How Do You Actually Manage Your Time
It's about minimizing the interruptions
There’s a book by Chet Holmes called The Ultimate Sales Machine, and yes, I know it doesn’t sound like a very me book. But I like to leave the world of Very Me, and venture out of my bubble and see how other people are doing and thinking.
In this book, he talks about time management. And he does this pretty succinctly in one hot chapter and gives hints about how to manage our time.
His first hint is “TOUCH IT ONCE.”
What does that mean? It’s just don’t read three paragraphs into an email and then put it away for later. Once you have started a task, finish that task if it’s the kind of task that doesn’t take multiple days.
He writes that we shouldn’t open a text or an email until we’re actually ready to deal with that text or email. He writes,
“If you spend just 15 minutes per day to revisit, readdress, or reread documents or emails, you will waste 97 hours per year where no action is taken.”
To facilitate this, he says that your email subject line should explain what your email is about so that people don’t know it isn’t an emergency and what it’s about.
So, the email subject line shouldn’t be STUFF but it should be UPCOMING WRITING CLASS WITH CARRIE ON MARCH 2.
Then if the conversation changes, the email’s subject line should change, too. For instance, if I realize that I have prep work that I need people to do ahead of time, then that email thread should change to PREP WORK FOR MARCH 2 WRITING CLASS.
It’s almost like a gift you’re giving to everyone that sends you an email. The big question is how to get everyone else to give you that gift too when you aren’t the boss. Chet is obviously the boss.
According to Chet and Amanda Holmes (cowriter), concentration is a muscle and a gift and every time you answer an email or check your phone, you break that concentration.
“It takes 45 minutes to get back into focus,” Amanda writes. “once we’ve been interrupted, we are operating at the brain capacity of someone who only has four hours of sleep.”
Other studies put that number as a bit less. A University of California Irvine study says that “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”
This might be why the 5 A.M. Club and/or waking up before the rest of the household works so well for so many of us despite our desire to sleep in. When we wake up that early, we have more uninterrupted time to concentrate.
There is a corollary to this, which says that when a task is interrupted that sometimes your memory of that task (say studying for a test) improves.
As Psychologist World writes,
“Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik observed the effect of interruption on memory processing in 1927. Whilst studying at the University of Berlin, her professor, Kurt Lewin, had noted how waiters in a cafe seemed to remember incomplete tabs more efficiently than those that had been paid for and were complete. This appeared to suggest that the mere completion of a task can lead to it being forgotten, whilst incomplete tasks, such as serving guests a table who had not yet finished their meal, helped to ensure the waiter remembered their order.”
We are not all waiters, however, and it’s not the distraction, but it’s aftermath that tends to make us lose our focus and a bit of our cognitive ability. If you are distracted three times a day, and it takes just 20 minutes each time to get up to speed? That’s still a whole hour of less brain power.
So, what most of us want to do is limit the distractions. How do you do that?
1. Wear headphones.
2. Turn off phone or email notifications
3. Assign a specific time once or twice a day to answer emails.
4. Do the Pomodoro method.
5. Give yourself five minutes to refocus and super concentrate on that task again. A lot of times that’s all it takes to get you back in.
What is that Pomodoro method I mention up there?
It’s what I do all day long from 5 a.m. except for meetings where I don’t get to control things.
This is a great and simple explanation by Kat Boogaard for themuse.
I’ve been doing this method for a really long time. It’s how I write novels. It’s how I paint. It’s how I write 14 newspaper stories in a week. It’s how I edit and coach writing clients and write 70 page feedback letters and read around 200,000 words in a week. And then blog. And then make podcasts. It really works for me. Maybe it’ll work for you, too?
I think the key is when you combine the “one touch” rule, designate a time in your day for emails and social media, and then do the Pomodoro method, too.
And, of course, this is only if being productive is something you want, something that makes you happy. Don’t feel pressured to be that way if that’s not the way you want to be, okay? You do you.
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