People have been asking me how I’m doing so much with my finite time: having a full-time day job, a startup at the sidelines, music and songwriting, a fitness goal, a language goal, reading goals, and this blog to run.
To answer this, I have to be blunt upfront. I’m not the best at time management. On the contrary, I always feel that my time management skills suck big time. I often slack and procrastinate. I become too comfortable and overconfident. But looking at my plate right now, I now think, “Maybe my friends are right. Maybe I am juggling too much things compared to the regular dude next door.”
Firstly, we have to be on the same page. I think we have to consider time to be the most valuable resource, much more valuable than money. Once you spend time on something, you can’t get it back. And another thing is, almost every one of us are given the same exact amount of hours every day, which is amazing. Another thing that I also know is this: That my time is not permanent; I am not permanent. I could die the next day, or probably the next hour. But as Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus, I realize that a better way to see this is this: To make the best use of time, because the days are evil.
So now that we’re on the same page, hopefully, I’ll attempt to deconstruct the principles that I believe I have been following.
Here are the four keys to a better time management.
1. Value-based thinking
At this age, we are constantly barraged by an endless storm of information. But we should ask ourselves a question: Are these information presented to us really valuable, or are these just distractions designed to capture our constantly wandering bored mind? Do you remember that hilarious Facebook cat video that you just discovered? How about that wildly upsetting (fake) news you’ve just read? Or that series that has been eating away your days? Or that gossip about the guy next door that you barely even know?
As Stephen Covey suggested in his classic book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it helps to begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself this question: “What future do I want?” And if you have already have that end in mind, then ask yourself this second question, “Is this information/activity that I’m going to partake valuable? Is this going to contribute to the future that I want?”
It also helps to learn how to identify value when you see it since different things and activities have different values.
Spend time on the valuable things, and ignore the rest.
2. Invest in yourself
I’ve once read in a book (I forgot which book it was) that described the importance of investing in your self.
Let me illustrate by putting yourself in a different shoe:
Imagine that you are in a competition to take down the most number of trees in a single day. Each competitor is given an axe, and this axe could take down a tree with twelve swings. How would you approach the competition if you want to win at the top? Would you rush hacking down trees with a dozen of swings hoping that you’ll be the fastest? Or would you spend considerable time to sharpen the blade of your axe, just so to make it that trees would fall down the moment you bring down a single swing?
Now, know that you are the axe. You can try to go at life with your current sharpness (skill set, knowledge, experience, etc), or you can spend considerable amount of time to learn, study, and develop your self, considerably delaying gratification for the purpose of future greater rewards.
Investing in yourself does not need to be expensive. You can invest in yourself physically (exercising, having a healthy diet, etc), mentally (reading books, studying, meditating), building skills (hobbies, passions), and spiritually (connecting to The God in the Bible).
3. Distinguish the important and the urgent
One tool that I learned to be really helpful is the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
Basically it’s a tool (or technique, or system, or whatever you want to call it) designed to filter tasks based on their urgency and their importance. It groups tasks to four quadrants: The Do (important and urgent), The Plan (important but not urgent), The Delegate (not important but urgent), and The Limit (not important and not urgent).
I will not go in-depth here because explaining this concept has been already been done before thanks to The Art of Manliness.
As what has been quoted, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
4. Aim High
I guess one reason why I’m juggling multiple things is because of the brutal standards that I set to my self. How can I stay comfortable when in my mind I’m competing against multi-talented world-class entrepreneurs? How can I not take risks when the bar has been set by history-renowned polymath individuals? And how can my heart remain peaceful when it has been called for perfection?
I hope we realize that time is a gift. And also, that our time is not permanent.
Our time will eventually come to an end.
So let’s use it well.
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