In the last 100 years or so — especially with the rise of the knowledge worker — the time management industry has exploded…
Think about it this way. When we were all factory line workers (or agrarian workers before that), we didn’t really have to manage time. On the factory floor, we stood there building whatever had to be built. On the farm, we plowed the fields that needed to be plowed, and tended the animals that needed to be tended.
Then, knowledge work came around.
And it became about a whole lot more than just doing whatever task was in front of us. We not only had to do the work, we had to think about doing the work, and make a plan for doing the work. And, we still had to get the work done!
I wasn’t able to quickly find a stat for the time management industry. But the Project Management Institute, the industry organization for project managers (who help teams manage their time), pegs the expected economic output of the project management profession at $12.37 trillion globally by 2020.
Now that number is huge. Maybe it’s off. But even if it were 1/10th that — $1.2 trillion — it would still be huge. And that’s just project management. That doesn’t count all the economic impact of everyone who is implementing time management on a personal level, or who is not a professional project manager. Or all the books, courses, products, tools and more that are sold to help with Time Management.
Whether you call it time management or project management, both represent the same fundamental process. Fitting things to do into the time needed to get them done.
And while the Project Management Institute claims that it’s a growing industry, I’m seeing a new trend that threatens to kill the time management industry as we know it.
Managing time is no longer enough…
The long and the short of it is, in an exponential technology world where we’re all connected at the push of a button, it’s no longer enough to manage your time.
In fact, if all you do is try to manage your time, you’re going to keep running out of it every day, with an ever-growing list of things that you’re not getting done.
The stress will mount, and you’ll feel totally overwhelmed.
And that’s going to happen whether you get 2 or 10 productive hours into your day.
I know because I’ve been there.
But why is this happening? Because time is no longer the only thing we need to manage.
The new field of total self management…
If we don’t need to merely manage our time anymore, what all do we need to manage? Time, energy, attention, environment, workload, and state — to start.
If you really want to perform well and be at your very best, this is the new minimum required.
I’ll break down each, as well as some tips or ideas to help you consider them.
In short, you need to be in control of your time. The more control you maintain over your time, the better off you are. But the big question is “How?”
That’s what traditional time management struggles to address. So we’ll look to the other areas here.
There are two sides of energy management. The energy you have. And how you use your energy.
The energy you have. Our culture is overworked and sleep deprived. We fill ourselves with junk fuel in the form of foods that are bad for us, and we don’t take care of our bodies. This has to stop — the sooner, the better. Prioritize sleep, and good food. I’m not an advocate of a specific diet — in fact, “going on a diet” has been proven to be counterproductive in the long run. But you need to pay attention to what you put in your body, and how that impacts you in the hours and days that follow. Feed yourself what gives you good energy, in quantities that make you feel good. And as for sleep, just make sure you’re getting enough, whether you get up at 4 AM or 10 AM.
How you use your energy. We all tend to have different times of day where we have different energies, and matching our work to our energy is a great way to get more done. For example, in an energy lull, you may be able to knock off a couple customer service phone calls that were on your list, that you wouldn’t want to waste high energy time on. Find your best times to do important work, and prioritize important work during those times.
This is HUGE. Dr. Edward Hallowell, on of the world’s leading experts on ADHD, has a term he calls “screen sucking.” This is where you start off down a rabbit hole of Facebook or other sites with lots of links and infinite scroll, and 2 hours later you look up, drained of time and energy, and feel horrible about your lack of achievement.
There are all kinds of things that steal away your attention. Notifications on your phone. Notifications on your computer. Social networking. Spending too much time on menial tasks. Distractions and time wasters.
This is especially important for me, because I’ve been diagnosed with Adult ADHD. I get distracted easier than most, based on the tests used to diagnose ADHD. But everybody today has too much input and too many distractions, and just a quick distraction can break your flow and lead to 10 minutes or more of lost productivity.
Creating a space (physically and digitally) where you have minimal distractions is crucial. Also, mindfulness and meditation practices where you intentionally hold focus on a meditative object can help. Also, reading physical paper and ink books has been reported by some people as being a simple way to practice and improve focus in a highly-digital world.
Along with all the recommendations above, you need to create an environment conducive to your most important work.
I have a family that really respects my need to have an office space where my work is uninterrupted. Even when everyone is home, they seldom come to my office door. (Maybe you saw the clip from the BBC where the work-at-home dad had his family barge in on live TV? Thankfully the risk of that in my household is very, very low!)
Even if you don’t work from home, you need to be aware of how your environment impacts your ability to do focused, high-value work. Maybe most of the day, an open-office environment can help with collaboration and team creativity… But occasionally it probably pays to hole yourself up in a conference room or coffee shop to get things done.
I sometimes take off for coffee shops, just for a change of scenery.
But more and more, I’m also focused on creating the perfect productivity space in my home office, such that I’d actually rather be there than at a coffee shop. This involves everything from de-cluttering to having multiple monitors… And as I build my new home office, I’m planning it in a way that will only make it an even better environment to get things done.
The word “No” needs to be your friend.
Most people don’t have a freaking clue how much they’ve agreed to — agreements made both with others, and themselves.
The principles in both point to one thing: if we want to be more effective in work and life, we need to focus on doing less, better — and manage the rest as background or support.
Did you know that until a couple hundred years ago, there was no such thing as “priorities?” It wasn’t a word that could be plural.
There was only “priority” — singular.
The reality is that the thinner you stretch yourself, the worse-off you’ll be. Learning how to understand everything you’ve said yes to, in both personal and professional work, and manage that (and reduce it, in most cases), becomes hugely beneficial.
Also, knowing how to delegate and outsource required tasks that are outside your main area of value contribution — your Unique Ability — is becoming a required skill.
Done right, all of this adds up to one thing.
In the moment you need to do important work, you’re able to get into flow state and let it rip.
I have a couple reference points for this.
… When I play hockey (which is too few and far between recently), I’m able to get into a headspace where the world outside the ice rink doesn’t exist. Where I’m simply focused on what’s going on in the play. And in the moments where I’m defending in a 1-on-1 situation, the entire world outside me and the person I’m defending against just disappears. And in the vast majority of cases, I’m able to break up their play and stop them from getting a shot off.
… When I perform as a DJ, the same thing happens. It’s literally just me and the music, and the equipment that lets me control it. I’ve practiced DJing so much that I seldom think about the technical aspects of mixing songs. I just let the music carry me and inspire me, mixing song into song in a continuous mix.
To a large degree, the same thing happens with writing — especially something like Breakthrough Marketing Secrets where I know the topic and can just write. I set a timer, pick a topic, and go. Now 1,598 words later, I have an essay.
The highest performers can get as much done in an hour of flow state time as a day out of flow. So this time is highly-protected, and cherished.
Total self management is the way of the future…
The most successful people in the world going forward are going to be the ones who adopt a philosophy of and approach to total self management.
There are too many inputs and expectations for us to simply manage our time.
But if we manage our time, energy, attention, environment, workload, and state, we can strike the precarious balance of high productivity and low stress that will help us excel going forward.
Make it a great weekend.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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