This article will go over how to make time for everything that is important to you! Which should include time for guilt-free rest.
This article is not trying to promote getting MORE done, or working 24/7. The aim of this article is to help you feel more empowered and to have more control over your time, increase time off and decrease stress.
So, here are my six tips on how to make time for everything that is important to you.
1. Build A Second Brain.
A second brain is basically an uber to-do list. A place where you can down load your brain in an organised way. Think of a filing cabinet filled with all the things you need to remember.
“Research on distributed cognition proves that your brain is great at thinking and having ideas, but not great at remembering them. Studies show that unfinished goals, actions, and projects (a.k.a. open loops) weigh heavily on your mind, decreasing your clarity and ability to focus.” Getting Things Done by David Allen
You can also check out www.buildingasecondbrain.com
2. Priorities Tasks
Now that you have all your tasks out of your head and in your second brain, you’ll want to give them some weight as to how important they are to you or your work. This can be a simple as labelling them as “urgent, high, or low”
During this process you will probably find tasks that are not actually a priority or are not helping you towards your personal or professional goals. These tasks should be removed or put aside for reviewing.
“People often prioritise work that shows up by default, just doing what’s in front of them and seemingly urgent. But that approach leaves them feeling behind, not in control, and bothered by every interruption.” Getting Things Done by David Allen
Weighing tasks and removing things which are not a priority is also a vital part of being able to get everything done that is truly important to you. Check out Oliver Burkeman’s book “Four Thousand Weeks” where he discusses a realistic approach to time management and getting things done in our short finite lives of 4000 weeks.
3. Time Block
Most people will make a to-do list but never go any further. This massive list, however can be really overwhelming. The list also fails to show how long each task may take or when they will occur.
“Research shows that the most effective way to achieve goals is through implementation intentions, or making a plan that includes the necessary actions and the contexts for completing them.” Getting Things Done by David Allen
By time-blocking and scheduling your to do list on your calendar it will not only help keep you accountable in completing them, but it will also prevent you from under or over scheduling yourself.
“time-blocking makes you more consciously aware of your workload, so you can make well-informed decisions about whether or not to make future agreements.” Getting Things Done by David Allen
When you time-block your tasks on your calendar, be sure to add the hardest and most important tasks at the start of the day when you have the cognitive ability to deal with it.
4. Be Specific
When you are entering your tasks from your to-do list onto your calendar, make sure to be very specific about what it is you need to do.
We all suffer from decision fatigue, and vague simple tasks can easily become overwhelming when there are not clear actions for how to complete them, and as such we can end up avoid them.
Instead of writing down in your calendar “work”, try breaking it down into the smaller actions you will actually be doing such as “check policy and send back to David” or “email the accountant for tax return”
This way when you come to that task in your calendar you wont be faced with needing to make any decision and can simply follow the instructions laid out.
5. Don’t multi-task!
Multi-tasking feels good but having a lot of things on the go – lots of tabs open, multiple active conversations or emails, is actually a really big waste of time and we just end up doing a lot of things badly.
Research from Stanford has shown that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. This is because when our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.
Instead of multitasking, try and focus on one task at time. Use your second brain to see what is the one most important thing to do that day, time block it in and focus on it until it’s done. It may feel strange at first to focus on one thing and leave others unfinished in the back ground, but you will get so much more done in the long run. And as long as you have your second brain organised, you can relax knowing you wont forget what needs to be done next. Check out The One Thing by Gary Keller
Sometimes it can be difficult, however, to focus on one thing at time when we have multiple tasks with the same deadline. For example we could have four reports all due in a months time. When this occurs you will want to split the reports and give them new personal deadlines. The first report will have a deadline for one weeks time, the second in two weeks, the third in three etc.
6. Taking time off and actually enjoying it!
With the construction of your second brain, a clearly prioritised to-do list and time-blocked tasks that you are focusing on one at a time, you should find you have freed up a bunch of time.
(I like to imagine this working in a similar way to how we used to run the disk defragmenter on our computer hard drives; consolidating items and freeing up more space!)
As a bonus, not only will you have more time, you should have more enjoyable time without any nagging feelings of tasks that need doing as everything is nicely filed away in your second brain and scheduled into your calendar.
“When you feel in control of your life and your to-do list, you can be present in each moment without the nagging feeling that there’s something else you should be doing. You can only feel confident about what you’re doing if you also feel confident about what you’re not doing at any given moment.” Getting Things Done by David Allen
A word of warning – don’t fall into the trap of becoming more productive and then taking on more work! Oliver Burkeman in his book Four Thousand Weeks warns that increased productivity can easily lead to increased work load, for example the quicker we clear our inbox the faster we receive replies.
So make sure if you are strategic with you new-found free time, schedule it on your calendar and be sure to enjoy it. Remember work smarter, not harder or longer!
PS: Dont leave your second brain to become stagnant, make sure you clean it out every now and then. Check your priorities haven’t changed and update tasks if it has. Clean out tasks that have been done and input new ones to be scheduled and time blocked.