Managing Your Time Will Never Be Enough

Dan MartellClarity Blog

Fact: there are only 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week. It’s impossible to add additional hours to the day, and it definitely isn’t healthy to cut back on sleep, exercise, or personal time in order to free up more hours in the day to work.

So instead of fighting against the clock, I made the choice to make my time work for me.

Make Flow Your Friend

As someone who has ADHD, I learned a while back that I needed to change the order of my day so that I could get my work done while leveraging the changes in attention that occur throughout the day. Because of that I started doing all my paperwork in the morning, calls in the afternoon and research and reading at night. That’s when realized it wasn’t about time management but more energy management – it was about flow.

In a great piece from Zen Habits, Everett Bogue explains that “flow is a moment in time when you’re both challenged at the activity that you’re doing, and when you also have complete autonomy in the task you’re conducting.” Bogue argues that “if you’re not flowing, it’s probably because you aren’t allowing yourself to be challenged, you’re completely overwhelmed, or someone else is holding you back.”

Nowadays, instead of being held back by swings of energy and focus, I structure everything in my life in a way that allows me to tap into my peaks of productivity. This means I go to the gym in the mornings, take calls on weekend at 10AM, and get a lot of writing done when I’m flying. It’s all about the energy level and the task that’s best suited for that moment.

Be Your Own Task Master

Like I said, I have found that certain times of the day are best for completing specific kinds of tasks (if you want a full breakdown of my day, check out my comment on Mark McLeod’s blog post here).

I’ve found that by auditing my day and grouping similar tasks together, I am able to optimize energy and focus. That being said, this approach to managing my tasks in blocks of time requires me to be proactive in planning my tasks for the day and for the coming week, and always having a firm handle on what needs to get done.

Another important thing to remember is that you should not be checking your emailfirst thing in the morning. It immediately sends you spiraling into ‘reactive mode’, which often means that the really important things that require your full attention get sacrificed in favour of things that others deem ‘urgent’.

Instead, your first hours of work should be reserved for tackling your daily ‘rocks’; these are the big things that you know that you need to move forward. Choose three and get these done and out of the way before you are sucked into reactive mode by clients/coworkers/emails/calls throughout the day.

Stop Working Against Your Brain

While these productivity and life hacks that we read and share are valuable pieces of information, they need to be taken with a grain of salt. The reality is that while they might be great for the guy sitting next to you, there is no guarantee that they will make a positive impact on your life and work. Like Penelope Trunk explains, productivity and work styles are highly individual.

“Productivity looks different depending on our strengths”, Trunk explains. “Advice about productivity is only good if it relates directly to what you know about your personality type, ‘Clear your inbox’ isn’t good advice for save-the-world types (INFP). They won’t feel like they did anything. And the advice to delegate to get more done is only exhausting and draining for someone like my husband (ISTP), who likes the joy of doing things efficiently and doing them himself.”

For me, it means finding ways to accomplish something that feels easier and has out-sized results, allowing for me to spend more time on the challenging work tasks, my health, and my family. This means that:

  • I don’t do anything that I’m not uniquely qualified to do
  • I hire people that are 10x more talented than I am for a skill
  • I am focused in building a talented support network (lawyers, accountants, etc)
  • I refuse to use paper for anything unless absolutely legally required
  • I don’t run errands, clean my house, do my laundry, pick up groceries, or anything else – nor does my wife
  • I focus in 2-3 big challenges per week
  • I like to work in commute so when I can I don’t drive myself

Just like a good workout, achieving a heightened state of productivity and flow will require some effort and practice – but you should set yourself up for success by creating a routine that plays to your strengths.

There is no sense in wasting energy by fighting against something that doesn’t need to be fought. So stop battling the clock, and find your flow.

What are your productivity rituals?
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