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Effective Time Management Skills For Lesser Stress & More Fulfillment

by | Sep 1, 2020 | Essentialist Living, Living A Purposeful Life

The subject of time management is one of the most talked about concepts when it comes to productivity. And rightfully so, because you only have a finite amount of time to live. That’s why you should allot time and effort to develop effective time management skills.

But don’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon and search for tips and tricks from time management gurus. Why? Because not all these tips and tactics work – especially in living a purposeful and fulfilled life.

Almost every productivity hack and time management tactics people teach will ask you to fit in “More”:

  • More work into your schedule
  • Squeeze in more work hours from your day
  • Create a longer to-do list so you’d feel busy

And on, and on, and on. They teach you to be efficient and effective so you can finish all the work given to you. But they don’t teach you how to be purposeful. You can be efficient and effective in doing the wrong things. Yet it wouldn’t be as satisfying and fulfilling as when you do the right things for the right purpose.

What Is Time Management And Why Is It Important?

According to MindTools, “Time Management is the process of organizing and planning your time between specific activities.”

Professionals across industries want to learn how to manage their time so they can work more efficiently. As said a while ago, most people believe that the goal of managing their time is to squeeze in more things.

However, as an essentialist, time management doesn’t have long-term impact unless you know what’s important. Since it’s impossible to do everything all at once, you need to understand that there are trade-offs. We’ll talk more about this later. For now, let’s explore…

Your Most Valuable Personal Asset

Ever heard the saying, “Time is your most valuable asset”? I have. Repeatedly. And I’d be the first to admit that I’ve used that cliché over and over again in my talks and workshops. And as I ponder about it more and more, I realize that it’s true only to some extent.

It’s true that time is the most scarce resource you have. You can always look for another job, earn money, or build your assets. Even if you lose everything you have right now, you’ll get that back and more given enough time. But time wasted never returns.

So yes, it’s scarce. But just because it’s limited doesn’t mean it’s an asset. Time only becomes an asset if you use it to bring something positive to your life. A new experience, an exciting or positive emotion, a great lesson learned, an unforgettable memory, whatever. If time brings positive things into your life, it then becomes an asset.

Time Wasted Is A Liability

But when time is wasted – whether in wallowing on the negatives or by procrastinating – then it becomes a liability. No amount of time management tactics will turn it into an asset. Having more free time doesn’t default to living a happier life. Even the Bible says in Proverbs 16:27, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

And in my observation, this is the biggest fallacy that most time management systems teach. They aim to give you more time, without helping you realize the purpose of more free time.

I found that Essentialism gives a whole different perspective on this. It helps you identify what’s essential in your life so you can choose to focus on them. You can pare down on things that don’t give you fulfillment or don’t excite you. You can choose to say “No” on agendas that other people impose on you.

That’s what effective time management skills mean to an Essentialist. The goal isn’t to just free up time. Rather, it’s doing only the important things so you can give your all and spend your time purposefully. Which in turn gives joy and fulfillment.

The Benefits Of Effective Time Management Skills

Of course, there are many benefits of time management. One of those is what was previously said, more free time. But when you develop effective time management skills, there’s more to it than freedom. Here are some benefits of proper time management.

1. Less Stress

Less Stress

When things are planned and you know what to do, it reduces the amount of stress you experience. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times when stress is good and aids your growth. These are what we call euphoric stress.

The stress that time management eliminates, however, is distress. These are factors that hinder your growth and weigh you down. It actually stops you from giving your best work and performance on a certain task.

As you may have observed, when under a lot of pressure, most people tend to break down. Sure, when deadlines are near, we become more creative and we work faster because of adrenaline. But too much exposure to it isn’t just physically tiring, it’s also destructive to your mental health.

2. Less Time Wasted

Another benefit of proper time management is lesser wasted time. Since you already know what to do and you planned ahead, you don’t waste time doing that anymore. You can just go straight to work.

A few years ago, I was working as a Learning and Organizational Development Supervisor. I was employed in one of the biggest Out-Of-Home advertising companies in the country. During those times, I designed my day so that I’d get to the office 1.5 hours before anyone gets there.

So what did I do during that free time? Well, it was my time to feed my mind on whatever I wanted to learn. I consumed books like a madman, took courses about business, marketing, psychology, and others.

Soon, my colleagues noticed how different my approach and mindset was when it comes to work. Because of that, I was promoted as Head of Operations to one of the business units we had there.

If you manage your time properly, you’ll get a huge headstart from other people. And since you’re working on the right things – the essential ones – you have massive advantages. After all, not everyone knows how to manage their time, much less prioritize.

3. Higher Quality of Work

Now that you work on things that matter to you and are important to what you want to accomplish, you give your best. When you give the highest use of your talents, skills, and abilities, great things happen. At the end of the day, you deliver a higher quality of work.

Usually, success doesn’t fall on the laps of hard-working people. Sometimes, not even smart-working ones. It falls under the ones who know what to work on, when to work on it, and how to execute ideas.

