Don’t use a time management method

That’s a click bait title if I’ve ever written one, but it’s something that I firmly believe in. I don’t believe that you should prescribe to any one single time management method, but rather a few so you can craft a method all your own that works for you no matter what life throws at you. For those crazy weeks where nothing seems to go right and you’re running endless errands, you might use a time quilting method like Chris Brogan (and every mum everywhere). For those weeks that you have larger chunks of time but can’t pay attention, you might find the Pomodoro method useful. Yet, till, there are other weeks when you can focus and don’t want the annoying bing of a timer to interrupt so you’d benefit from time blocks. And if you don’t see one that’s already been invented, invent on yourself.

Don’t be a slave to a single method.

Each time management method has its pros and cons. Just as one method will not work for everyone, a single method will not work for the same person all the time. Our lives are just like that, and we need to be able adjust our strategy as we work. Here’s three things you need as a basis to crafting your own time management techniques.

Coffee and LoungeUnderstand yourself and your needs. This is crucial, for it will be the basis of working with your own strengths and limitations. Be honest and even brutal. Are there times when you just can’t seem to get off the couch to work? Are there times when you feel like the only thing holding you together is your skin? Can you predict energy slumps? How about when you have a laser focus? Frankly, the answers will change from day-to-day, week to week, month to month, and even season to season. That’s because we are human and vulnerable to a good deal of things in the world from changes in weather to hormones in our own bodies — especially those brought on by things we consume. Coffee anyone? Begin with understanding yourself and your needs by keeping brief notes on yourself that you can acknowledge and work with in the rest of the framework.

Return to orbit. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrases spacing out, space cadet, too far out in space, head in the clouds, daydreamer, escapist, and others similarly coined for people who do not have their feet firmly planted in reality. I used to hear them all the time growing up, but frankly, nothing interested me growing up except my books, playing outside, and well, pretty much everything that I turned into my career now. We humans are like that — if something bores us, we tend to find as many ways as we can to avoid it until the pressure to just do it gets too great. Then, finally, we stop dragging our feet to get it done. Every time you find yourself unintentionally distracted, find a way to return back to reality. This could be that annoying ring of the timer, a rubber band on your wrist, whatever you need, just find a way that works for you. (For me it’s working without shoes and socks on; cold toes keep me grounded in the here and now. And lots of tea since you can’t phase out long when you need to use the loo.)

Try, compare, and contrast the methods. How do you know what works if you don’t know what doesn’t work? Embrace your inner scientist and start testing various models to see where they work for you and where they utterly fail. You’ll find that for every time management method there are proponents (people who it works for or are paid to say it does) and critics that speak out against it because it doesn’t work for them. Timers, for example, tend to get a bad rap because they interrupt a person that has good workflow. It doesn’t matter how you space out the time for breaks, once that concentration is broken, it’s hard to get it back. Time blocks are ubiquitous in academic life from young age, but does the long time block work for you? For most people it doesn’t work — unless they like the task. So, take the time to get to know some time management methods and see what works and what doesn’t.

With this foundation you should know what works, doesn’t work, and why. Take the time to experiment and parse together bits and pieces of this. If you need help, I’ll work with you on it, just so you have a good foundation in which to build your future. Once you get this far, though, there’s no turning back. You’ll want to organise your time and start taking over your little bit of the world. Are you ready for that?

Help a fella out: What are your favourite time management methods? Why? What don’t you like about other methods? Share your wisdom in the comments!