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Don’t Finish Your Plate

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We all have 24 hours in a day. So why does it sometimes seem like others are getting more accomplished than we are? We’re working, maybe parenting or trying to make time for friends–but what about the gym? Weren’t we supposed to catch up on that new Netflix show? Oh, and that book we wanted to read. Wait, we have to shop for gifts–and we have to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting!

Those 24 hours can quickly be devoured like pellets in Pac-Man. Mastery of time management is absolutely necessary to overcome the stresses of our modern day. If we feel like we’re desperately juggling personal time, family time, and work time, we need to remember that life is about balancing priorities, not juggling them. We need to become the arcade ghosts and scare Pac-Man away from our precious hours.

Author Tony Schwartz, writing for HBR, asserts that many of us have forgotten the power of the word “No.” Saying no to a child demanding playtime, a boss asking if you can handle another project, or a partner asking if you could run errands is sometimes necessary–and the most efficient way to find much-needed personal time.

In this TED Talk, I.T. professor Tom Griffiths and programmer Brian Christian derive time management insights from computer programming. The pair determine that sometimes the obvious strategy of ranking tasks can backfire–especially if we’re tackling several tasks. We risk wasting time on ranking priorities instead of actually addressing them.

If we cannot say “No” to some priorities, then, like a computer program, we should group them and, similarly, group our auxiliary tasks–or interruptions. Dedicate a certain amount of time to work on one project, then, once we’ve hit that time limit, we move on to another task and go back and forth at intervals.

By attacking everything, even at random, we address everything. Maybe we can’t find a full hour to exercise in the morning–but we can squeeze in 30 minutes. Now that book we meant to read: get a bookmark ready and devote 10-15 minutes to it.

Today, practice saying “No” and take a moment to open that book, watch that show, or do whatever. If that fails, then, like a full plate of holiday dinner, dip your fork into everything. You don’t necessarily have to finish all at once–leftovers are perfectly okay.

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.”
— Charles Richards

Do you have an idea you want to share with an empowered community of self-aware professionals? If you’d like to contribute an idea or article to ‘In The Flow of Work’ on the Evolve blog, just send us a message or submit a post to our Head of Content, Adam Schneider

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