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Take back your time

Rethinking how you schedule your days can set you free.

While some things may be out of our control, much of our life comprises the choices we make – including how we manage our time, or don’t.

Our drive for productivity, especially in the U.S., has us so caught up in optimizing efficiency that we can spend hours managing our schedule, leaving less time for getting things done (or making time for self-care).

Tight time management can become counterproductive, leading to stress, anxiety, and burnout. When the usual techniques don’t seem to be creating space in your life, anti-time management can be a refreshing way to reduce stress, improve your focus, simplify, and even promote productivity.

Shifting priorities

When you stop actively trying to manage your time, you’re able to focus on your energy, emotions, and priorities. Take a hard look at your daily to-dos and check in with how you’re feeling. What can you let go of? What can wait? What if you prioritized one thing for yourself before filling your day with everything else?

Richie Norton, author of Anti-Time Management: Reclaim Your Time and Revolutionize Your Results with the Power of Time Tipping, proposes embracing this concept. “You control your time,” Norton asserts. “You decide what you want to do, when, and where. You decide if you want to create space or not.”

If this makes you laugh out loud because it feels impossible, consider how Norton invites you to get started by identifying “final causes,” a term from Aristotle that gets to the reason why something is done. “An acorn becomes an oak tree. Why not just plant an oak tree from the start?”

So next time, before you slip into uncontrollable chaos, look beyond the basics of traditional time management and try something new for a different result.

  • Prioritize tasks that have the biggest impact on your goals.
  • Identify and eliminate tasks that don’t move you toward your goals.
  • Base decisions on values and goals, not what’s most convenient or urgent.
  • Focus on one task until it’s complete.
  • Rather than checking off tasks, focus on results.
  • Tackle five easy tasks first, and for every big-ticket task, perform three small items.

Experiment and make small changes to find what works best for you at this time in your life. Through that, you’ll be able to prioritize what’s truly valuable to you both personally and professionally. This will help you to stay on track and check things off your to-do list with greater ease and effectiveness.

Next steps

Try these tools to see what has an impact on your life.

  • Sunsama: Organizes tasks, to-dos, and meetings in one place – aligning tasks with your time.
  • Pomofocus: Breaks work into 25-minute blocks split by 5-minute breaks.
  • Brain.fm: Music app designed by neuroscientists and music engineers to help with focus.
  • Superhuman: Get through your email inbox faster.
  • Freedom.to: Blocks distractions for your work focus.
  • Paper and pen: Just because a method is tech-forward doesn’t mean it will work for you.
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