In today’s fast-paced society, there seem to be limitless demands on our limited time, energy, and attention. With the continual emergence of new and better technology, along with the “there’s an app for that” mentality, there is so much more we are expected to do or know simply because we have the ability to do things quickly and simultaneously.
But there’s a problem with this idea of doing more at once, and it’s the concept of multi-tasking. I am exceptionally good at multi-tasking because I am exceptionally bad at focusing my attention on any single task. The problem is, though, when I multi-task I leave in my wake a slew of unfinished projects, along with the feeling that I haven’t really accomplished anything productive. I affectionately refer to myself as a half-assed multi-tasker.
I thought I was the only one who fell into this brilliant category, but it turns out humans as a whole aren’t actually as good at multi-tasking as we would like to believe. If we can’t do 7 things at once, then how are we ever supposed to accomplish the 7,263 things on our daily to-do (and want-to-do) lists?
Ironically my inspiration for time management came from one of the places where I often focus the least amount of time – creativity. For creatives like myself, time management proves to be even more difficult. We need to take time to tap into that mystical place inside ourselves and produce our own form of art, yet this need constantly seems to fall behind life’s other more pressing matters (who needs to cook dinner or get to work anyway?). But I read something by one of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert, recently about the toll ignoring our creativity can take by manifesting in negative ways in other areas of our life. Her remedy for prioritizing this all-important creative need was to give it just a little time – to devote 30 minutes a day, even on her busiest days, towards her writing. Just 30 minutes – I can do that.
Then I realized I don’t have to limit devoting small blocks of focused attention only to my creative pursuits. This idea of time blocking may very well help me regain my time, sanity, and productivity. Rather than my usual mode of heading home with a list of tasks and no real plan, I’m going to block off specific and manageable chunks of time to focus on accomplishing a certain thing. 30 minutes devoted solely to cleaning the kitchen, 30 minutes spent just playing with the dogs, 30 minutes working on meal planning and grocery list.
One caveat to this whole plan of time-blocking is being realistic. For me that means not blocking out every half hour chunk of time to try to accomplish everything. The goal of time management is stress reduction, so flexibility is key. In a four hour evening, it would work to block out three half-hour periods.
Various tasks will of course take longer or shorter than the allotted 30 minutes, but that’s not the point. The point is to make a commitment to devote uninterrupted time to something and see what magic can be accomplished when we truly focus. As with all of life, it’s an experiment.
Do you have any fool-proof tips for time management? I’d love to know, because this crazy world seems to just keep getting busier…