What if I tell you that all your life was a lie? You were told something which was not true and sadly you held tight to it with all your heart and soul, without giving any second thought to it.
Here is the biggest fib of the year: “Time management is life management”. Regardless of how big your company is, or how well you’re doing in your current workplace, you have listened to this statement since time immemorial and lived by it. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but this statement is a far cry from the truth. Well, of course, this might have helped you to some extent, but in reality, a bigger picture is driving your success; one that you need to unsheathe.
When people talk about productivity, they construe it as synonymous with better time management. Which is wrong. I have used online task management tools and surely they’ve helped me for a great amount of time. But once the truth dawned on me, I became fascinated with it.
Ask yourself: How many hours of the day are you genuinely productive? And how many do you actually while away?
Life is a mystery and there is nothing simple about it. Each person is gifted with only 24 hours a day to make the most of their available resources. But not everyone turns out to be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. If productivity is just about time management, all you need to do is to turn off your tv, keep your smartphone at least 10 feet away, and bid adieu to Netflix. But even when you do all of this, you will only be able to spare four to five hours a day, and in those hours, you will only be able to get some things done.
Here, I confide in you a secret which helped me stay productive for just the right amount of time.
Exploring the Mystery Behind The Myth Of Time Management!
When we start getting things done, we start investing in emotional labor (a term I proudly stole from the amazing author, Seth Godin). Accomplishing things takes just the right blend of emotional & mental efforts.
Let me explain with an example. Close your eyes and think about your first day at a new office. Although you didn’t climb mountains, you felt exhausted and worn out at the end of the day. Why? You didn’t even move an inch from your chair. This is because when you delve into something new or challenging, you use a lot of mental energy, and after some time, you feel utterly drained out
Apart from time, you have a limited amount of focus, attention, and willpower each day. To get to the most important things, you need to learn how to manage your energy well. You need to conserve some of your energy for the most important tasks, even after rejuvenating your supplies at lunch break.
Two Modes of Thinking That Did Wonders for Me
A couple of months ago, I joined a free course offered by Coursera on ”Learning how to think’. During the course, the instructor talked about two modes of thinking.
Focus-mode thinking: In this mode, we basically turn a blind eye to all the distractions enveloping us, and laser-focus our attention on the task at hand. When we discount everything else, the neural pathways in our brain automatically overlook everything which is not pertinent to the task or contributing meaningfully to it.
Diffuse mode thinking: This mode is essentially when you unleash your brain to wander freely around the universe. This is where the creativity happens, the miracles take birth, and you act like a pinball machine. Once a thought is realized, it can bounce anywhere in the room.
So, which of the two modes do you think is the most productive?
Actually, it is a heady combination of both. It is about swapping between both the modes and getting things done along the way. Surprisingly, there are a couple of reasons for this. The much-hyped “eureka” moment is about starting a task with all the might and focus, and in the middle, stumbling upon a roadblock. You go for a walk and hit on the solution in your head. This is the perfect example of switching between both the modes. Next time you’re stuck in a rut, take a break and see what happens naturally.
The Make-Believe World of Multi-Tasking
Sherry Turkle in her amazing book, Reclaiming Conversation, labels multi-tasking as the main denominator of making us less productive while feeling great about our perceived productivity & time management skills.
She also writes, “People who practice multi-tasking don’t get any better at it, they just want more of it.” While to an extent, multitasking might exude an impression of making the most of your time, on the contrary, multi-tasking drains out all of our energy.
The cognitive load of switching between one task and another adds to the cumulative effect and wreaks havoc on your output.
True multitasking is a rare commodity. For instance, if you listen to a motivational tape while ambling around your block, this is the epitome of productive multitasking. The soothing effect of the walk is sure to impinge the message on your mind more effectively.
In the presence of an audio stimulus, you can freely listen to the tape and get driven. But if you try to listen to an audio tape while there are 30 tabs opened on your browser or while crafting a reply to an important email where all your concentration is dead-set on the screen, the idea articulated by the tape is most likely to fly over your head, instead of getting registered impactfully.
The concluding thoughts
I’m not at all against the concept of managing your time. I myself set certain hours to do important things each day. What I stand against is assuming that time management is the primary focus of my productivity.
It is a bizarre work-place culture out there, best with an obsession of appearing eventful. People who look busy are considered the most prolific.
Personally, I don’t think it is prudent to do so.
A productive person might be busy sometimes, but not all the time. You can stay fecund even by managing your team remotely from anywhere in the world.
The productivity I am talking about is not a fable. It actually gets things done and you will be able to accomplish most of your difficult goals in a seamless manner.