“There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Or “If only a had a little more time.” Do those phrases sound familiar? If you’re anything like what I was you probably say those phrases at least once a week… on a good week. The thing is you’re not saying these things because you’re busy; you’re busy because you are saying these things.
Now let me back up a bit. Have you ever noticed that with enough pressure you can get anything done in just a little bit of time? That five-page report you cranked out in one night, or those briefs you hadn’t even looked at until the day your boss needed them? This is what is called Parkinson’s Law. It basically says however much time you have to do something, that’s how long it will take. Think about it. If you have two days on an industry summary, when will you finish it? In two days. And if you have two hours? You’ll clear your schedule, run to your office, and crank that puppy out.
But how on Earth does all of this have anything to do with time management? Well Parkinson’s Law tells us however much time we have to complete something, it will take that long. So what happens when we get better at accomplishing stuff, better at time management? We get more time. Pay attention here this is the sleight of hand our brain uses; we turn around and spend this time on things that you could accomplish in less time, but because we have more time those same things will now take longer via Parkinson’s Law.
You see your own thought of “I’m busy all the time” or “I’ve got so much to do” becomes your reality. When you become better at time management that time is immediately devoted to something else and you never actually become less busy. Instead you trick yourself into thinking, “If only I could get better at managing my time” and pouring effort into just that. But it’s all for naught! Remember you’re not saying these things because you’re busy; you’re busy because you’re saying these things.
So if time management isn’t the answer, what is? First off time management is useful, but it is also incomplete. You need to be able to change your paradigm about yourself and how you view your time. Start imposing fictitious time constraints on your work or fight fire with fire by purposefully scheduling down time. Whatever methods you find or choose make sure you do one thing: change your attitude. No matter what skills or techniques you pick up, it won’t change a thing without first changing your attitude about your time.
Try some of these methods the next time you catch yourself feeling like you never have enough time:
- Prioritize having down time for yourself. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking 30 minutes a day to do something you love and really 30 minutes isn’t much out of you day.
- Start thinking you do have time to give away. It’s amazing how much of our day is filled with useless junk and procrastination. By giving time away (such as to help a friend) it puts the importance of things in focus and you’ll begin to let go of the busy work in your life.
- And just in general slow down. Take a deep breath. Often you’ll find giving yourself a short mental break will allow you to approach your work with renewed vigor and clarity.
If you’d like to know more ways to change how you think about your time try reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Best of luck and let me know how these methods work for you in the comments section. Really I will be sure to read ALL of your comments so please post away!
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day… — U2
Yesterday no doubt was the start of your New Year’s resolutions. Oh, the resolutions! Every year we sit down to list every way we want our lives to be better. We sit there with a whole year spread out in front of us like a sea of shining opportunities and we say to ourselves, “This will be the year I lose that weight. This will be the year I finally get out of debt. This year won’t be like the others. I’m gonna do it this year.” It feels good doesn’t it? Your fate is in your grasp. You can feel it between your fingers and know you can impose your will upon it. With no slip-ups, no mistakes, and nothing to hold us back, this year is a chance to start over. It really is.
By now you are probably already starting on those resolutions. You may have even made some progress. Feeling pretty good about the whole thing right? Well I need to break it to you… This year will be NO different…*
Before you cast this off as simple pessimism, think about this. When the clock struck midnight, the ball dropped, millions kissed, many more drank champagne, and the last digit in the date on your computer ticked up one, what changed? Did anything about the nature of the universe change? Did you suddenly have a glorious epiphany about your life and your existence? Did you learn a new skill, meet someone new, win a million dollars, or in any other way fundamentally change your lot in life? My guess, is no. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s pretty normal. Remember what DID change was an arbitrary system of delineating time, which science tells us may not even exist.
The point, as Bono and the boys tell us, is that nothing really changes on New Year’s Day. Wars are still being waged, cancer is still a reality, and you… are still you. As you embark on the journey that will be this year, remember that nothing has changed from last year. The reasons, explanations, and causes that made your 2012 resolutions fall flatter than Kansas, are still here. They may be in the dark recesses right now, but they will soon come back as menacing as ever.
Not all hope is lost. Remember that little asterisk by “different” up above? Go look right now, I’ll wait. Good, now that you see that, here’s the full version of that sentence; This year will be no different, unless you make it different. The point is that you are going to have to change things, you are going to defeat those reasons, explanations, and causes, YOU will change YOURSELF. Because although nothing really changes on New Year’s Day, you still–and always will–have the power to change yourself. So use it. Figure out why your resolutions for 2012 fell short and keep that from happening again. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals instead vague set-yourself-up-to-fail goals. Use the power that is uniquely human to change yourself. Cause that’s the only way 2013 is going to be different.