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#14: Learning to manage my time
Ditch to-do list?
I’ve been taking a few weeks off from my job and I realized I’m bad at time management. (The fact that I did not publish for the past two weeks shows my point.)
It sounds weird, but the less time to manage, the easier it is to stay organized. When the job fills most of the day, I simply spend less time on my phone and more time on things that matter. But when I can do whatever I want at any time, how do I decide?
To-do list no longer works. I keep procrastinating as none of the items on the list seem urgent enough to be done today. Should I pick this one up? Why not that one? A myriad of decisions paralyzes me to act on any of them. The longer the list grows, the more anxious I become, and the less likely I’m going to touch any of them.
This is mostly a psychological issue to overcome.
Relinquish your desire to control your time, Oliver Burkeman suggests in his book Four Thousand Weeks, because no matter how hard you try, given the finitude of life, you’ll never fully control it. Rather, simply do the next important thing.
It all makes sense when your schedule is simple. But when you have too many small pieces that exceed the capacity of your brain, treating it as a mental problem does not resolve the root cause.
Maybe to-do list is a bad system in my case.
In his book Indistractable, Nir Eyal argues calendar, or time-boxing, works better. To create a time-boxed schedule, you have to decide beforehand what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.
I’ve been trying this for the past few days. It enabled me to get things done, be more focused and not get worried.
One biggest obstacle was I didn’t want to follow the schedule, even though I set it for myself. I felt constrained when the calendar orders me what to do. Turns out it only requires a simple reframing: not “I have to do this”, but “I get to do this.”
A plan is just a thought. While sticking to the schedule would be awesome, we don’t have to do it like a machine. Allow flexibility and spontaneity. Under constraints those things will become more fun.
Alright, if you’re interested, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Have a great week,
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p.s. a short video for important lessons in writing.