I recently happened upon an article by the Guardian on why time management is ruining our lives. The sad thing about it is that it assumes that the point of saving time is futile. Futile because it assumes the only reason humans would want to save time is to get more done off their to-do list, which in modern times is never ending. That the to-do list is never ending is exactly the right point to make, but I believe the article draws the wrong conclusion.
Once you have more on your list at work than you can possibly do, it is either crushing or completely freeing. If there is literally no possible way to get everything done, then you have to prioritise. Are you going to be reactive, proactive, do things others want, or look after what's important to you? These are the questions that are left out.
How sad to assume that humans have no purpose other than to do tasks. That the simple recording of tasks makes them more robotic. As Kevin Rose says, “productivity is for robots,” and of course he is right too.
When I worked in one corporate job, I had the crushing, trapped feelings for months. Right up until I didn't. But it wasn't the work or the task list that changed. it was my mind-set. When I truly internalised that I could not get everything done I could start acting accordingly. I left the office no later 4.30p.m. every day, I didn't work weekends and got more done in the office and at home.
If you can’t get everything done, then why are you sat in a meeting with no agenda and never produces any actions? If you can’t get everything done then why are you reading your emails all day. You already have enough to do anyway. If something is truly urgent, you will find out some other way. If you can’t get everything done and someone will be upset whatever you choose to do, then why wouldn’t you choose to do the thing that will benefit you most?
But the whole point of any "time management" tactic, is to make time for priorities not busy work. The Guardian assumes that being more productive leads to doing more. But I have found the exact opposite to be true. Being more productive should lead to doing less. Less of the things you don't want to do and more of the things you do want to do.
The most important decision to make about productivity is when are you going to stop working? When are you leaving the office? When are you shutting down, going off the grid?
There are a million time-management tactics (and a lot of them are good). But the crux of the Guardians article is that if you have not figured out what you want to do with your life, then getting more time to do it in is obviously not the answer until you know what "it" is.
Figure out what you would already do if money was no object. And not the first thing you think of. Yeah you want to go to Vegas and get shit faced. Yes, you want to live on a tropical island but for how long, you'll get bored. Then what? That is the real answer and it may surprise you. My guess is that it will likely be philanthropic and/or you can start doing some form of it with no more money than you have now.
If you then use time management techniques to even spare an hour a day you can do a lot. Visit sick kids in hospital. Start a side project (where you will have more money to give charitably). Spend more time with loved ones.
If you don't know how to find out what you want here are 3 shortcuts:
1. Love life. If you have not found the partner of your dreams yet then start here: The Art Of Charm and Matthew Hussy
2. Wealth: Tony Robbins, Money: Master the Game, A self-help book disguised as money management. You need to know about both, so read it all and do everything it says. I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit Sethi. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki
3. Health: James Clear blog. The Wild Diet, Abel James. 4 Hour Body, Tim Ferriss
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