Time Management

Why is it that we want to do so many different things, but can never find the time?

This is a question I ask myself too often.

Since the beginning of lockdown in the UK, I have felt like I’m in a constant state of reflection, analysing what I do, what I’ve done and why.

My overhanging emotion is that I am not working towards my ultimate goal. It is as though I have put my life on standstill due to the Global Pandemic. This, when said out-loud, sounds ridiculous. Of course my situation has changed – so has everyone else’s. But I can’t quite help but feel I have not been spending my time wisely. Do you relate?

You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

So, why don’t we always make the time for things that we really want to do? This can be due to a number of reasons.

An inability to conceptualise what time we actually have:

A lot of the time, we overestimate how much time we have to complete certain tasks. For instance, I may believe that I can read a whole book, go grocery shopping, bake a cake and go for a nice long walk – all in one day!?

This is not the case. We often believe we have more time than we actually do. Not only this, but we can also be guilty of underestimating how long particular tasks take us.

As a result, we may subconsciously outline a list goals for ourselves each day, but find that we hardly ever get it all done. This may lead to feelings of failure or the belief we are not productive. However, it could just be that we have not been realistic about what we can achieve in actuality each day?

Constant failure to achieve your unrealistic daily tasks leads to overall demoralisation. We are led to feel incompetent and will ultimately lose confidence in our own abilities to succeed. This inevitably leads to demotivation.

My advice is this – be realistic about how long tasks take. Don’t overestimate your own abilities or be disheartened when you are not your most productive self. Work through your list of things to do in your own time. Organisation is key. Perhaps write a list of ‘Must Dos’ every Monday for the week ahead – adding in high priority tasks and assigning chores to particular days when the need to arises. Tick lists are also great facilitators in organisation. By physically putting a tick next to a task you have completed provides a small sense of achievement. This feeling, accumulated over a day or series of days leads to happiness and feelings of productivity.

What else do we do that leads to poor time management?

Fear of the unknown:

This is especially true when chasing our own ambitions. Much of the time, to chase our own dreams and aspirations, we must deviate from our usual daily routine. This is scary. We are subliminally doubtful this change will work or make us happy in the long run. We may find a list of excuses to justify not making the change.

It may be that you started a job after leaving University. This is a job you never thought you’d end up with or wanted – it was supposed to be a stepping stone until you landed your dream graduate role. You left University six years ago and there is not much prospect of progression. You are unhappy in this job, but don’t know which way to turn for the better.

In this situation, it is as though you are stuck in dense and muggy fog. You are stuck and to make the move seems impossible – or at least, harder than simply standing still. So, you don’t. Instead, you avoid putting in the extra hours to reach your goal and stagnate.

What we don’t see at this stage is the immense satisfaction we feel when we do jump, make the change and reach for what we truly want. The fear of the unknown scares us. It means we put off dedicating time to what matters to us and prevents us from moving towards goals we deem unreachable.

My advice is this – if you believe you can do it, go and do it. Success is a mindset. Don’t be scared of what you don’t know, be curious about it and challenge your own status quo. Manage your time wisely to make headway in your own life.

Why else do we choose to manage our time poorly?

A preoccupation with what we ought to be doing:

We can often find ourselves working our daily routine because this is what we feel we should be doing. We should get 8 hours of sleep, we should have a healthy breakfast, we should use the Tram to get to work, we should be at our desks at 8.45am and we should make small talk with our work colleagues – even if they are boring. Our monotonous routine – whatever that may look like – is something we become accustomed to.

This does not enhance our energy. It zaps us of meaningful exchanges and experiences. We have to start doing what we want in order to make us happy; otherwise, what is the point?

Sometimes, without realising, our routines have been dictated to us by someone or something else. For instance, an impossible boss who expects more from you than what your job description sets out. This means you have to work late at short notice and cancel plans with friends. Why should others’ unreasonable expectations of you dictate how you live your life, deviating from your own happiness? Don’t let masters of manipulation manage your time for you.

The bottom line – and something I have alluded to – is that we all must focus more heavily on doing things that matter to us, things that make us happy and things that align with our ultimate personal goals. Would we ever choose to spend all of our money on things we don’t like? No. (And if you do, please change that). Ultimately, we should make a conscious effort to focus our energy into the things we love. Otherwise, what is the point and how will we ever succeed in what we want to achieve?

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