Chase's Guide to Time Management
I don’t like veering too far off-topic from seduction and relationships too often, since I’ve watched many a website, television show, or business slip into decline after losing its focus, becoming too scattered and spreading itself too thin with the material it covers. But, since a number of readers have specifically requested this, here’s an article on how I run my time management.
Personally, I’ve never given much conscious thought to time management. I’ve just always found myself with everything I need to get done done, and lots of free time to spend however I like – sometimes on personal development, sometimes on relaxation and recovery. Time management is more of an unconscious drive for me than anything. The past few years I’ve been busier than usual, since it’s been my trial-by-fire in learning how to build businesses (and having many of those businesses fail along the way), but even then, I’ve mostly gone through stretches of a few months of extreme busyness at the time, before correcting things and returning to a more balanced lifestyle.
I haven’t read much on time management itself, because most of the
people writing on time management I find are people who haven’t really
done things with their lives that I’d care to emulate. It
seems like most of them spend their time writing books about time
management, and most of their productivity consists of writing books
about productivity. However, I do come across bits and pieces here and
there from various people that I find useful and incorporate, and that
help make me even better able to manage my time.
So, without further ado, and with no claims to being some great time management guru or anything of the sort, here’s how Chase Amante personally approaches the subject of managing his time; a companion piece to the one I did on time efficiency (you should probably read that one before reading this one, if you haven’t already read it).
For me, getting done what you need to get done so that you can then have free time has always been paramount. That’s not necessarily because I want to goof off and enjoy free time; rather, it’s based on a mental model in which the future is unknowable, and assuming that you’ll have time to do something later means you may well be putting yourself in a tight bind when something unexpected invariably crops up and puts a vice on your time.
So, the underlying basis of my approach to time management is a future-focused time orientation; I would much rather finish my work now and have my time free later for whatever I wish to use it for, than relax now and suddenly find myself unpleasantly burdened, stressed out, and yanking my hair out angry at my earlier self later for lacking the foresight to keep a clear plate.
You might say I am allergic to having things on my plate. I want to finish them, and have them done. Mentally, this is for several reasons:
Unfinished work consumes background focus in your mind, which detracts from your available mental horsepower, making you duller, slower, and less imaginative and creative
Unfinished work adds stress to your life, as your mind turns it over again and again obsessively trying to figure out how to do it, while in fact not doing it (since, you know, you’ll actually do it later), which means the mind is dwelling mostly in conjecture... where no real answers lie, and no real solution to its concerns are found, so the dwelling never stops
Unfinished work can pile up, leading to situations where you feel overwhelmed, angry at having put yourself in the situation, and panicked or desperate
Essentially, it’s been my finding that the more things you have hanging over your head, the worse your performance becomes at anything... so, it’s best to keep your plate as clear as you possibly can, at all times.
When I was in school, one of the ways I would free up my time later was to start in on homework the moment it was assigned. If an instructor gave it at the beginning of class – great! I’d start jamming on it then and there and finish it before class was over. While other kids were zoning out or chitchatting with each other, only to complain the next day about what a pain it was that they’d had to sit there for hours the night before finishing all their homework, I’d spent a fraction of that time on it, or none, at night, because I’d done it all in class.
Even if the teacher handed out homework at the end of class... well,
I could always just doing it during the next class. I hated getting
homework at the end of class in the last
class of the day, because that
meant I wasn’t going to be able to finish all my homework before the
school day was over, which’d mean I’d be doing it at home – something I
tried to avoid at all costs. I preferred going home with empty hands
and an empty backpack (or briefcase, in high school).
I compressed studying into school time by relentlessly participating. I had my thinking cap always on, as discussed in the article about learning empathy (that’s really about learning to think critically, too), and I’d be raising my hand and answering constantly throughout class. This had the added benefit of keeping the teachers at bay from asking me to stop working on math homework in science class, for instance, which they frequently did with other students when they noticed it happening, since it was pretty hard to criticize the kid who seemed to be paying more attention and working harder to keep the answers coming than anyone else.
