We often divide time into separate compartments. On one hand, there’s the time we devote to the things we have to do, above all work. Once that’s done, we get to enjoy our free time, or so the thinking goes.
The problem, however, isn’t that you don’t have enough time off – it’s that the very concept of “free time” is false. The reality is that you’re already free to do whatever you want with your time. But wait, that can’t be true – after all, you have your job and family, right? Well, yes, but when you get down to it, there’s nothing really stopping you from quitting your job and leaving your family; it’s just that most people don’t!
In truth, there’s no such thing as free time. What you have are the hours of the day when you’re not sleeping. And if you want to start getting the most out your time, you should be thinking about all your waking hours. That brings us to the first key point about time management: learning to prioritize and beat procrastination.
But prioritizing is hard. Whether it’s the overwhelming number of possibilities on offer or that impossibly long to-do list you carry around with you in your head, there are distractions lurking around every corner. The more you set out to get done, the easier it is to wind up not doing anything. This comes down to the fact that the human brain just isn’t very good at multitasking. In fact, it works best when you just prioritize one task.
In fact, one of the biggest time-management challenges in existence – procrastination – is closely related to poor prioritization. Say you’ve got an important project that needs wrapping up by the end of the week. If you don’t prioritize it, push it to the top of your agenda and get down to work right now, you’ll inevitably end up wasting half the week watering your office plants, surfing the web and getting bogged down in the minor details of some event that’s coming up in two months. Needless to say, leaving your most important tasks to the last minute is deeply counterproductive.