A few years ago, one of Facebook’s core employees put out a post that went viral- work, home, exercise, sleep, friends: if you could only have three of these things, which one would you choose?
Ask yourself now and see how easy or difficult it was to choose just three. And the temptation to ask, why can't I want all? Do you have the time? Maybe. Do you have the energy??
For Shalini, 34, there’s no such thing as a weekday or the weekend. Most weekdays are spent juggling between work and home commitments and the weekend itself is often spent addressing homework, cleaning and a ton of other chores that magically seem to appear on a Friday night. She has, over time, made her peace with the fact that this is what adulthood looks like. When a friend or a colleague talks about the last hike or a Zumba class, Shalini knows that such activities would never find a place in her schedule.
We all know that time is a limited construct and that twenty-four hours make up a day. Hence, the endeavor to manage time in itself is a futile one! Come to think of it; you simply cannot juggle around a constant. When we speak of time management, what we’re managing instead is our own energy. We are choosing, consciously or otherwise, to use the time we have been given in a certain manner.
Workaholics will disagree- there is, after all, something that always needs doing. However, as many time management lessons have taught us over time, we do so much better in all areas of life when we prioritise the important over the urgent, and that includes catching a child playing ball over a 5 PM meeting. As tough as that sounds right now, expending energy on things that recharge us at work is the surest way to achieve even more in limited time.
So, how do we get started? Here is a stepwise guide.
1. Make A List Of Every Task, Ever:
From school admissions to milk packets and monthly payments, plus every deliverable at work, make a list of stuff that needs to be done. Mark these tasks out in colours based on whether they are one-time or recurring events, and segregate further based on how often they repeat.
For this exercise, many people swear by the bullet journal. While it does take a while to get used to, it comes closest to a personal Gantt chart and can help you visualise all that is on your mind. If you get overwhelmed by this exercise, that is because you are supposed to. Many people average about 7-10 hours of housework a week, even with help. If you add work tasks to that number, things can quickly get out of hand.
Delegation is a virtue that is often spoken of highly. However, too few of us know how to do it well. We either delegate too little and end up worrying ourselves, or delegate too much and cause resentment in others.
What’s more, delegation isn’t limited to work alone! Remember that housework we discussed earlier? Some research shows that the money we spend on freeing up our time is more rewarding than any amount we may spend on material gains. Hence, paying someone to clean the house once a week, or to stock the kitchen, can have more positive effects over time.
This also brings us to effective delegation. Often, you need to choose what you expect the other person to achieve. If you want them to finish a task just as you would, tons of pointers help. If you just want the job done and trust the person to do it, setting timelines helps. How you delegate can teach you a lot about yourself.
3. Work On Areas You Usually Avoid:
If you avoid taking a walk every day in the interest of some other task, take that walk and see how much of a difference it makes! Research shows that going for a walk outdoors is one of the most effective ways to free up the mind, and thus free up your time.
Other activities that we find meaningful, including using that vacation time, spending the weekend with family, using the first hour each morning to plan for the day, etc. have been shown to be extremely effective in helping us make most of the time we do have.
So, the next time someone asks you to manage time better, tell them you’re focusing on better energy! This is how some European countries have found success even with a four-day workweek, and you can too.