Studying I did little of, since I both took notes and answered
questions all throughout class, and because I did my homework during
the day while in class, where I couldn’t really do anything else
anyway, I was far more focused on it than I was the few times I’d do it
at night, at which point I’d be constantly fighting distraction and
temptation and could never be half
as focused on getting the work done (and it’d always take me three or
four times as long to do compared to work I did mid-class). The end
result was that I retained a lot more of the lessons from every class,
and did better on my exams than most students, while studying far less
than most students, too.
I was a little concerned that these same strategies wouldn’t work as well in university or out in jobs in the “real world” but, nope, they worked just fine there too. The only thing I wasn’t able to do in class in university was write papers, which I’d usually end up putting off until the last minute, then cramming to get done in a single night. Occasionally, I found myself writing papers an hour before they were due (or less). The only thing that saved me there was that I’d always loved words, and had read excessively since I was young and had been writing since I was a small child, so my papers were always at least reasonably good... and some of the time, something I’d cranked out in a hurried rush would be held up by the teacher as the best paper in class.
But even that’s not coincidence – my most praised pieces on this
website are not the epic essays I have written over the course of
several sessions, but the emotion-driven pieces I’ve belted out in a
single, rapidly typed outpouring of words, like “Can’t
Stop Thinking About Her”, “Why Cold Approach Works”, and “How to Get Girls.” Again, here,
a little focused, compressed work with minimal editing done to it after
runs circles so much of the time around the painstakingly
pieced-together articles that cover all the details but lack the soul
something done in a single sitting.
In jobs, I was a relentless optimizer: how do I do the same job I’m doing now in a
mere fraction of the time? As a salesman, I figured out how to
compress a selling process that took me 10 or 15 minutes when I was a
greenhorn into one that took me 1 or 2 or 3 minutes (which helped out
immensely during crushes when throngs of customers all decided to come
get their service done at exactly the same time). As a business
figure out that much of the work most people were doing manually and
taking hours on hours to do I could do in 5 minutes with Microsoft
Excel. Less computer-savvy superiors were consistently amazed at what
most of my fellow tech-savvy peers would probably consider pretty basic
stuff – but even many of my peers seemed not to take these shortcuts,
either because they weren’t thinking that way, or perhaps because they
didn’t want to finish their work too quickly, look not-busy, and lose
their jobs in a round of layoffs like I did. Appearance is everything
in the corporate world.
Even with things like weight-lifting or socializing, the constant question on my mind was, “How can I make this go faster?”:
How can I put on more muscle in a minimal amount of time (without steroids)?
How can I identify and pick up pretty girls who like me in a minimal amount of time?
How can I figure out if a girl will make a good girlfriend in a minimal amount of time?
How can I deal with drama from girlfriends in a minimal amount of time (without just putting off dealing with the problem, leaving it hanging over both our heads)?
How can I do all my socializing and retain and even build ties with key people without having to spend huge amounts of time (like most people do) mired in social circle activities?
I look incessantly to find ways to get multiple things done at once (like homework during class, or using deep diving to build rapport, build a sexual vibe, and screen girls all at once); to find a faster process (like building spreadsheets to sort or calculate lots of data at once, or building processes that allow me to get girls in bed fast with minimal hassle); or find the optimal mix for something (like the right mix of exercises to allow me to put on more muscle with less time in the gym, or the right qualities to look for in a girlfriend to ensure I have the smoothest, most constructive, least distracting relationship possible).
And this allows me to do much more with my time, and enjoy a much freer, less stressed, and more creative mind, than most people I encounter because of it.
The other side of compressing work is cutting work; that is, getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t add much value to your life, while sucking up time, energy, willpower, and motivation.
In school, that was time spent outside of school on school stuff. I cut most of my homework out by doing it during the day; I cut most of my time spent studying by finding multiple ways to experience the material in class (extensive note-taking; lots of participation; doing homework from a class right away after that class, which boosted retention of information just covered by putting it immediately into use).
At work, that was by building more efficient tools to do most of the heavy lifting for me instead of me having to do it manually, or by benchmarking and drawing from other sources when needing to write a white paper on something that’d already been covered by other people (no need to reinvent the wheel), or by comparing notes with colleagues and realizing there were some things I disliked doing or found time consuming that they’d be happy to do, while I could take things off of their plates that were going to take them forever but I could breeze through.
