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5 Practical, Life-Changing Time Management Tips

In the digital era we live in, where everything we want is at the tip of our fingers, many leaders still have a major struggle when it comes to reaching their goals: time management

A ton of studies and evidence shows that the feeling of having enough time — which is called, “time affluence” — is now at a record low in the United States. When a survey was done of 2.5 million Americans by the Gallup Organization, they found that 80% of respondents did not have the time to do all they wanted to each day. This situation is so severe it could even be described as a “famine” — which is basically a collective cultural failure to effectively manage our 2nd most precious resource, time.

Time poverty exists across all economic strata, for both the rich and the poor, and its effects are pretty extreme. Research shows that those who feel time-poor experience lower levels of happiness and have higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. They experience less joy. They laugh less. They exercise less and consequently, are less healthy. They are recorded being less productive at work, and they’re even more likely to get divorced. It’s so bad that in an analysis of the Gallup survey data, researchers found that time stress had a stronger negative effect on happiness than being unemployed.

On a broader level, time poverty directly accounts for billions of dollars in productivity costs to companies each year, and secondary costs multiply that number many times over. Public health officials rank it as one of the top contributors to rising obesity. Researchers put the health care costs of time stress at an estimated $48 billion a year.

Additionally, we are seeing the largest income gap since the 1920’s, and worse, the largest percentage of people struggling with mental disorders like depression and anxiety, which from what we learned earlier, is largely related to this time and money impoverished society we live in

Clearly, it’s a big deal! And we’ve got a long way to go

The worst part?

Many of us, through life’s circumstances and the people we surround ourselves with, have been conditioned to believe we have specific predisposed capacity, and that subconsciously we have to choose free time or financial stability. That it will just always be like this… In my experience, most people that have money are always “too busy” to spend time with friends or family. Conversely, most people that are consistently social are often times complaining about being broke.

So what do we do?

By first understanding that we, like many other successful people, have the ability to get in control of our time, then simultaneously learning to manage both time and money better, we can gain financial stability, take back our time, and live happier, healthier lives.

Here’s 5 realistic and practical ways I’ve learned to manage my time that anyone can start doing today:

LOOK AT TIME LIKE WE LOOK AT MONEY

Why?

Studies showed that people who prioritize their time well are more likely to pursue and work in careers they loved. By working in a career you love, you will be happier, experience more fulfillment, make more money, and contribute more to society. 

How do we look at time like money?

Here’s an example: any time you go to spend $5 on a coffee, $150 on a pair of shoes, or double the normal rent to live by the beach – you normally might ask “is it worth it?”, and you justify the money spent – or you decide not to spend it. 

Let’s start looking at time the same way, and treating it the same (if not better).

What do we do?

Just like any mature adult should have a financial budget, we create a “time budget”. 

How?

Draw out 168 hours…

PROPERLY UNDERSTAND AND APPLY “DIVERSIFICATION” TO YOUR LIFE

The word diversify or diversification has become somewhat of a buzz word as finance content becomes more easily accessible and attractive in popular blogs and on social media. Unfortunately, a lot of people take the idea out of context. When you diversify improperly, it’ll actually cost you more time and money than it’s worth, and you end up taking steps backward instead of forward. When applied correctly, however, it can dramatically change your life over time. 

Here’s a few examples:

Example 1: I had an interview recently for a part-time position we were hiring for, and the guy had 2 other part-time jobs. I asked if he’d be quitting one and if so, why – and he told me that he would just cut his hours at one of his existing jobs to work with us. The position I was hiring for wasn’t any more money than his current jobs, so I didn’t really understand, and I asked why he’d want to do that. He said it was to diversify his income…

I applaud his thinking and his effort, but it’s extremely flawed, and it goes without saying that we didn’t end up hiring him. Here’s why:

By cutting his hours at one place to work at another, now he has to learn another system, drive to a different place, and manage another work schedule. All for the same amount of pay. Now he’s expending more energy to make the same amount of money. If he were to open up his availability at one of his 2 other jobs, he has the potential to perform better, and possibly get a raise and more job security. It didn’t make any senses, and it was clear to me that he had taken the idea of diversification out of context. 

Diversification should be something that you can make money doing while you sleep. Rental properties, ecommerce, stocks – are all great examples of how to properly diversify. But if you have to expend more output physically, and take away time somewhere else, it defeats the purpose. 

Example 2: I know a few people who have begun to invest in stocks, which I am all for, but they still have student debt and credit card debt. Both their student debt and their credit card debt have higher interest rates than the average return on the stock market, so unless they time the market perfectly every time, they would get a greater return on their money by paying down their debt than attempting to diversify their existing income. 

