I’m always surprised when people ask me how I manage my time.
“This time management of which you speak, what is that?” I joke.
Well, sort of. It’s not really a joke, because I don’t really manage my time. I manage my stress. Time management is something they teach you in bookkeeping class in college. Life teaches you to manage stress loads as if you are putting weights on a scale. Overload yourself, and you won’t have enough time to finish anything. Manage your stress, and you will suddenly have enough time to get it all done. Here’s how:
- Finish the hardest tasks first to make yourself less stressful later. The freedom from stress you have later will give you ample opportunity to finish things up.
- Stop during the day and go for a brisk walk to clear your head. Don’t come back until you are ready to embrace your work with a fresh perspective.
- If your most stressful tasks are later in the day, do something in the morning that you enjoy and that gives you more freedom and control.
- Eat foods that promote clear thinking. Whole wheat is a must, especially if it is a “pure” granola or wheat toast. Clear thoughts lead to less stress which leads to getting more done.
- Never scatter your meetings, whether by phone or in person. Get them all done in batches. You enter into a stress mode to handle the discussions and any conflicts.
- Do things in one sitting. It’s better to finish that business document once and for all right after lunch. Forget “managing your time” and doing it in spurts; that doesn’t work. When you finish it, you reduce your stress load, which solves any time-management issues.
- Ruthlessly cut out distractions. No, seriously. Put wooden planks across the entrance of your cubicle if you must. (It might look a little weird, but who cares.) Distractions cause stress, not the fact that you have only until 3:30 to get that report done.
- Get a good workout. I know many entrepreneurs who go for a long run before work. That takes time, so they are proving that “time management” is not effective. A treadmill gets the juices flowing and the synapses firing. You’ll get more done in less time.
- Breathe like you mean it. You should take a few minutes several times a day to pause and breathe, just to get a (ahem) breather. It’s a wonderful way to focus on other things.
- Read for fun. Take a few minutes and just read something funny or superfluous. It takes your mind off the stress of work. Curiously, it’s also the opposite of time management. It’s OK to take 20 minutes or even a whole hour to destress because you will get a big boost.