In seduction, that was by shifting the focus from reactions (girls excited, laughing, flirting, etc.) over to results (girls complying, accompanying you, going home with you, etc.), immediately cutting out most of the women that most guys boast about “liking” them, to zero in exclusively on those women who actually wanted to go to bed with me.
To be a good cutter, you must be very aware of where the majority of your time is going. You need to be able to say, “You know, I spend a LOT of time just treading water doing X,” and then to be able to say, “How can I still get Y result while spending little or NO time doing X?”
An example of this: let’s say you have a two-hour commute to work each way, in the morning and in the evening. That might sound excessive, but when I worked in Washington, D.C. I met people for whom that’d been their lives for over a decade. When I’d ask them why they didn’t do anything about it, they’d shrug and say they hardly even noticed. But for me, this kind of thing would drive me nuts (and, in fact, the couple of times I have had hour plus commutes, it has – fortunately, I always managed to end this setup after a couple of months maximum).
The steps for resolving this time sink are simple:
Notice the problem: “Man, I never have enough time... hey, wait; don’t I spend four hours every day driving to work and driving back? That’s half a work day!” It’s easy for time sinks to be completely invisible to you until you really stop and identify them – you just don’t even notice where all your time is going.
Imagine cutting it: “If I didn’t have this commute – let’s say I only had a five minute commute on foot each way – how would my life change? Well, I could get up at 7 o’clock in the morning, instead of 5 o’clock, and I’d be home at 6 o’clock at night instead of 8 o’clock. Holy crap, that’d be like living an entirely different life!” Even once you recognize a time sink, it lacks much emotional thrust until you take a moment to realize what your life would be like without that time sink – and then, suddenly, it becomes quite clear how much you need to get rid of the thing.
Think through the options: “Well, how do I get rid of this damn commute? Let’s see... I could change projects to something close to home, and be down to a 20 minute commute instead of a 120 minute one each way. Or, I could move to an apartment right next to work, and really get that 5-minute commute. Or, I could talk to Boss about working some days from home, since I have such a ridiculous commute, and maybe work Tuesday and Thursday from home and have zero commute on those days. Or, I could start riding the metro, which’d cut my time sitting in traffic and make my commute about an hour each way, instead of two. Or, I could change jobs and find something closer to where I live, or maybe even in an entirely different town that doesn’t have crazy traffic like this, and just move there instead.” Until you think through the options, it’s easy to feel trapped in a time sink situation, which is a really bad feeling... but once you think through the options, you realize the only thing that’s been trapping you in place is your own inertia.
Pick an option and do it: “All right – I’m going to start riding the metro to work to save two hours a day right away off the bat. Meantime, I’ll ask Boss for a new project closer to home – and if that doesn’t pan out, it’s either time to move close to work, or take a new job.” Once you’ve chosen a path, all that’s left is doing it – a very crucial step. You must take action here, unless you’re content to float along on the river of life like most people are. But then you’re strictly at the mercy of the currents, which don’t especially care about your wants, hopes, preferences, or dreams.
You can do this with everything
that’s a time sink, and clear it out. Sometimes this is something minor
that pays big dividends – hiring Genaro to handle customer service for
Girls Chase is an example of something that seems like not such a huge
step, but really made a giant difference for me – instead of drowning
in email and burning myself out, I was able to devote more time to the
business itself and let someone who is a professional take care of that
side of things.
Sometimes it’s something major that you don’t want to do but have to
do – shutting down one of my previous businesses that I was heavily
invested in and had taken a large monetary loss on was one of these; I
and the other partners then all thought it was a fantastic idea, we had
great employees, and beautiful sales tech and creative. Everyone who
saw our business thought it was destined for great things. But we were
out of funds, out of time, and I was at a place where if I put any
further time or money into it and it didn’t pan out almost immediately,
it would’ve ruined me. I had to get out, toss that dream, and fire
everyone in the office. But once it was over, I got my life back, had
lost a major time and money sink, and was able to refocus on other
businesses, including this one.
Cutting isn’t always easy to do when you do it, and the things you need to cut usually are vague and poorly defined until you sit down and run through this process. But, because all of us take on more than we should at times, or have other things grow and expand into much larger parts of our lives than we originally intended them to, regularly stopping and assessing where most of your time is and figuring out what your life would be like without that thing is an extremely useful exercise to employ – and an extremely necessary one, if you want more time to do more things.