4. Improved Quality Of Life

Since all your attention is spent on doing things that makes you happy, engaged, and fulfilled, life improves. Your mood and outlook on work changes and leans toward excitement. You’ll look forward to going to work and building your career.

Now, just because you develop a skill in time management, doesn’t mean that work becomes easy. It’s not. You still need to put thought and effort into what you’re doing. But you can rest assured that you’re spending your time doing the right things.

Just as how bad things in your life affect all other aspects, the same goes when things are great. Since everything at work is going great, it’s inevitable that this feeling would overflow into all aspects of your life. In general, your overall quality of life will improve.

You can:

  • Spend more time with your family, friends, and loved ones
  • Allot time for exercising and working your mind and body out
  • Read books for leisure or focus on cultivating a hobby
  • Travel without worry that work will chase you
  • And so much more!

Sounds too good to be true, but really, these are some benefits of choosing the path of the Essentialist.

5. Earn People’s Trust And Respect

When you know how to manage your time properly, other people can’t help but notice it. One reason is because you constantly and consistently show up, acting like a professional. Two, because they now perceive you as a reliable person.

Once that happens, you earn their trust and respect. This then perpetuates until you build a reputation for yourself. And if you want to succeed in your career while doing things that you care about, building your reputation is a must.

How To Improve Time Management Skills

If you want to develop effective time management skills, it takes more than practice. You need to start with the right mindset. Here are some practical insights you can apply into your life and career immediately.

Be Consumed Only By Your Purpose

A lot of people are going to want to slide their agenda or to-dos on your schedule. You should always evaluate if the things others are asking you to do aligns to your purpose.

If it’s inevitable that you can’t turn down a task (i.e. your boss asked you to do it), then evaluate some options. Can you get a colleague to try and help you? How important and urgent is the task? Can you do it after finishing your priorities?

By asking these questions, you’re making sure that the activities that’s important to you remain on top. The reason is because we work best when we’re inspired and believe in what we’re doing. And having a sense of purpose at work gives this kind of productivity boost.

Remember, be consumed only by your purpose. Before saying yes, ask yourself if doing that task is the best and highest use of your time and resources. If not, politely decline and provide a reason why.

Priority vs. Priorities

You can’t prioritize everything. In fact, the mere fact that something is a priority means that its importance is above anything else. There is no Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3. The word “priorities” have only been used recently (1900s) to denote that there are tasks of equal importance.

There aren’t.

Sure, you can juggle between two or three “priorities”. But you’re only spreading yourself  – your attention, skills, and time – thin. In the end, not only does the project suffer, but your performance as well.

Learn About Trade-offs

When you choose to say “Yes” to something, you inevitably say “No” to hundreds of other things you could do. In the field of Economics, this is called opportunity costs. If you take this into account, when you say yes to the trivial many, you say no to doing what’s critical.

As an example, say you decide to attend a meeting where you won’t be much of a contribution. Now, you can’t work on the project that’s important for your success and happiness. Since you can’t be in two places at once, saying yes to the meeting means saying no to your purpose.

This is just an example of a trade-off. If you think about your daily routines, I’m sure you can catch many tradeoffs. Going out with colleagues to build “camaraderie” instead of spending time with your family. Watching Netflix series instead of feeding your mind with useful information. And on, and on, and on.

Practice The Art Of Saying “No”

“When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option. No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility. Be careful what (and who) you say yes to. It will shape your day, your career, your family, your life.” – James Clear

You don’t always have to say yes. And the fact that you’re saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s just that you know what you want and what you don’t want to do or experience.

Now, this isn’t something you can do in a snap of a finger. On the contrary, if you’re used to saying yes and people know it, you might have a hard time practicing this. Here’s something you can do:

1. Identify what’s important for you – your goals, values, beliefs, etc.

2. Look through the lens of alignment. Ask yourself whether the opportunities coming your way are aligned or just shiny objects that try and steal your attention.

3. Start small. Say no to small things or small favors first. Think of it as a muscle that you need to build over time. It’s not a race so take your time.

4. Build momentum. Once you get used to saying “No”, evaluate the things you’re doing right now that you don’t need to do anymore. Then start trimming those away.

Don’t Confuse Movement With Progress

One important thing you must understand is that there’s a difference between movement and progress. This is important since you’re building effective time management skills – a skill that will support you throughout your life. Just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean it’s taking you closer to what’s important to you.

You must evaluate things in a constant manner. The reason is because it’s easy to slip and go back to our default response of focusing on the unimportant. We’re humans. We’re wired to get pressured and slip back on what’s comfortable.

As a side note, you also need to measure your progress. When you’re doing stuff that matters, you won’t always get immediate gratification. Most of the results happen way, way down the road – you won’t see it overnight. It’s important to remind yourself of the progress you’re making.

Assure yourself that you’re working on the right things. And soon enough, the fruits of your labor will show.

I hope you learned something from reading this article.

To a life of essence,

Jeric Timbang

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