will in the next paragraph: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5ZvL4as2y0
A professor stands before a class and fills a beaker up to the brim with rocks. He asks, "Is this beaker full?" The class says it is. Then he reaches behind his desk and pulls out a bag of sand and pours it into the beaker. The sand fills in all the cracks between the rocks right up to the brim. The class feels dumb for not realizing that beaker could obviously hold more, and when the professor asks if the beaker is full, they nod and agree. Then the professor grabs a water bottle from behind the desk and pours it slowly over the sand. The sand darkens as the water pushes out every pocket of air. "Now," the professor says, "the beaker is full."
The real lesson isn't about unrealized capacity in our schedules. It's not, "Oh, I didn't realize there was all this free time in my morning routine." The lesson is about prioritizing. If the sand went into the beaker first, there would have been now way to fit all of the rocks. When I first got serious about making my time as productive as possible, here's how I went about it:
- Sit down on Sunday and schedule my rocks. These cannot be moved. For me, that's 8-hrs in bed, morning writing time, my 90-minutes for exercise, my family dinner, and my weekly group therapy. Then I schedule my sand, which is mostly work meetings, study time or up keeping friendships. The open time that's left is for water, which is where the rest of life gets pushed. If my car breaks down, for example, I deal with it in the time left to my water slots.
- Every night, schedule the next day. Life is dynamic and must be constantly resorted. Addressing the next days schedule will help prevent stress and allow your mind to work on activities without worrying about whether you're prepared for what's next.
- IMPORTANT: Don't ever say yes to taking on a new responsibility without scheduling the time to do it. With a smart phone, this is simple.
- Say no more often. Committing to an activity because you can do it is not a good enough reason. Only commit to activities that are important to you. Over time, you'll get to a place where you're only agreeing to things that you feel you must do.
For me, I didn't miss anything when I started saying no and only doing what I scheduled. Instead, I felt myself expanded and energized on the activities I did engage with, and that energy is the biggest reason why time management is important. As Howard Thurman said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."