Time management – is it working?

Over the past two years, I’ve delved into various time management techniques to optimize my precious hours and reignite the CogitActive Saga. By integrating proven strategies, I’ve established a comprehensive system, with the Getting Things Done (GTD) method playing a significant role. In my recent post, I hinted at successfully restoring a harmonious work-life balance, allowing me to spend quality time with loved ones. Additionally, I’ve come to recognize the value of self-care – a facet I previously sacrificed due to work overload, even before becoming a father. As busy individuals, we indeed often prioritize productivity over personal well-being; a bad idea as exemplified in my experience with illness. However, the truth remains: dedicating quality “me” time enhances overall efficiency. Regular breaks, indulging in hobbies, and practicing meditation all contribute to my performance in various areas. But…

In my post titled ‘Great on Paper, but When It Comes to Practice…,’ I candidly acknowledged that my seemingly flawless time management plan had its vulnerabilities. Real-world demands relentlessly tested its limits. Life, as it often does, threw unexpected curveballs my way – work overload, unforeseen assignments, and external pressures. The weight of countless hours, sacrifices, and mounting frustration began to take its toll. Suddenly, my meticulously crafted system strained under the pressure. Even the well-defined boundaries I had set – those carefully allocated time blocks – proved insufficient to handle the tsunami of additional workload. Reluctantly, I found myself sacrificing ‘me’ time once again, all while striving to protect precious family moments. As avid readers of this blog already know, despite my best efforts, CogitActive remained elusive, slipping through my grasp.

Beyond the familiar adage of ‘good in theory, bad in practice,’ I find myself questioning the shortcomings of my meticulously crafted plan. It appeared flawless – on paper, at least – but did I overlook essential elements like flexibility and resilience? Even the most thoughtfully designed systems require space for adaptation, right? Still, I wonder: why did my plan falter when faced with the weight of reality? Perhaps it’s time to recalibrate my expectations. Balancing a (more than) full-time job leaves little room for additional work activities; yet, reconsidering my ability to handle CogitActive is not an option as alluded to in A nonsolution.

Adaptability and realistic expectations are crucial for sustainable success.

Recall the Physical Tickler I meticulously assembled. After several weeks of disuse, it slipped my mind, nearly causing me to miss an important appointment. Fortunately, my calendar(s) provided a timely reminder. In a similar vein, I devised what I affectionately termed a ‘GTD cheating dashboard’ – a tool primarily designed to jog my memory about tasks that a fatigued mind might easily overlook. This dashboard proved invaluable indeed for remembering everyday chores like doing the laundry or the (should-be) dinner preparation. Guess what? Regrettably, my busy schedule prevented me from dedicating the 2-minute evening review necessary to prepare for the following day, resulting in my neglect of this useful tool. The same mea culpa applies to my GTD system 2.0. In my haste, I occasionally bypassed its intended process to save a few seconds, unwittingly falling into the very trap David Allen cautions against in his book.

Keep everything in your head or out of your head. If it’s in between, you won’t trust either one.David Allen

In short, my supposedly foolproof plan fell short because I overlooked the influential role of habits in effective time management. Even meticulously designed systems demand unwavering attention and adherence for optimal outcomes. The question is how to get there. What should I do for my system to become second nature?

Building habits takes time and persistence.

Habits develop through repetition. When we consistently engage in a specific action, our brains create neural pathways, making the behavior more automatic. The 21/90 rule states that it takes 21 days to form a new habit and 90 days to create a permanent lifestyle change. In other words, it involves 3 weeks of habit formation followed by 3 months of habit solidification. The underlying idea is that if you give a new habit enough time, it becomes automated. Once it’s automated, you free up mental resources.

Motivating ourselves is a core part of time management—and it takes a bit of effort not only to motivate yourself but to cultivate good habits to work and live more efficiently.Coursera Staff
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