An important step in becoming more productive is being mindful with basic time management.
You won’t be able to enhance your time management skills or effectively practice time management activities until you have the basics nailed down.
And in many cases, people who get competent with the basics find it enough to experience a significant positive impact on life. So much so that they find no need to go to an intermediate or advanced level.
We are all victims of the modern digital world dominated by technology.
To put it into perspective, the rate of technological advancement in the most recent 25 years has grossly exceeded the amount of technological advancement in the 2500 years before then.
And being human, we are not adapting fast enough with the changing needs of technology and how to live with it efficiently.
This make people like me prone to checking my emails every half-hour or so, checking my social feeds every now and then, checking if I have any miss calls or messages every so often, etc.
It’s a complete waste of time.
These little acts can seem like just a few seconds. But they can add up BIG time if you don’t put a stop to it.
I recall the movie Up In The Air starring George Clooney where he mentioned something in the lines of “If you don’t pack your luggage properly, you waste as much as 2 weeks each year repacking them”.
That’s really an eye-opener. 2 weeks is 336 hours! Imagine the amount of stuff you can do with that time.
While there are no scientific research conducted in a lab to verify the facts behind that, as a regular person, I can agree and make sense out of that statement.
Here’s 5 steps to becoming more mindful with your time.
1) Figure out where you time goes
You should spend anywhere between 1 to 3 days to tabulate your time log. Write down what you did during the day and how much time you estimate to have spent on it.
While it is best to undertake this task as meticulously as possible, do practice pragmatism. Instead of being compulsive and refresh your log every minutes, you might want to input your records every 1, 2, or 3 hours.
You can use a sheet of paper. Or better yet, a note taking app on a smart device.
Be sure to record write down the micro activities like:
- Checking your emails
- Phone calls
- Social media
- Browsing the internet
Once you have tabulated your time log, sit down and review the stuff you have spent on those activities.
Do you think you have wasted time? Could any of those activities be merged together? Were you doing things that were redundant? Could any of those activities be forgone and it wouldn’t make a difference?
2) Figure out why you want more time
Because a part of you find time wastefulness an indulgence (whether you are aware of it or not), you need to convince your mind that you actually need to free up more time for stuff that really matters.
This would serve as a motivation to your conscious self, and a shining light to your unconscious self.
Some powerful reasons why you’d like more time is as follows:
- To spend more quality time with family and friends
- To get more done at work (career advancement)
- To have more time at the gym (lose weight)
- To pursue a hobby
- To travel around the world
- To have more rest that is overdue
Think deeply about your reasons. The more powerful they are the less barriers your mind would put around you.
3) Figure out what you want to spend less time on
Both adults and teenagers have certain expectations and responsibilities put on their shoulders.
Some things just have to be done whether you like them or not.
While the reason why you want more time as listed earlier serves as a powerful motivator that urges you to act. Knowing what you’d like to spend less time on can be useful too.
- Household chores
- Browsing the internet
- Watching TV
- Doing homework
Often times, pain is a more powerful motivation than pleasure.
At this stage, you should have a clear idea of what you would like to spend maximum time on,, and what you would like to spend minimum time on.
4) Stop and think before doing any of the things in #1
You should have realized by now that a lot of the things you do daily are a total and utter waste of valuable minutes.
And since you have now recognized them from step #1, make it a point to “stop and think” before reaching for any of them.
In fact, make every time you lift your cell phone screen to face you a cue to stop for a moment and think whether you should waste that time.
This could be a tough thing to practice when starting. But as time goes by, you would find it easier and easier to say “no” to yourself and what you are about to do.
When you cultivate an awareness of how you are using your time, and how it is being wasted, it should arouse an instinct within you to reject what you are about to do.
5) Ask yourself why
If you are unable to block out all the time wasting with the previous 4 steps, go a little deeper and a little more brutal with yourself.
For example, it is 10pm at night and it is your usual web browsing session for the next 2 hours. You know you need to spend less time on your computer, yet cannot convince yourself to let go.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Is there really something you want to find on the internet?
- Are you only doing it because of boredom?
- Is it your way of procrastinating?
- Are you making yourself busy so that you don’t need to do something you actually need to do?
- Are you home alone because you are too lazy to go out with your friends?
- Is there something better and more enjoyable which you can do now?
By confronting tough questions regarding the specific activity that you are doing, it makes it more difficult for you to go into auto-pilot and continue your unhealthy habits of wasting time on unproductive behavior.
This awareness can play a critical role in motivating you to spend your time wisely on more productive and rewarding activities.