What You Know About Time Management Is Wrong
How I fixed my strained relationship with time management.
During the summer, I focused on how I could tackle my strained relationship with time management.
From the outside, it looks like I am a pretty good project manager and hit deadlines. But under the hood, you’ll see that I cram and stress myself out to get to the finish line. Doing late nights in your 30s isn’t cute.
I was becoming increasingly frustrated with myself for spending 3 hours to write a newsletter, when it could’ve taken me 30 minutes in a more creative state of flow. Or that my procrastination on an email would blossom into a 4-day delay when all it required was 10 minutes of feedback.
And so, I spent the whole month of June reading books about time management. I read 5 books on the topic. The biggest result I’ve seen from applying my learnings is I’ve axed my dilly-dallying when writing newsletters and have cut down my time spent by 80%+.
Entrepreneurs are notoriously a broken record when it comes to needing more time and constantly wish for >25+ hours in a day.
Turns out you can do plenty with the hours you have right now. Here are my best cliff notes from my time management learning sprint —
Time Management Is About Mind Management
This was the most significant lesson for me, that I was looking at time management all wrong. The crux of time management issues isn’t about slaying the Pomodoro method and kicking your brain into flow state all the time.
Successful time management that meaningfully changes your productivity is about managing your mind. More on that below.
Your Brain Has Modes
The first truth to accept is that your brain does not have an everything mode. It is not capable of being creative, editing, having conversations, consuming content, and calculating numbers all in the same 2-hour window. This is why multitasking breeds mediocrity. Your brain works in different modes at different times of the day.
The mode I’ve been wanting to wrangle is my creative mode where writing, creation, and new idea generation are available. Turns out, accessing this mode at its prime state is all about timing.
According to research, your prefrontal cortex right after you wake up is not turned on yet (aka your defenses are down), so your brain can more easily explore new ideas without objections or mental red tape. Learning this has been a gamechanger for me, writing right after I wake up has helped me kick into creativity faster and get back hours of my time.
I’ve also noticed that my brain goes into creative mode around 7PM when I’m relaxed after the work day and am starting to move my body — it’s similar to why new ideas always come to you in the shower, the extra dopamine from body movement stimulates the creative centers in your brain. And since you’re not focused on anything other than your shower, your brain has space to wander and drum up new ideas.
Caffeine Should Come With Instructions
I’ll keep this one short and leave it to you to Google what time is right for you, but across the multiple books I read, they pointed out research that caffeine consumption must be timed if you want to optimize it for productivity.
If you wake up between 6–8AM, the optimum time to consume caffeine is 9:30–11:30AM. It has something to do with bringing in the caffeine when your energy and cortisol levels are low — it picks you up where your body’s natural energy stores have worn off.
Clear Out Your Brain’s Cache
When your thoughts get interrupted with emails, notifications, and random chatter in your brain, it gets overloaded. This ends up affecting your memory, which in turn plummets your productivity (it’s hard to get things done when your short-term memory keeps forgetting what you were working on).
Having a notepad handy when you’re working, or are on the move so that you can write any new thoughts that come into your brain like — that toy you need to buy for your dog, or that text you need to respond to.
Dumping it out helps clean out your brain’s cache so that you can stop thinking about it, and focus on the task you’re currently working on.
Working Past 40 Hours / Week Is Unproductive
I want everyone to see and understand this one:
It is scientifically proven that working past 40 hours a week is inefficient. Studies show that those who put in 70 hours a week only produce an extra 15 hours of good work (not 30 hours like the way the math adds up).
Most don’t have a choice or an option to not work past 40 hours/week, but for the times when you do have a choice, remember the above.
(The books I reference above are Mind Management over Time Management by David Kadavy, The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey, and Make Time: How To Focus On What Matters Everyday by Jake Knapp.)