Rethink Time Management

Time and management are two words that, when put together, cause cringing. Time is a river, management sounds like a dam. Time is freedom and opportunity, management is Dilbert vocabulary. When we contemplate managing our time, we either abandon the idea of such a strange stranglehold, over organize its activities, or populate it with silly things to feel important and not lonely.

Minimalism is efficiency and focus. These components are paramount to making the best use of your time. Inefficiency of time is wasteful, just like too much stuff. When bringing minimalism into your life, tackling the issue of time is imperative. The sign up bonus is that you “save” some time automatically by having less stuff. Buying and having things diverts time: going shopping, returning items, mindless online shopping searches, unpacking purchases, setting up and testing new items, researching products, and figuring out what to do with an item after you no longer want it. Less stuff equals more time.

Aside from spending less time on stuff, how do we address time management from a minimalist lens? We must deconstruct the idea of not having enough. We tend to put a lot of weight on the time part versus the activities that fill our calendars. We say, “I don’t have enough time,” even though we’ve all had the same 24 hours a day construct since birth and can expect that to continue. Eradicate this statement, as part of a mindset shift. The issue is not that you don’t have time, it’s that the amount of activities you want to do and believe you need to do don’t fit neatly into that known constraint (at least not with your current time management scheme). Hopefully that means your life is full of exciting possibilities and interests, and doing them all (and well) isn’t possible. Find the joy in such abundance. 

Some tasks vying for your time can be minimized out of your life. These are best considered as you work through trade-offs (which includes thoughtful prioritization), systems and processes (which address efficiencies), and how to stay focused (in other words, excellent execution). Time and priorities are a web and it’s worth the time to untangle and clarify. So work on your mindset and address trade-offs, systems, and focus to better understand them and to define your problem areas. Observe yourself. Then consider some of these strategies: 

Manage in the time chunk(s) you think in. What time chunks come naturally to you? Thinking in weeks and quarters help me organize my life best. I begin my week planning Sunday or first thing Monday morning. Especially with a business, thinking in quarters allows me to focus on longer term goals and track progress without putting too much pressure on a single week. In other words, get to know short-term versus long-term time management.

Erase should’s and have to do’s. This frees up time, energy, and mental space. That’s what being a minimalist is about. Anything on my calendar that I don’t want to do is questioned. Learn lessons from time spent on activities predicated on a should or have to

Revere your energy schedule. We all have different types and amounts of energy throughout the day. Plan accordingly. Adapt as needed. 

Capitalize on outsourcing, carefully. Taking advantage of our convenience economy strategically can free up time that can be better used. But outsourcing can be costly and have it’s own time investment problems, distracting from our priorities. For example, spending a lot of money on food delivery (and waiting for it) when your priority is to save money for a new computer that will speed up your work and reduce stress.

Invest time to create efficiencies. What can you do now to save yourself time in the future?  List these time investments, but only act on them when the time it takes to create the automation or efficiency is worth the time it will save.

Systems and focus both benefit from habits.  One habit strategy is to address small changes first. You can get used to anything once it becomes a habit. Getting good at creating positive habits is a skill worth honing.

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Work with who you are and grow from there. Then experiment and iterate until you land on something that works best for you. It’s a trial and error process just like anything else (see What’s the Problem? (Part 2)).

Let’s not call it time management. Let’s call it time appreciation. The more you grow a respect for it rather than fight against it, you will see each minute as a gift rather than a “not enough.” Start to implement some of this perspective as you begin to test new strategies.