Time Management

I think I always carry this sense or need to be productive. It is like no matter what, that to-do list in my head NEEDS to get done. Of course this is all good in theory. 

I remember getting this highly recommended book on time management called “Getting Things Done.” The author David Allen is suppose to be the Dalai Lama of time management. The Babe Ruth of To-Do lists, the Leonardo DaVinci of Getting Things Done. (I may have lost you on that one.)

Father Time, himself, is supposedly quoted in the book as “I’m more organized than ever, thanks David!”

The book is filled with strategies and techniques to arrange your day, manage your time and get things done! After all the book is called Getting Done Things (just not necessarily in that order.) I would recommend it, my only problem was the one thing I didn’t manage to get done was finish reading the book. Couldn’t find the time.

I once read that when you make a to-do list that item that you put last is never going to get done. I almost feel bad for that last item. (Reading Getting Things Done might have been a last item on the list kind of deal.)

Maybe we should write out the list and just cross out the last two items (two for good measure.) If your to-do list is ONLY 2 times – well, you’ve just freed up your day.

I had an old boss that broke down time management by telling me this: “there are apples, oranges, grapes and lemons.” He was eating fruit salad at the time. The way he broke it down was:

Apples – those important things that you need to get done today.

Oranges – those items you know are important but can be done today or tomorrow.

Grapes – those small items that accumulate during the week and you need to get a few done before they mount up (into a full bunch I guess).

Lemons – those annoying things you got to get done, some of which have to happen today or someone puts lemon juice in your eyes.

It’s a great way to break down your tasks for the office or the day. Everyone knows fruit, and everyone can figure out those annoying tasks you hate doing, and those small but meaningful tasks you need to get done.

My struggle was in the apples and oranges. I kept spending my time comparing apples to oranges. I tried comparing oranges to apples but that just sounded stupid.

Here’s a moment of truth.

I recall telling my therapist while in Tel Aviv that there were days I felt so unproductive and I should have accomplished more. She would ask me to go through my day and tell her everything I did, thus trying to show me I had done more then I gave myself credit for.

Even when I feel I have done plenty each day I sometimes think it could have been more. But I learned to ease up on myself. Life is too short to expect too much, but let’s be honest — everyone needs a nothing day. A day where you don’t expect to accomplish much, save for getting through a season of your favorite show, read through several chapters of that epic novel, or nap yourself into a comfortable stupor, or make an epic fruit salad. 

Whatever it is, those days are great ways to reset. After reading a bit about the human brain and the shortcuts we take via heuristics and biases I start to realize that using your brain is tiring work. 

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Studies have shown that the more you need to concentrate and actively use your brain the more glucose you’ll consume. Students were presented with math and word problems to solve with a bowl of M&M’s at their side. The longer the test and the more complicated the questions the students had to answer meant they were eating more sugary treats to keep themselves going.

This correlates to Ego Depletion where as the day goes on your will power – that inside voice that tells you what to do – gets tired. It’s one reason why you are more likely to say yes to dessert at the end of a long day then you would at lunch. What scientists (who are these people anyway) found that the more you deny yourself throughout the day, the harder it is to say no at night (dieters beware!). But this also relates to the work place. If you can find ways to re-energize, reset yourself throughout the day it might be easier to concentrate, make strong choices and get things done.

It’s one reason businesses include stocked fridges, a games room, and even places to take naps. The other reason is they don’t want you to leave – so enjoy the laundry room, the gym, and the barber.  You can teleconference with your kids in Pod A, they are teenagers now.

This all actually falls into knowing yourself a bit more. It’s easy to read a book and say “yes, I’ll get things done!” but truly understanding how you work, how you don’t work are better ways to apply proper techniques that work for you.

Maybe it’s labeling items as fruit. Maybe it’s eating fruit (great source of fructose), maybe it’s knowing when to delegate, outsource or just hunker down and get things done yourself.

Which reminds me I have a book to read.

* Please note that you should pick up books with the title: Time Management and NOT, I repeat NOT TIM E. Management. That was written but a very jilted woman named Jeanette O’Depepher on her now ex-husband Tim Everett. (Worst $9.99US I spent for my kindle.)

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