Time Management for (actually) Achieving Your Goals
Do you feel like kind of *meh* — like you’re really busy, but not sure where it’s getting you?
We can fix that — it just takes a bit of introspection to determine what your goals are and how you can align your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual schedule accordingly.
How can time management help you achieve your goals?
It helps you get more of the work that matters to you done in the most efficient manner possible. It entails utilizing resources and setting priorities, with a little bit of trial and error to determine what works best for you.
STEP 1: Determine what fulfills you
What’s that got to do with managing my time? It’s going to set the base for what you’re going to eliminate, and therefore provide more time to dedicate to what matters.
Eliminate? Yes, you’re going to sacrifice some things: short-term satisfactions that don’t contribute value to your life overall. They are the things that, if you cut out, would generally actually improve your wellness by not being a part of your life.
Nobody looks back on life and wishes he/she spent more time watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram — our happiness is directly related to the depths of our relationships, the quantity of our experiences, and the heights of the goals we’ve reached. If it doesn’t serve your highest good, you don’t need it.
Stress and burnout are the inevitable result of letting time run you, instead of you running it. Time is running you when it’s sucking you into the black hole of Instagram; you’re running time when you choose to put your phone on DND in order to work on your passion project.
Time is running you when it’s asking you to “watch next episode” on your TV at night, keeping you up and therefore groggy in the morning; you’re running time when you limit yourself to one episode and call it a night at a reasonable hour, so you’re wide awake and ready to start the morning productively as soon as you open your eyes.
Time is running you when you think happy hour is calling your name;you’re running time (and saving money) when you use that time to take a walk or exercise instead.
STEP 2: Set your high-level schedule
A Harvard study’s results have suggested that CEOs with their agendas scheduled 3 to 6 months in advance are more effective than those that don’t plan as proactively.
So… what’s high level? These are things like project deadlines (example: a course final project rough draft would be one deadline, the final would be a secondary deadline), financial goals (example: save $1000 within 6 months for a trip somewhere), personal goals (example: lose a certain amount of weight; start to attend a class or event once weekly, planning a wedding, et cetera)
STEP 3: Set your low-level schedule AKA your day-to-day agenda
You want to set yourself up for success daily, so that the small successes compound over time. A productive day leading to another productive dayleads into a productive week, which becomes a productive month, which becomes a productive quarter… you get the idea.
Jerry Seinfeld touches on this with his “don’t break the chain” life hack — he marks everyday out with a big X on a visible calendar, which incentivizes him not to “break the chain” of x’s as they compound — more on that here.
You want to be proactive, not reactive. This isn’t about monitoring every minute of your day like a cop watching someone on house arrest, but rather to have a guideline of day-to-day activities so that when something arises, you’ll measure it against your goals (the ones you established above) to determine if what’s arisen is something that aligns with the purpose or goal you’re trying to achieve, or if you can kindly say no.
Be stubborn about the outcome, but flexible about the methods. It’s not the end of the world if you thought you’d finish a book this week, but it needs to be pushed off until next week. But it does start to get problematic if you find that you’re not able to get to the things you want to get to — does that book get pushed off indefinitely? If so, why? Is it for things that align with your goals (such as perhaps a professor recommended a different book)? Or is it for things that don’t really fit the bill (such as a new show on Netflix)?
STEP 4: Test out what’s blocking you.
The easiest way to see what’s causing the time-crunch issues you’re experiencing is to spend a week or two determine where exactly your time is going (you know, figuring out what’s right by determining what’s wrong).
TRY THIS EXERCISE:
FIRST: Create a detailed list of everything you do daily, for approximately 1 week.
Don’t rely on memory — keep a notepad with you for an entire week and write down every single thing you’re doing — you can get as detailed as bathroom breaks (but you don’t have to, just saying).
After 1 week of doing this, you might already recognize where you’re wasting time or where you can clear out some time to focus on your goals or deadlines.
NEXT: take 3 different color pens or highlighters and go through the week:
- Color 1: the things that are contributing to your goals/high-level scheduled items
- Color 2: your basic needs (sleep, food)
- Color 3: the unnecessary stuff
Evaluate how much of color 3 you see.
The goal of this isn’t to take away all joy from your life — in fact, quite the opposite. This activity is meant to show you the amount of time you have in your schedule that could be contributing to meaningful, fulfilling activities that will generate happiness for you.
LAST: set up your ideal schedule for the following week, perhaps swapping out Color 3 items with Color 1’s and 2’s. Keep it up for 30 days — as Seinfeld would say, “don’t break the chain” — you may just see your productivity skyrocket!