- The Sunday Starter
- The Evaporating Time Trick
The Evaporating Time Trick
Why we can never get anything completed
Welcome to The Sunday Starter, a weekly email of tools and techniques, that will help navigate the journey to just get started and keep moving forward.
That’s the number of minutes in a day. Every day.
We sleep. We eat. We shower. We “snooze”. We scroll. We watch. We react.
Before we know it the minutes start evaporating away without doing much of anything productive.
Despite our priorities, we continue to “put fires out” all day long.
→ So how can we ensure that we had a productive day?
When we learn how to manage our time and build routines to make it repeatable we become more prepared for the day ahead.
It eliminates stress and anxiety.
It sets us up for success.
It balances us.
But, before we can learn to manage it we must understand why it happens.
We have all tried to manage our time and have failed spectacularly.
We’ve created to-do lists and tried to “hyper-focus” but inevitably we keep stubbing our toe.
Why? Well, a lot of reasons we can all relate to.
Procrastination: Procrastination is a significant obstacle to effective time management. We delay tasks or prioritize less important activities, leading to a time crunch later on.
Lack of prioritization: Without clear priorities, it becomes challenging to allocate time appropriately. We get caught up in low-value tasks or get overwhelmed by the number of tasks on our plate, resulting in a lack of focus and efficient time allocation.
Poor planning: Insufficient or inadequate planning can make it difficult to manage time effectively. Without a clear roadmap or schedule, we may find ourselves wasting time on unnecessary activities or struggling to meet deadlines.
Underestimating task duration: It's common for us to underestimate how long a task will take to complete. This can lead to overcommitment and a sense of being overwhelmed when tasks take longer than anticipated.
Distractions: Technology and constant connectivity can be major distractions. Social media, email notifications, and other interruptions can disrupt concentration and divert attention away from important tasks.
Lack of self-discipline: Effective time management requires self-discipline and the ability to stick to schedules and priorities. Some of us struggle with self-discipline, finding it difficult to resist temptations or maintain focus on the task at hand.
Unrealistic expectations: Setting unrealistic expectations for what can be accomplished within a given timeframe can lead to frustration and poor time management. It's important to be realistic about what can be achieved and to allocate time accordingly.
Overcommitment: Taking on too many responsibilities or agreeing to too many commitments can result in a time crunch. It's important to learn to say no when necessary and to ensure that the workload remains manageable.
→ Which ones are constantly at play in your life?
Most of these will come to fruition at one point or another but having the awareness that they will happen is often the first step to improving and/or eliminating them.
Although we can’t solve all of this today, if we can build guardrails around our time with effective time management practices that will help us get started in the right direction and be mindful of where our time is going.
Let’s look at a few techniques that you can adopt immediately to take back control of your time.
Although there are countless techniques to manage our time better, I’ve chosen to focus on 5 specific ones that have helped me protect my time and become more thoughtful about priority assignments.
These can be taken as it or altered to fit your life. That’s the point with all of this anyways. Nothing is going to work until you commit to trying it and assessing whether it’s beneficial for how you like to work and what fits into your specific lifestyle.
»»» Time-Boxing »»»
This is the act of becoming focused on a task for a longer period of time… “For the next 2 hours, I’ll focus on…”
If you ask Nir Eyal, Author of “Indistractable”, he believes “Time Boxing” is the most useful tool to manage your time and it’s been used by some of the most successful people of our time including comedy icon, Jerry Seinfeld.
Seinfeld is notorious for creating a writing block for at least 1-hour a day, every day. In his time-boxed writing session, his only rule is, “You don’t have to write, you just can’t do anything else”.
Here’s a sample of how this might look on your calendar:
Why this works:
We are notoriously bad at keeping track of what we have to get done and when we are going to get it done. By putting it on the calendar we hold ourselves accountable. It allows us to be more realistic about the time available and relieves the stress of feeling like we have to get it all done at once.
Block out the time, stick with it, and watch how accomplished and fulfilled you feel as the weeks go on.
»»» Today / To-Do »»»
The research overwhelmingly proves that “to-do” lists don’t work because there is rarely a time commitment put to them and they often are “not important” tasks (going back to the Eisenhower Matrix from last week’s newsletter).
I’ve created “MITs” (Most Important Tasks) lists for many years but recently read how Amanda Goetz schedules her time and I like this method even more (thanks, Amanda!). I’ve adapted it to work for me but the same concept applies.
What you want to do is pick 1-2 important items to work on tomorrow and put them in the “Today” column.
Then, all other “to-do” list items go in the “To-Do” column. There will be a time and place to focus on those and you can build time into your calendar to pump out these types of tasks or maybe not do them at all!
Don’t put those ahead of the important stuff! Here’s how it might look.
