Effective Time Management Should Be this Simple
When it is time to sleep, sleep soundly. When it is time to work, work with focus. When it is time to play, play with passion.
Not only can it be this simple, but it should be this simple. To get the most out of your day – and therefore your lifetime of days – they should look like this.
This circle represents the 24 hours in your day. I might not know you. Yet I can accurately, honestly, and without fail say that your day is 24 hours long. That might be the last thing we agree on.
Back to the image: In the image at left, the day starts in sleep, goes clockwise around the circle, and ends in sleep. This image has three time-slices: sleep, work, play. It’s likely your day doesn’t look like this – yet. To understand why it should though, we need to look not at the slices, but at the lines between them.
The lines between the time-slices are not simply borders of the slices. The lines between time-slices are times of transition. There is actual time in those lines. When you roll out of bed in the morning and start your day, this transition time is the time you spend getting ready to do your first thing. Whether that be exercise or work or watching the sunrise or reading or whatever. There is time and energy involved in this transition.
This transition time is useless. It’s not rest. It’s not thinking time. It’s not recharging time. It’s not productive. It’s not making you a better person, earning you money, gaining you rest, building new skills, experiencing new experiences, nor exploring new thoughts. It’s simply a cost of being alive and active in a modern culture.
The time you spend getting ready in the morning; showering, picking out clothes, and brushing your teeth is maintenance work and/or waste.
These transitions can be physical (commuting, getting dressed) or mental (“switching gears”, “getting in the zone”). Either way, they take time and energy for little to no direct benefit.
Triathletes practice and prepare to minimize transition time. To be able to quickly switch between swimming and biking, a triathlete will have their helmet unbuckled, their bike pointing the right way, their bike shoes ready to slip into. But life isn’t a race. We don’t want to be spending our days trying to beat a personal record for fastest shower and shave. So, if our transitions are not going to get much faster, let’s make them fewer.
Minimize the Number of Transitions
Now, I’m not saying don’t take a shower and get presentable each morning. Please do. (Although Bill Gates had been known in the early days to be so excited about his work that he’d not want to waste time on a shower. Steve Jobs has been said to wear his signature black turtleneck and blue jeans every day as a way to “save time choosing what to wear”.)
What I am saying is that some people’s days look like the image at right.
Look at all those lines! All of those blue transition lines are time and energy lost. It’s prime-time that seeps and leaks, little by little, out of your day. Those transition slices are the reason you get to the end of the day and say “where did all the time go?”. Remove those transition slices and you gain back time. Being conservative, if each one consumes one minute, and by rearranging your day you eliminated fourteen of them, you would gain back fourteen minutes in your day.
(Besides being time wasters, those transition zones are motivation and focus killers which lead to feeling unproductive and overwhelmed. I’ll talk in much more detail about this when we get to the topic of focus and anxiety.)
This model is simpler and better. It would be better even if all it did was minimize time lost. Yet there is so much more. In this ongoing series of posts I’ll be covering all the other reasons to keep your day to “Sleep, Work, and Play”.
p.s. I’ll also talk in detail about what I mean by “sleep”, “work”, and “play”. Stay tuned.