How to conquer your time by understanding yourself

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Just like clean baby diapers, time is something we wish we had more of. It always runs on shortage. But what if I give you some advice on managing your ti… wait a minute. Did I just say advice? Do you like them? Yeah me neither. So instead of being yet another post stuffed with flaky time-management tips I’m gonna explain how time, productivity and zombies go together. 

Most time-management strategies don’t work unless you understand yourself

Let’s dive to the root of time-management. Why bother managing your time? Can’t we just live as we like? Eating your 8th slice of pizza at midnight while bingeing on the 15th episode of Game of… Oh, you want to be productive? I see you aren’t precisely a have-fun-until-you-pass-out-type like me. Anyways,

What does productivity mean exactly?

According to productivity lord Mr Thomas Frank, 

“Productivity is what you can do with your life and how well can you do it.”

Thomas Frank, Youtuber

In a more diluted way, it can be stated as – managing your life efficiently. But instead of understanding how productivity works, we turn to strategies. It’s not that these tips are inherently useless(FYI, they’re quite valuable). But our mode of approach lacks one single idea which is enough in itself to bring down our day like a falling stack of dominos. Let me tell you a secret…Oh, wait… (Shuts down all doors and windows.) It’s a secret, remember?

Productivity is a very personal thing. 

Just because some random guy on the internet told you that waking at 4 am every day “changed his life” doesn’t mean it’s gonna change yours. There are plenty of factors to take into account – responsibilities, environments and most importantly, your mood or state of your brain. Just as how a single size of underwear doesn’t fit everybody in the world, one definition or strategy won’t work for everyone. Your productivity depends on how you operate in your environment.

If your nights are loaded with kids running around the house, maybe mornings are best for you. If you find yourself astray at 4 in the morning maybe try 6 or 9 am. Figure out what works for you

I love writing as early as possible in a creepy silent room with intense movie soundtracks ringing through my ears. Maybe you love working in parks and coffee shops. What about your backyard filled with trees?

Find what works for you. As Youtuber Matt D’Avella puts it – 

“Throw a lot of shit on the wall and see what sticks…”

-Matt D’Avella, Youtuber
Keeping throwing a lot of shit. Maybe something will stick

Try a variety of strategies, use the Ivy-lee method, time-boxing, batching or anything for that sort. Tweak as you see fit.

Ignore all time management tips including the following ones

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna push any time-management tips straight onto your face. The following is simply my experience with writing on this blog (about 6- 15 months). All I’m giving you is shit to throw on the wall. Maybe this works, or this doesn’t. Either way, you’re gonna eat your pizza without me (sighs). Anyways, here’s what I learnt,

1. The quality of sleep = Your productivity

I would bet my life on this idea. After my terrible experience with a very long streak of nights stuffed with poor quality sleep (4-6 hrs/day for like 5-7 months), I understood the importance of it, after reading a book. When I started sleeping 7-8 hours/ day I worked less, I was less stressed, and it is crucial to note that I wasn’t an arrogant and depressed zombie I used to be. Your sleep is more important than your work, in the long-term.

Sleep like hell!

2. Designing your day with rests is a great way to get a lot of work done

Plan your day. I usually schedule my distractions(TV, games, Netflix) after 6pm. And all work and studying take place in the morning and afternoon. Most of my days look like this (or at least I try my best to make them look like)

6.00 – Wake

6.30 – 16.30 Work (Note: This includes chores, eating, classes and playing basketball with friends. So it’s flexible. But any sort of writing happens here)

16.30 – 18.00 Exercise, Stretching, Chores or any sort of tech-less distractions 

18.00 – 21.00 Digital distractions 

21.00 – Until I pass out between the lines while I read something

Don’t try to schedule every minute of your life. It doesn’t work and makes you stressed out. Because life is a giant ball of mess that gets in the way. If planning your day seems robotic or highly structured, try allocating your work times. Like – I’m gonna work on my assignment between 7am to 9am every day. And stick to that religiously.

3. Tackle the most difficult tasks first thing in the morning

Your brain’s a powerhouse as soon as you wake up. But by the end of the day, your energy levels start to drop after making a ton of decisions. Due to this fact, I love to tackle the mentally demanding tasks first thing in the day, like writing. 

4. To-do lists are a great way to manage your tasks but only if you’ve a good idea of what can be achieved in a day

We’re often ambitious creatures who love to bite more than what we could chew, for instance, scheduling 13 demanding tasks to complete in a day. This always results in overwhelm and anxiety. One way to avoid this would be to plan 1-3 huge chores each day. I usually have 2 major ones with 3 – 5 futile tasks like send an email, organize your desk, etc… Less is more. And most importantly it’s okay if you cannot finish those 2 tasks you scheduled for the day. That’s life and don’t beat yourself up for it.

One of the best to-dos I’ve ever come across

5. Schedule time for things other than work and passion

While there are people who’re finding it difficult to clock in an hour of work, there’s another group who don’t even know what’s relaxing(Me! Me! Me!). Every awakened hour should be spent on something productive. The solution? Do things that excite you. Why?

“Life happens when you are busy trying to be productive”

Yeah, I made this quote up after being inspired by the original one.

Remember that old phrase? All work and no play makes Jack a brain-eating zombie? Don’t become one. Take your dog for a walk, watch a movie flick on Netflix do something that excites you. It’s this relaxation that provides you with the energy to keep being productive.

6. Place yourself in the ideal environment possible

Though not practical with all sorts of work – it’s better to block all distractions and place yourself in the least distracting environment. Remember you can never work with a 42 inch TV attached to a gaming console sitting beside you. Place your phone on the other side of the room, plug-in your earphones, tune in to some ambient music, pump the volume to max, and you’re good to go.

Discover your personal religion and tame your time.

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