Time is our most valuable, non-renewable resource and managing it effectively is really about balance. And freedom. Freedom from worry and freedom to focus on what’s most important. Sometimes we spend the most time on the things we are most comfortable doing, but that is not necessarily a good thing. Breaking out of our comfort zones and prioritizing where your energy is best spent will yield positive results in all areas of your life.
Let’s start with Open Loop. What is it and how to manage yourself better to prevent fewer cycles of unproductive thoughts. Worry happens, but it’s most wasteful because it clutters your mind and steals your energy and focus. When your brain rambles on about the car that needs to be taken to the repair shop, the cake that needs to be ordered, the fundraiser deadline for your kid’s class trip, that’s referred to as Open Loop. We can be proactive in preventing needless worry and Open Loop by scheduling things. A calendar is a best friend, indeed.
The first step to getting control of your time is to evaluate what you are actually spending your time thinking about and doing. Grab a notebook, your laptop, or a tablet – whatever it is you use to take notes – and sit down for a free-flowing writing session of everything on your mind. Need to take the dog to the groomers? Have a phone call to return? Out of milk? Jot all of that down. Write down everything taking up residence in your brain, pertaining to both personal and professional. This exercise is called a Mind Dump. It’s like opening the box to a puzzle and spilling all the pieces onto the table.
The purpose of the Mind Dump is to get it all out there so you can examine it and determine its importance. Having a plan for each item is not the goal. Instead, you will identify those tasks that are quick and can be dealt with right away (This is called the 2-minute Rule.) from those that need space on your schedule. When reviewing your Mind Dump results, ask yourself what the ideal outcome is for each item and figure out the next step. Then put it on your calendar so it has a designated time for your attention and allow yourself to let that thought go until it’s time to work on it.
Our minds have a mental capacity that is better used for thinking and working on things rather than storing information. When we try to store data in our brains, it leads to worry. And remember – worry is wasted energy.
Find ways to maximize your time and watch out for common distractions like your phone, social media, and games. Look at your list and figure out what can be delegated. You may have to hand off tasks you enjoy doing because there are more important things that require your attention. Take three weeks and break down your days into chunks of time. You can choose the number of hours, but for the sake of ease, let’s use a two hour window. At the end of each two hour segment, write about the things you accomplished in that time so you can see what you are spending most of your time on. At the end of this 3-week session, you will have a clear snapshot of where your focus is and where it needs to be. Afterward, continue to do a week-in-review so you can make adjustments to ensure your attention is on your goals.
Getting Things Done by Author David Allen
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Author Stephen Covey