Making the most of your time is great — we're obviously fans of it. But sometimes, the better you get at optimising your time, the more work you take on. This can be frustrating, making you feel no more efficient or less stressed than you did before. Instead of trying to manage your time, learn to say no to yourself.
Photo by marc falardeau
Inc.com's contributing editor Geoffrey James makes a valid point about time management. He argues that it never truly works because the properly-managed time is often filled with more tasks.
I'm incredibly guilty of this. I love time management hacks, and I'm constantly adopting new ones. Sometimes, they work well, and I find myself with breaks throughout the day, or I'll get done with work earlier on a Friday. But I don't enjoy it. Inevitably, I fill those gaps with more work, whether it's another freelance client or getting a head start on next week's stuff. Then, I'm just as stressed as I was before, and I look for ways to better manage my time.
It's a frustrating cycle, and as James points out, your work can suffer from the stress. He brings up a novel concept: stop "attempting to do more than is possible in the time you have". We've talked a lot about saying no to other people, but sometimes the person you should say no to is yourself. He offers some practical suggestions for doing this:
Don't take yet another time-management seminar. Instead, train yourself to start saying no more often. And then stick to it. ... This means doing stuff like...
Shutting off your computer at 6 p.m.
Turning off the email on your phone
Shrugging when something "important" doesn't get done
Leaving the office when everyone else is working crazy hard
...maybe not all the time, but at least some of the time….
There's something to be said for taking on a lot of stuff — maybe you'll accomplish a lot of stuff. But think about the cost of stress and how it affects your work overall. It might be better to be a little more realistic with your time than to attempt managing it. For more detail, check out the full post below.