Write Newsletter Issue
Edit Podcast Episode
Update website biography
Look through Canva for templates
Research testimonial software
Cleanup Youtube video descriptions
Reply to Podcast guest requests
Why this works: We can overwhelm ourselves with many “Not Important/Not Urgent” tasks so cornering in on just 1-2 important things per day helps us remain super focused. Pair this with Time Boxing or the Pomodoro Technique below and you can have a great “1-2 punch” to knock these out each day.
»»» Pomodoro Technique »»»
The Pomodoro Technique helps individuals improve their productivity and focus. Working in short “bursts” can help you remain focused while knowing there is a small “reward” on the other end.
This method can work best in (4) 25-minute blocks with a 5-minute break after each. Then, after the 4 blocks are completed you take an extended break of 15-20 minutes minimum.
However, start with one block of 25 minutes and see how it works for you.
Here’s how you do it:
Set a timer: Choose a task you want to work on and set a timer for 25 minutes.
Work without distractions: Focus solely on the chosen task. Avoid any distractions such as emails, social media, or phone calls.
Take a short break: Once the timer goes off, take a short break of around 5 minutes. Use this time to relax, stretch, or do something enjoyable.
Repeat and track: After the break, start another timer for another 25 minutes and continue working on the task. Repeat this cycle of working for 25 minutes and taking short breaks.
Long break: After completing four 25-minute work intervals, take a more extended break of around 15-30 minutes. Use this break to recharge, engage in a different activity, or simply relax.
Why It Works:
The Pomodoro Technique helps break tasks into manageable intervals, enhancing focus, preventing burnout, and maintaining productivity. By incorporating regular breaks, it allows for mental rest and rejuvenation, which can improve overall efficiency and concentration.
»»» Day Theming »»»
Instead of switching from tasks that are unrelated, focus on one major theme per day. This is the essence behind “Day theming”.
For instance, if you started a Podcast, Mondays might be used for Guest outreach or planning future episodes. Tuesdays might be for editing, and so on. By “theming” your day you can focus even more intently on specific areas of your business or project and it can allow for more creativity to flow instead of jumping from one activity to another.
It’s important to pair your theming with Time Blocking or the Pomodoro Technique to get the most out of your day.
Why this works:
Day theming can be a helpful method for organizing and managing your time, as it provides a structure to allocate specific days to tasks that require similar types of focus or energy.
However, it's important to find a balance between the structure of day theming and the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances or priorities.
»»» Project Sprints »»»
A Project sprint, similar to how a lot of agile development teams work, might be an approach you adopt if you feel like you have a project you want to focus on but have a hard time managing all the smaller steps to get to the end goal.
As Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
The tighter window we give ourselves to complete a project the more focus we will put into it and often meet or exceed that timeline. Just because we give ourselves more time doesn’t mean we necessarily need it.
We need to be careful that our project timelines aren’t dragging out unintentionally solely because we think the project should take longer.
Being cognizant of your schedule and all the potential obstacles can help you build sprints that are realistic for you.
Example: As a single dad, I have my son every other week so my schedule one week differs from the next. However, there is some pattern to it, so using 2-week “sprints” allows me to take a longer view of my schedule and shift priorities accordingly. I will typically put in heavy work during the weeks I don’t have my son and limit the pressure I put on myself to complete work when I do. (I pair this with a mix of “day theming” and “time boxing” to get the most use out of it.)
Why this works:
If you’re someone that has a unique schedule or wants to get a broader picture of future availability you might look to create “sprints” for your projects. This can help to cap the time commitment you’ll make and help you plan out each day to achieve a given goal.
Focus and attention help us achieve results. For bigger projects that you want to move along look toward creating “sprints” to manage the project duration.
»»» Final Thoughts »»»
These are all valuable in their own right and you may be drawn to one or another right away.
→ What is important is to try them out and see what works best for you.
You may switch it up based on the week or “season” you are in.
There is no right or wrong way but only that you have a way.
One of the major reasons people fail at managing their time is they don’t have a routine they follow. This brings chaos and uncertainty to their day right from the jump and they are always in “catch-up” mode.
Start small, protect your time, and reap the rewards of accomplishment.
Time to challenge yourself.
For the next 3 days, pick 1 important item you want to work on each day and a time block to focus on it.
Schedule your calendar right now!
This isn’t about the important task or even the length of your time block.
It’s about the commitment to the work and the accountability to yourself.
When we do what we say we are going to do, our level of accomplishment goes up which improves our mood and gives us the energy to do it again.
If you need an accountability partner, I’m here for you! Reply to this email and tell me what important task you will work on each day and when.
What’s Coming Next:
Next week, it’s a special edition of the Sunday Starter! For every 4th issue, we are going to focus on a “Starter” and glean a few lessons from their life and how we can apply those to our lives to help us get started and keep moving forward.
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