Feeling overwhelmed stems from not being clear about what your goals are. Managing you time more efficiently will help reduce stress and get more done in less time.

"There is nothing as useless as doing efficiently something that doesn't need to be done."

Sometimes it is easy to be so excited about a new project that you find yourself lost in a whirlwind of excitement. You start working on many different areas and forget to really push any area forward significantly. This page contains the top ideas and most useful research on how to manage your time efficiently.

I. The Science Behind Time Management

  1. What is Time Management?
  2. Why Do We Waste Time?
  3. The Time Management Action Path

II. How to Stop Wasting Time Right Now

  1. Make the Rewards of Taking Action More Immediate

III. Time Management Tips

  1. SMARTER targets
  2. Just Say No
  3. Get Your Priorities Straight
  4. Plan Your Schedule

I. The Science Behind Time Management

Let's begin by getting the basics established. What is time management? What does time management mean? Why is time management important?

What is Time Management?

Scientists define time management as your ability to use time effectively or productively. It is the way in which you actively plan and organise your time to achieve a set of tasks.

US President Eisenhower actively managed his time time because he saw that what it important is rarely urgent and what is urgent is rarely important. Good time management will allow you to get more done in less time while keeping stress manageable.

It is a system that will allow you to follow through on what you set out to do.

Why Do We Waste Time?

Okay, so we have our definitions but why do we lose track of our time? What happens in the brain when we hop from task to task and don't prioritise our important ones.

This is a good time to bring some science to the table. Social psychology research has uncovered a phenomenon called "planning fallacy", which helps explain how we overestimate our ability to finish tasks in a given time. Planning fallacy refers to a bias in human brains to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task.

The planning fallacy concept was proposed by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979. It is a phenomenon that can occur regardless of how many similar tasks you have performed before. Discrepancy in planned time increased when you add steps to the task you're working on.

More steps in a project increases the chance that one of those steps will hit a roadblock - increasing completion time. Even when an individual hurdle is unlikely, when you have a large number of steps you increase the chance one will occur.

Additionally our brains have a tendency to associate productive work with menial tasks. Dopamine is released for every task we complete, no matter how small. Removing theses tasks from your schedule completely will help prevent our brains thinking we've achieved something when we've spent 2 hours colour coding a diary.

It is the same phenomenon that you may go to bed after colour coding your plan for the next day highly motivated to change your life, but when you wake up you slip back to the old ways. Your brain values working for long term gain when the tasks associated with the gain are in the future, but in the present it prefers instant gratification - making that diary.

The Time Management Action Threshold

You cannot rely on long term goals to motivate you in the present. Rather, you have to move future rewards and punishment into the present. Future results have to become present ones.

This becomes clear when our time management becomes urgent. Take an assignment for example. You have a deadline 10 weeks away and put if off repeatedly as it is a future worry. The deadline hangs in the back of your mind and becomes increasingly prominent as hand in day approaches. Suddenly, the day before the deadline the nagging pain crosses your becomes so strong you start writing. The pain escalated over your "Action Threshold".

As soon you begin working the pain begins to subside, often the pain of delaying the task is far greater than the pain of doing the work. Your brain has no problem doing the work - it has a problem with starting.

In order to stop managing we time badly and leaving tasks until we are forced to rush we need to make is a simple as we can to complet tasks with an appropriate time. This decreases those feelings of guild and allows us to use the full time to refine our work.

Let's discuss how to do this now.

II. How to Stop Wasting Time Right Now

Set a schedule to put your decisions autopilot. When you don't have to think about what you need to do when, you'll increase you capacity to do the work. A schedule will add pressure to complete a task even when you may otherwise lack motivation.

Make the Rewards of Taking Action More Immediate

Make rewards more immediate by creating habits - a three step process that ensures you get rewarded for completing tasks that push you towards your goal.

Creating a habit involves a trigger, response and reward.

A good trigger is something it is difficult to say no to. My trigger to start writing is opening google docs. It is an incredibly easy thing to do.

Rather than put, write 10,000 words in your diary, just put open "google docs (work on assignment)" and you will feel far less resistance. The most difficult part of any task is starting it. Time management is hugely about starting on time and decreasing resistance to starting tasks so it is easy to do so. The biggest cause of delay (and stress) is not getting started on time.

Set goals that are achievable - When you need to get something done in a given amount of time - reward yourself when you have made progress.

If you write 500 words per hour and have a 1500 words essay to complete, reward yourself every 500 words you write. The longer the task, the more it has to be broken down.

III. Time Management Tips

To achieve your personal and business goals you need to define what your success looks like.

SMARTER targets

Using the SMARTER acronym for goal setting targets forces you to think through this clearly.

Specific - Define the scope of your goal

Measurable - How will success be quantified?

Agreed - How will this goal help you/your customers/investors?

Realistic - Be ambitious but make sure it is reasonable.

Timed - Have a deadline.

Ethical

Recorded - Write it down + include updates

When you've created your SMARTER targets it's time to work backwards and determine the steps you'll need to take to get there.

Just Say No

Start declining more requests. You have the right to say no without explaining yourself. It is like any other skill - practice will make you better, you'll also realise you're not actually offending anyone by doing so. Don't let yourself get interrupted.

Get Your Priorities Straight

Once you've got your goals set and are prepared to stop yourself getting interrupted you need to prioritise which task you should pursue first.

Split your tasks into four categories:

  • Important + Urgent
  • Important + Not Urgent
  • Not Important + Urgent
  • Not Important + Not Urgent

Then complete your tasks in this order. It will stop you missing deadlines and ensure you are focusing on your most important goals.

Plan Your Schedule

Start your day knowing what you're going to achieve and how you're going to get it done.

  • Morning

Spend 15 minutes at the start of the day going through each of you days goals. Writing down what you want to achieve at the start of the day will help relax your mind and allow you to simply tick off each topic as you complete it.

  • Evening

Take another 15 minutes at the end of the day to ask yourself how you day went and assemble you tasks for tomorrow. Going to bed and trying not to forget something you're going to do tomorrow will keep you up all night. Offload your thought onto a piece of paper and get your 8 hours.