Freeing up more of your time is just part of time management, though. How you use that time that you’ve now got is the other.
After I left the corporate world, I realized I was completely undisciplined at managing an entire free day. A workday? Sure – get up, go to work, hit the gym after, have dinner, hit the bar or the club to meet some girls or hang out with a girlfriend. Pretty simple.
A free day? Lounge around, promising myself I’d do something that day, then... whoa, it’s 10 o’clock at night? What did I just do all day? I can’t even remember now! I thought I read like two articles on the Internet or something?
It took me a full year after leaving corporate America before I’d become efficient at managing an entire day of time, where you were responsible for your own production and no one was around to push you. At first, it’s liberating to have no real constraints on your time... but eventually, you start getting mad at yourself for being a loafer, and then it’s time to figure out that whole “productivity” thing.
Get ‘Er Done
Until leaving the working world, I was still something of a big-time procrastinator. If it didn’t fit into my regular schedule of things to get done, I tended to put it off forever and not want to deal with it. I had a $10 hospital bill following a car accident I was in (some wild-driving yahoo ran me off the road and into a concrete wall – ironically, she was a paralegal, so you’d have think she’d have known better) that almost went to collections because I took so long to pay it, since I had to manually write a check and send it in as they required I submit a form along with it and couldn’t just send an online banking check as I normally would, and I just couldn’t be bothered to do this.
Stuff like this I term “grunt work” or “maintenance work” – it’s stuff that there isn’t an efficient way to do (or if there is, you can’t figure out a way to do it), and you really don’t want to put too much time into doing it, because if you let people, they will pile your plate sky high with needless grunt work. So, sometimes there’s merit in putting off grunt work, if the people assigning it to you get annoyed and ask someone else to do it instead. But other times, you’ve just got to do it.
What I found was that once I was free from the workforce, I suddenly had an amazing new asset I could use to get done all kinds of things that previously I’d dawdle on or put off: the morning.
In the morning, I was fresh; I wasn’t worn down or tired out from a
day spent doing whatever else it was I might do; and, generally, I was
ready to go. I used to tell people I worked best at night, but I tended
to be thinking of deadline work on college papers that I was rushing to
do adrenaline-fueled late at night; when I compared real performance
over a span of months while working for myself, I consistently found
that I could finish work a lot faster and a lot higher quality in the
morning. At night, I was just too easily distracted, unfocused, and
tired, and things that would take me an hour in the morning took me 3
or 4 at night.
Now, I am not a morning
person; I am a very late-at-night, stay-up-until-the-crack-of-dawn
person, with a schedule that tends to be all over the place – I may
wake up anywhere from 7 AM to 2 PM depending on day, week, and what my
schedule’s been like of late. According
to the research, this makes me less likely to have gotten good
grades in school, gone to a good school, or held a good job out of
school. In reality, I was consistently in the top 10% of students,
often higher; went to a good-enough school in the Big 10; and had a
decent job after school at a high prestige firm. But a lot of that I
credit to having a good approach to learning that took most of the
burden off of me and kept me fresh, even with an irregular schedule.
Regardless, at the same time that I found that putting work in first thing in the morning made me more effective, I also noticed that the days when I did a lot of little random grunt work and maintenance work in the morning, I didn’t get a whole lot done besides those things. That’s a problem, because the grunt work never stops coming: bills, email, phone calls, and general miscellany that you have to deal with but will never “finish.” And if you let the minutiae consume you, you will never get any real work done instead.
Maintenance Work vs. Real Work
How much time do you spend handling email? Phone calls? Instant messaging, or messaging on social media, whether with coworkers, employees, or just friends?
How much of this do you count as “work”?
Most people I meet include this stuff as “work”. This is not work to me... it is a necessary evil to finish in order to get to the work.
No business empire has been built on the back of answering emails. Answering emails is like sweeping the shop floor, making a fresh pot of coffee, replacing a burned out light bulb, or fixing a hole in the roof – necessary to do, perhaps, to keep things from falling apart around your ears, but not something that brings in more money, more customers, or grows the business.
