Stop wasting your time
Unlike money, you can never make time back
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy" - Seneca
I’m not gonna talk too much grammar because you already know the deal. A lot of us are not as productive as we’d like to be. A lot of us are living in a world of distraction and spend far too little time doing deep and thoughtful work. I’m not sure who’s fault it is and frankly, I don’t think it matters. We’re sha here and we need to work on it.
This week, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I spend and manage my time. I’ve been using Cal Newport’s work as my framework.
Cal Newport is a computer science professor at Georgetown University. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including, A World Without Email, Digital Minimalism, and Deep Work.
The theories behind Deep Work are the ones I’ve been exploring.
PS: I didn’t read Deep Work. I asked around about it and people said it was very repetitive i.e. it could have been a chapter instead of a book 😩.
Instead I studied up using the content below:
Cal’s blog post on Deep Work and time blocking. See here
Cal’s interview on the Daily Stoic. See here (The interviewer is a little white boy annoying)
Farnam Street blog post of time blocking. See here
Most of us schedule our days in 1 of 2 ways.
A. Reactive: We wake up in the morning and like an inopportune soul playing Naomi Osaka, we just start fielding things that come up, trying to ping them back as quickly as possible. Why doesn’t this work? You didn’t control the day… the day controlled you hun. We get to the 6pm and realize that most of our day was spent pinging emails/ slack messages back and forth, whilst being stressed about the work we haven’t done, whilst scrolling through social media to relieve our stress … and so on.
B. To Do List: You wake up in the morning and put together a list of all the things you need to do. Maybe you even go further and prioritise, focusing on clearing out your high priority tasks first. Why doesn’t this work? You take your sweet ass time, you get distracted. You’re working your way down your to do list with no real time bounds. You may spend waaaay too much time on certain tasks because you actually have no idea how you’re spending your actual time (as in hours and minutes). You get distracted because you see your day as one long block instead of a series of discrete segments. You swap between tasks because you’re bored. You don’t pace yourself well so you spend a really long time doing the things at the top of the list and then you’re panicked as the day goes by and you realise there’s so much to do 😩. Sound familiar?
Instead of alladis, give timeblocking a go. You take the To Do List approach but go one step further and actually schedule your work into timeslots.
So instead of a To-Do list that would say
- Work on partnership proposal
- Meet with marketing
(If we’re to keep it all the way real, most of us don’t put checking emails on our to do list.)
You’d have a timeblocked day that could look something like this
9-10: Research what needs to be done and time block
10-11: Check emails, slack messages, WhatsApp
11-1: Complete partnership proposal
3-4: Meet with marketing
4-4:30: Check email and slack messages
You can see here how Newport timeblocks. He uses a journal and puts things into 2 hour timeslots. Right now, I’m using my phone calendar and do slots anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hrs —-> I’m playing around with different models to see what works for me.
I tried this out for 2 weeks and I have to say, it makes a big difference…. when I was disciplined enough to stick with it 😩. The benefits I saw included
Less distraction: Because everything had a time slot, I felt more pressure to stay on task so I didn’t over run the required time slot.
One thing at a time: Instead of trying to answer my emails, whilst finishing up some work, whilst scrolling on social media, whilst reading a blog post, knowing that I was in my “email answering” time block forced me to face my front and just answer my email
I experimented with time blocking in a couple of ways
When I timeblock: I played around with when I set my time blocking schedule: the morning of or the night before. As I expected, the night before was much more effective.
How often I timeblock: I played around with timeblocking every day vs. time blocking on alternate days (e.g. only timeblocking M, W, F). Why? Sometimes being disciplined is tiring 😔😩💅🏾 so I wanted to see if giving myself a break from being disciplined would help me be more or less disciplined. I found that it did. My sweet spot was time blocking every 2/3 days so right now I’m timeblocking Mondays and Thursdays. I’m gonna try and push this up to 3 days a week once I’m in a better flow.
Time blocking breaks: Necessary. I’m a lover of afternoon rest and the itis hits me hard. I’m totally useless post lunch and I need to recline and rest of at least an hour in the late afternoon.
Time blocking “creative” time: Needed. Creative time for me includes reading, day dreaming, thinking, reclining, staring into space, stretching, deep breathing, staring out the window. It’s a daily necessity for me.
All in all, this is a time management strategy that I’ll definitely be keeping.
Hope you have a wonderful week of enjoyment and chop life.
Questions for you - because I love to learn from you:
What are the most useful time management strategies that you’ve used?
What are the most useful books/articles/ podcasts that you’ve read/listened to on this topic?
If you’re in a place where Amazon doesn’t deliver to quickly, where do you get your books from?
PS if you know anyone who would find these time management strategies useful, don’t forget to share.