How to Manage your Time Effectively

Don't spend it lounging around
It's ironic that I've been putting off writing this post. As it's been said, the people who are the most knowledgeable on a topic are the ones who have had to struggle with the issue the most. After all, if it came naturally, what advice could they give on improving it?

I've got a number of techniques I find helpful, but here are just some of the more prominent ones in my toolbelt:

Break Down Barriers

I've read before that if an activity takes more than 10 seconds to set up, you're 80% less likely to do it. While these numbers are awfully round and off the top of my head, I haven't been able to find the research to back it up. If someone could help me out with that, I'd really appreciate it.

Happy Buddha in a Cap
Supported or otherwise, it makes sense. Practically, if there's something you don't particularly want to do, or that will require you to put in effort, would you not be more likely to do it if everything was all fired up, ready to go?

Suppose you are trying to learn to draw, but can't find the time to sit down and do it. If you had a reference image picked out, loaded up, pad of paper ready, pencils sharpened, all this waiting on a comfortable table... would you not be more inclined to sit down and begin than if you had to prepare everything? Yeah, of course you would.* This leads me to my next point..

Half the Battle is Starting

People have argued with me about exactly how much of a project is starting, but you could honestly argue as much as 99% because without starting, you get nothing.

Bickering aside, simply starting an activity and not stopping it (at least in the long-term) will usually get you somewhere. As Stephen Rose, PhD argues, passion is developed through honing a skill over time, building up marketable skills. As I'm sure I've said before:
"A year from now, you will have wished you started today."

Parkinson's Law 

This law is a fancier, obscurer way of saying:
"Work expands to fill the time available for its completion"
I don't know the name of this, but I like it
Of course, there's a bottoming out for this. You won't be able to complete a 20 page essay in 5 minutes just because you've given yourself that much time to do it. Experiment. Push yourself. Sometimes you really can finish that project within the next hour if you just shut out all other distractions.

Be aggressive and you'll be surprised with how much you can get done. It might be more helpful if you were to use...

Website Blockers*

I'm not particularly a big fan of these programs, but some people find them very useful. They will block websites so that you can't be distracted from them, usually for a set time limit or frame. Apparently they're quite unforgiving. (For Mac, SelfControl; For Windows, SelfRestraint; For everyone else, SOL.)

Pomodoro Technique

I don't know where it got it's name, but Pomodoro is "Tomato" in Italian. The system is this: you can ONLY focus on your activity for the next 25 minutes. Set a timer, put your phone on airplane mode, and engage those damn blockers. You're FOCUSING, God damn it! It's supposed to be something like a 5 minute break between the first two, then a 10 minute between the next, and back to a 5, alternating as you go.

Pareto's 80-20

Pareto Principle, Pareto's Law, or just the plain ol' "80-20 Rule" is stated simply as this:
"For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes."
20% of your effort will complete 80% of your work. 80% of your headaches will come from 20% of the people you know. 80% of the peas will come from 20% of your pea plants. It pans out in a lot of ways, and the more you look for it, the better you'll get at recognizing it.

How is this helpful for time management? Recognize the situations and things that help you get into that 20% sweet spot. Sink most of your time in the area that you recognize as giving you the most results, and you'll find yourself being much more effective with your time.

Chatham, Ontario, Folks

Get Busy

While this one may seem like "duh" point, it actually makes more sense once you get into it. The more you have on your plate, the less time you have to do anything. Any time you misstep and allow yourself to be lazy, you'll end up paying for it later. This is a great motivator to do things while you happen to have a minute, cutting down on all the time procrastinating or absent-mindedly surfing the net.

This is NOT an advocation of being busy for the sake of being busy, which seems like some sort of bragging competition as of late in modern society. Far from it. I'm actually a proponent of doing as little work as possible if you can be as effective as possible in doing it. Well, work that you consider work. Some "work" can be fun!

New Years Drink: Gin, Tonic,
Cracked pepper, and Cucumber.

Make your Damn Bed (And keep your work/living space clean, too)

For a while, I used to have a lot of time on my hands. I didn't work full time, and had to figure out what I was going to do with my life. Introduce existential crises, and learning how to motivate myself. Thus, the stuff in this post. If you've been in that circumstance, you'll find that the hardest things is to get yourself motivated to start let alone continue working.

As Roy Baumeister points out in his amazing book, Willpower, having a clean living/work space will increase your willpower and ability to stay focused. Starting your day by making your bed will get you into the mood to actually continue doing productive things.

Get the hell out of your pyjamas, make that bed, pick up your clothes, and make breakfast. Even if you're not going anywhere, you'll have prompted your mind that you are open for business, and will be that much more likely to continue on to the work that matters.

That's it... for Now

Hopefully you found this post useful, and will be more effective in doing the things that you love! Self-discipline is the only path to getting what you want and doing the things you're capable of. Now go get 'em, Tiger!

Editing Music: She Only Love Me When I'm There - Ball Park Music

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*I actually wrote this post in point form yesterday because I didn't feel like doing it then. I knew that if I at least set it up, I'd be more inclined to sit down and start later.
**Gotta love the program's names. Basically a misnomer, as it's not self-control or self-restraint if it's externally imposed. That's also why I'm not entirely on board. Willpower is a muscle, and we should exercise it regularly.

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