Email is maintenance.
It’s too easy for most people to get caught up in thinking they’ve
had a productive day when they’ve done nothing that actually moves
their projects or businesses closer toward completion. Email, phone
calls, IM – all of that is talking.
And talking is very different from doing.
Unless you have a full team of employees beneath you, and are free to
do nothing but dictate to others what to do, and chances are even then,
you need to spend your most productive time doing, not telling or asking.
When I realized I was sinking more and more time into email, and that it was making me less and less productive, what I did was to withdraw much of the time I was spending on maintenance, and put it toward real, productive work instead. I took to answering email a couple of days a week, and then only after I’d completed at least one big piece of production for the day.
This ensured that even if I got caught up in responding to emails, or there were fires to put out, or what have you, and the rest of the day went into taking care of email emergencies, at least I’d still churned out something earlier in the day so it wasn’t a complete maintenance black hole.
My strategy for scheduling work now is as follows:
- Hard, productive work in the morning
- Followed by maintenance work in the afternoon or evening
- Relaxation time comes after this, or mixed in with maintenance
That’s because, at least for me, I’ve found, it’s very easy to shift from high focus work into low focus work, but very hard to shift back. When you wake up in the morning and you’re fresh and energized, it’s easy to sit down and work on something that requires a lot of focus and thought.
But once you’ve broken that pattern, and have sift through emails, or taken some time to unwind by surfing the web or playing some little Flash game, well... good luck trying to get back into super productive mode again. You probably won’t succeed.
The Ultimate Time Management Tool
A while back, I tried building a schedule that would take up the
whole day, 6 days a week, with a day off. It made me quite productive
for a while, but after a month or so I just stopped sticking to it.
That’s happened other times to me with schedules before, too.
After that, I just ditched schedules as unrealistic for me. Maybe for someone with a very structured work life, a schedule may be practical, but when you’re running a startup business while juggling an unconventional lifestyle, it’s just not realistic.
But one day last summer, when I was lagging in my ability to get things done, I stumbled upon a very simple, but very effective tool for managing my time and getting a lot more done than I was previously.
This was a to-do list, but one with a few little quirks that made it work so much better than everything else I’ve tried it was silly.
I’ve tried tools like:
... and abandoned them all quite quickly as overly complicated for what I need. I need simple, and these aren’t it. They’re too complicated.
The result of my newer, simpler system was that projects that used to take me 6 weeks I could suddenly complete in 2, and I was back on track and have stayed on track with almost everything I do for the past half year. I’ve given this to friends and they’ve reported that their productivity is also through the roof. Because it’s simple to do, the risk of abandonment goes down, and because you will structure it so that it is addicting to do, you’ll tend to stick with it. Here’s all I do:
I created a plain text notepad file on my desktop titled “To Do Today.” In this file there is nothing but a blank page and a series of bullet points listing things I will complete today. As I complete them, I gray them out, and grab something else on the list
The aim of this list is not to write down every single thing that I have to do for the next month or year or whatever, and try to cross things off. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s just demoralizing to look at some super long list of items that I SHOULD be doing, but just haven’t done yet. It makes me feel unproductive, and then I become unproductive. So, instead, only items that you will do TODAY go on the list – not items you’ll do tomorrow, or next week; today only
When you make this list, you must strive to make it totally realistic and completable for the day. Why? Because you want to experience the satisfaction of a completed list at day’s end. You want to look at your list and say, “I did every single thing on that list. Damn, I’m good!” and then enjoy the rest of your day relaxing or studying or whatever else you plan to do with a completely clear conscience. If you find yourself ending workdays without completing your list, you’re putting too much on it; put less on the next day, or break things down into more manageable chunks (instead of saying, “Write new 30-page eBook”, say, “Write first 10 pages of new 30-page eBook”)
The next morning, completely clear the file – nothing gets left over from the previous day. Don’t copy uncompleted tasks; just erase them. Each day is a completely fresh start. Even if you’re going to write the same things again, actually write them out; don’t copy and paste. This way, you are ACTUALLY PLANNING the day, and not just mindlessly pasting in a bunch of action items that maybe aren’t so relevant to how you want to spend your day
What are the benefits of a to-do list like this? Plenty:
