Making Time Work for You

I like reading about history. I’m not talking about French Kings or English Wars, but about events that occurred hundreds of thousands, even millions of years ago. I find it fascinating to learn how humans as a species developed language, how migration from Africa to other continents occurred, and how we were able to arrive at the point of leisure and high standards of living much of the world enjoys today.

It seems silly, almost obsessive, but piecing together what makes humans different isn’t as obvious as it sounds. On the surface, it does seem straightforward. Humans are different because we possess (or believe we possess) consciousness, have the ability to pass on knowledge learned from generation to generation, and can think critically, to name a few. However, imagination isn’t a trait that pops into our minds when we think about what makes humans unique. We tend to lump it with consciousness or maybe we think it simply wasn’t as important a skill compared to showing your kids how to use a spear or a bow and arrow back when our lives weren’t as much about living as they were about survival.

This piece is on time management so talking about imagination seems odd, but until we have the capacity to envision ourselves accomplishing the goals we set it’s pointless to talk about the strategies we’re going to discuss later on in this piece. Recognizing we have a limited amount of time to reach our goals means that time is precious; it’s a finite resource. When we begin to appreciate just how valuable time is we become better at managing it and I believe our lives as a whole also get better. Days will feel less cluttered and your mind will begin to feel more organized. Surrounding yourself with peers that share similar ambitions and role models who can show us the ropes are all important steps we can take, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to take the first steps. I hope these tips encourage you to take control of your time.

Being Honest

Did I work on that project for an hour and a half or did I work on it for an hour with 30 minutes of Facebook thrown in? Just like athletes track the calories they eat, keeping a log of how you use your time is essential to managing it. It seems like a hassle, but adding structure to your day increases productivity and allows you to enjoy free time without feeling guilty about it. Take a few days to map out what you spend time on and then figure out areas you want to cut or increase. Finding time for everything you want isn’t impossible, but it does require planning.

Meditation

If you google search the phrase “types of meditation” you quickly become overwhelmed by the number of websites promoting the best types, techniques, and methods of meditation. But there’s no universal “right” type. Often the variations of meditation your friends or coworkers swear by are great, but the effect comes from the contrast of going from doing no medication to meditation for ten minutes every day. To figure out what works best for you, try different variations for a few weeks at a time and then decide which one you like best.  

I’ve found that mindfulness meditation works best and is fairly easy to pick up even if it’s your first time trying it. To begin set a timer for ten minutes and sit with your back straight and your hands on your lap. Make sure you’re in a comfortable position, close your eyes and begin counting to ten. Once you reach ten counts back down to zero. The goal isn’t to put a stop to your thoughts, but to let them flow without developing into a train of thought. Easier said than done. You won’t see immediate results, but over a week or two you’ll see an increase in your ability to focus for an extended period of time, a critical part of being able to manage your time is being able to complete tasks within a specific time frame.

Before I started meditating I would find myself writing a paper getting stuck on a thought or argument I couldn’t flesh out and pulling out my phone to scroll through Instagram. After a few minutes I’d put my phone away and get back to writing then, almost without thinking, I’d pull my phone out and do the exact same thing. Studies have shown you get a hit of dopamine while going through social media. The effect being a shortened attention span. Meditating is a great way to counterbalance this effect.

                  

Making a list (and maybe checking it twice)

Just how powerful is list-making? After finishing a chore or a job there’s no better feeling than whipping out a notepad and running a line through paper. It just seems right. However, it may feel like unnecessary clutter. Making a list of everything you have to accomplish throughout the day may not seem feasible after the first couple of tries. Moreover, how much satisfaction is there in crossing out “make bed” or “get milk”. Drawing the line between the minutiae of everyday life and the big tasks at school or work is necessary if you decide to try out this technique.