Once you have a better grasp on how to properly contextualize diversification and apply it to your life, you will get a stronger grip on both your time and money. 

PLAN TO BE SPONTANEOUS: 

I know… the idea of this sounds counterintuitive, but stay with me

When it comes to leisure time, the data suggests that people have a natural bias toward spontaneity. I get it: You don’t want to feel your free time is too scheduled, and I get that. So we do things like leaving weekends up to chance — and then end up wasting much of them. But – we’re actually happier if we make plans and don’t passively waste away time.

I know plenty of “go with the flow” people, who end up doing nothing in their free time because no opportunity presents itself. This point is the idea of creating an opportunity with a large window for flexibility. 

The reason why this is so effective is because of TIME SLACK – Slack is basically when we assume we have more of something than we actually do. Like when we say, “oh I’ll do that next week”, but next week comes and we still don’t have the time. We have the same 168 hours next week that we had this week. The research shows that, in general, people expect slack for time to be greater in the future than in the present. This expectation of growth of slack in the future is more pronounced for time than for money…

How do we apply this practically but still maintain our spontaneity?

Plan structure AROUND your leisure time…

How? I recommend doing 2 things:

  1. Communicate with your friends, family and/or spouse more about your flex time. See when they are free so you can all enjoy each other together more. If you are off this weekend, or next Wednesday, or whatever, see if any of your people are so maybe you can be spontaneous together.
  2. Plan large “windows” for spontaneity. Let’s say Saturday is a few days away, and you know you have a few errands to run and a little homework to do. You don’t want to do nothing, but you also don’t want to follow too much of a schedule. Put your errands and homework on your schedule that morning, maybe from 8 to 11AM, then make dinner plans with a friend at 7, and then you will have an 8 hour window between those 2 things to do whatever you want – this way you don’t look back on the weekend and feel like you’ve wasted your Saturday. 

This way, when you get to the office on Monday, or have your first Zoom meeting, you aren’t complaining about “doing nothing fun” or “getting nothing done” because you decided to be a little more strategic, but equally as spontaneous

PLAN YOUR EATING IN ADVANCE

Why?

Americans spend a tonnnn of time THINKING about their food, and far less time actually eating and enjoying it..

When Romain Cadario, a professor at IÉSEG School of Management in Paris, surveyed 12,000 French and American adults about their dining habits, he found that on average, the French people spent significantly more time eating. In turn, they had a much more positive association with food. Americans spent more time choosing their meals than actually enjoying them and had to rush through the experience of actually eating the food they spent so much time choosing.

What do we do?

Plan your meals like you plan your outfits. 

How?

Most people set out their clothes the night before so they don’t have to think about it in the morning as they rush out the door. So just like that..

Prep and cook in advance, use a meal prep company, or simply think about your lunch tomorrow in advance so when lunch time comes around – you know where you are going and what you are getting. 

And here’s a hack if you want to eat healthier while you are at it: order your healthy food online ahead of time for pickup, this way when you get there, your cravings don’t make you change your mind. Anytime I eat at Chipotle, or really anything to-go, I do this. This way I can order chicken, rice, lettuce and salsa and stick to it – otherwise if I order in person, there’s a 99% chance I’m going to add queso, or guac, or cheese, or all 3! Which will make me lethargic, slow me down during my next workout, etc

The average American spends over 5 hours weekly thinking about what they will eat, then driving to go get it. By planning in advance, you could add back 20+ hours of free time to your life monthly

IDENTIFY WHAT IS WORTH REALLY SAVING MONEY OR TIME ON

So what do I mean by this?

A lot like the examples earlier for diversification, sometimes our “bargains” are actually costing us more time AND money than they are worth.

For example: 

– a 10-hour flight vs a 6-hour flight and saving $50

– driving further for cheaper gas

– going from store to store for a bargain on the same shirt to save $10

What do we do?

Always weigh the pros and cons of purchasing decisions. If it’s a big purchase or decision, white board it. If it’s small, act fast. Either way, be decisive – because we’re ultimately trying to manage our time better, and the last thing we want to do is perpetuate “analysis paralysis”

In conclusion…

Here are the 5 realistic and practical ways I’ve learned to manage my time that anyone can start doing today:

  1. LOOK AT TIME LIKE WE LOOK AT MONEY
  2. PROPERLY UNDERSTAND AND APPLY “DIVERSIFICATION” TO YOUR LIFE
  3. PLAN TO BE SPONTANEOUS
  4. PLAN YOUR EATING IN ADVANCE
  5. IDENTIFY WHAT IS WORTH REALLY SAVING MONEY OR TIME ON

Reference: https://hbr.org/cover-story/2019/01/time-for-happiness

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