By writing a 100% fresh list every morning, you’re taking a few minutes to sit down and actually plan out what you will do that day – something most people never do. This gives your day a tremendous amount of clarity, and also steers you away from getting sucked into time-wasting ideas and brainless maintenance tasks too early in the day
By clearly breaking out tasks into specific, discrete chunks, you make work a lot more manageable and a lot less stressful. That 20-page report you have to write becomes “Write first 5 pages of report today”, which feels a lot more doable than “Write a 20-page report today”
By planning out your day properly with tasks you want to complete, you’re able to prioritize by most focus-requiring activities, and knock those off the list first. If I know I’ll be writing an article for Girls Chase, working on building a new product or sales copy for the site, and clearing email, for instance, I’ll do product/sales copy work first, since that’s the hardest, then write an article, then handle email last, since it’s the easiest task. Without figuring out what I need to do first though, I might very well say, “Hmm, what should I do first? Well, let’s see what’s in my inbox and go from there,” and instead of self-directing my day, I’ve just put my schedule at the whim of whoever’s decided to drop me an email praising me, cursing at me, or asking me for my help or my attention. Not a good way to run your life
By completely clearing your list every day, you prevent “list fatigue” from having items pile up, and every new day is a fresh new day, with the hope of banging out every item on your to-do list
By writing your list in such a way that completing all items is achievable, you get a very noticeable testosterone boost at the end of the day (something we discussed in the article on the winner effect), when you check the last item off, which not only makes you more productive and in better spirits the following day, but just makes you feel like a champ all around – it’s a nice feeling
This is the only time management tool I’ve ever stuck with more than a month or so. And it’s also the one that’s had by far the largest impact on my ability to get lots of stuff done in limited amounts of time.
I go through periods where I am super productive, getting a lot done, going out all the time, socializing with lots of people, and am a literal output machine. And I go through lulls where getting work done is a struggle and I’m much more inclined to just be a slug and lie around and let the day tick by. In both of these cases, the to-do list has made me better; it steers my energy during the productive times and channels it into all the right places, and it provides an added kick during the lulls and gets me to at least get something done.
Lastly, having a to-do list gets you focused on finishing things, which is an under-appreciated skill/habit, and one that’s absolutely mission critical if you’re in charge of your own time. It’s easy to leave things 90% done or 95% done, but when you do this, you rob yourself of the benefits they’d provide for yourself and your business if complete, and you rob yourself of the big psychic victory of actually completing something you’ve slaved away on. A to-do list makes reaching completion that much easier, because you just keep chipping away at a project until it’s done.
And, if you’re having trouble finishing it, you can even clear everything else off your list, and leave nothing on but that thing. None of your daily tasks, no email, no admin, no nothing until the damn thing is done.
You’d be surprised how fast things that were taking forever get done when you can’t bloody check email until they’re completed.
The Breakfast Hack
Here’s another major time management hack I stumbled upon that was great for me when doing it and that friends who’ve tried it have reported back almost ecstatic about how productive it made them. I use this in running my own business, of course, but if you’re creative you can probably find ways to make it work with work, school, or almost anything else.
After I’d just changed continents once, I found myself dead tired by 10 PM at night and wide awake at 5:30 or 6 AM in the morning. This happens to me pretty reliably whenever I change continents traveling West, and it’s one of the few times I get to experience what it’s like being a morning person. I try to go to bed as soon as I’m tired when this happens to prolong the spell as long as possible; though gradually, I get to bed later and later, and get up later and later. But usually I can stretch it out for a few months if I’m disciplined about not staying up when tired.
Anyway, waking up at 6 AM and not really hungry, I decided to try a new scheduling trick: finish one major piece of production before breakfast. No checking email. No surfing the web. No eating anything. No consumption of any sort, mental or physical. No nothing but morning meditation, then sitting down and producing.
It’s always a long day when you wake up early, and if you have breakfast too soon, you’ll end up starving by lunch. So this works pretty well for me when I do it in terms of not getting too hungry later in the day too.
Typically, by 9 AM or 9:30, you’ve churned out a LOT of very valuable stuff on whatever project you need to get work in on, and then you can go relax, enjoy breakfast, and know that eating breakfast you’ve already gotten more real work done than most days you’d work all day with distractions.
Then after breakfast, you go crank out another piece of productive work, or you answer email if you absolutely HAVE TO answer it in the morning (but do you? Really?); otherwise, sometime after lunch you answer email and do maintenance work.
Usually with early days like this, you’re burned out from productive work by lunchtime, so it’s important to get your solid work in early in those first 5 or 6 hours of the day. Then you can do maintenance after.
Another tip here is taking a nap; many of the studies I’ve read on top performers state that they do much of their practice or performance early in the morning, then nap, then have another bout in the afternoon.
I’ve also seen research showing that office workers are more productive following an after-lunch nap than office workers who stay awake the whole time and soldier through their sleepiness. So if you can swing a nap, this might be useful. 40 minutes is the ideal time for a nap, so set a timer to go off 40 minutes after you zonk out if you want to get enough sleep that you’re refreshed, but not so much that you now want another 3 hours of sleep. When I was working in an office, I used to often grab a 40-minute nap in my car after lunch if I was feeling sleepy, and that would leave me very alert and productive the rest of the day – a time I’d usually be struggling to keep my eyes during open otherwise.
But the main hack here – if you’re an early riser, or can get up early, try putting off breakfast for a few hours and getting a big piece of focused work in prior to your first meal. It really makes you a lot more productive, and really gets your day off on the right foot.
Sleep When You Need It
In the United States in 2012, a third of the country’s workforce – or, 40 million people – reported getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night (that’s up from 10% reporting this in 2009). According to the research on sleep, that means they’re seriously stressing themselves out, opening themselves up to cancer, accelerating their aging processes, crippling their abilities to learn and remember, and driving about as well as the average drunk driver.
I’ve had a few periods in my life when I slept poorly like this – usually when holding an office job (because I am a night owl, and I’m partial to nightlife, office jobs frequently meant getting to sleep around 1 to 4 AM, and waking up at 7 or 7:30 AM) – but the rest of the time, scheduling my day around sleep has been a priority. I’d recommend you do the same as well.
In Talent is Overrated,
Geoff Colvin discusses some of the (many) differences between top
performers and average performers. One of the differences,
interestingly enough, is that top performers get plenty of sleep, while
average performers do not. Sleep, if you don’t already know, is when
the brain rejuvenates itself, but
also when the brain organizes what it’s learned and stores it into
long-term memory. Sleep is crucial for performing efficiently
and effectively, for retaining skills and information that you learn,
and for not feeling fatigued, stressed, or depressed (though you can feel
these things with enough sleep, they’re exacerbated without it).
I don’t care how well you manage your time; if you’re under-sleeping, your productivity is a lot lower than it could be, were you doing the same things and approaching the same problems you are now with a fresh mind. I’ve gone through periods where I slept 4 hours a night, and after you acclimate it feels like you’re operating fine, but let me tell you – after you crash and get a full night’s sleep, the next day after this it feels like the world is crystal clear – your mind is running so much faster, everything is clicking for you, and even the colors of the world seem brighter and the sounds crisper and less muffled. The human body needs sleep – we all go through phases where we think we’re super men, but the real super men are the ones who are getting enough sleep to perform at the peak of what they’re capable of, not the ones who manage to perform at 70% so long that they forget what 100% feels like.
Enjoying Your Downtime
When you make real time management a top priority, enjoying your
a heck of a lot easier, not in the least because you know you’re doing a better job when you’re working, and because you’ve got a clearer conscience when you’re not.
You will, you’ll find, also tend to have substantially more free time with good time management than without.
With poor / no time management, tasks end up filling up your entire day because you’re scattered in how you go about doing them. With good time management, you bang out one task after another, and move onto the next thing. Your work life moves from being an Easter egg hunt to being an assembly line; rather than looking for wins, you mint them.
And all that means that you finish up early, while also getting far more done than those around you less concerned with freeing up their time without sacrificing production quality.
That makes free time a lot more free for you than it is for most of the people around you... so, enjoy it! And enjoy being able to put your feet up in the air and smile when everyone around you tells you how busy they are, and how full their schedules are, despite the fact that they get done only a fraction of what you do.
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