Want To Become An Expert In Time Management? Save Your Attention!

Nature Of Paying Attention

A friend once told me something, which I couldn’t agree more.

“If you want to be better at managing time, you should first understand that you have limited time in your life and you can only do so many things.”

In life, we are always attending to something. The nature of paying attention to some activity or event is such that we are ignoring all the rest of the activities and events. We can only attend to one thing at a time and hence we ignore the rest. If you are reading right now and paying your attention to me, you are ignoring all the other things that you could be doing right now.

When you are becoming an expert in something, you are missing out on the opportunity to become an expert in some other thing. You become ignorant about that other field.

So, ignorance is by default a by-product of paying attention.

An old man contemplating upon time.

That means, you can not do every possible thing in life. You can not have it all. If you want something and you work towards it, you have to give up some other things by nature. We can only be in one place at a time.

So with that understanding of limited time at hand, then comes the question of how we want to manage it and where do we want to spend it effectively.

Time Management

There are 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in the week. Everyone has the same amount of hours in the week; you, me or Elon Musk. But how do we spend this time is all up to us.

Out of these 24 hours of the day, by the nature of the design of our body, it takes its own time to function. It needs time for rest, sleep, nutrition, excretion, exercise and other functions. So, much of our life is spent doing these trivial activities like sleeping, eating, commuting and excreting.

Say you have to sleep 8 hours every day. This means you are spending 1/3 of your life on sleep. Now, if you increase your sleep quota, you are decreasing your waking quota.

Similarly, if you spend 2-3 hours for eating and 1-2 hours for excreting what you ate yesterday, you are spending another 5 hours of your day.

Half of you life is gone sleeping, eating and excreting alone!

Therefore, it’s important to be conscious about our life-style in order to be better at managing time.


Effective Time Management

There are different proven ways like the “Pomodoro Technique” and the “Getting Things Done (GTD)” strategy that can be implemented to effectively use whatever time we have in hand. However, before jumping into learning the techniques of managing time, it is important to realize where have we been wasting our time.

Because if we simply become expert with these techniques without understanding the value of spending time qualitatively, we will simply become better at things that we do not want and move faster and faster towards things that we do not need. Basically speaking, we do not want to create extra time to make our life more miserable.

So, there must be the awareness of what is being wasted before moving on to learning techniques to manage what is leftover.

Now how do we become aware of anything?

Awareness comes through understanding and that comes from being well informed i.e. being equipped with right information.

How do you get the right information?

Keep Track Of How You Spend Your Week

Start by becoming mindful of the things you do every day for the upcoming week. Record the different kinds of activities that you do every day and also how much time you spend on them. Record the activities in as much detail as possible. Keep a journal for the entire week so that you can have plenty of data to analyze.

A week full of recorded information is more than enough to identify how you have been spending your time lately. Once you have this data for the week then you should be able to make conscious decisions about which area needs to be addressed.

Are you spending too much time on activities that are not worth paying your attention? How much of the week was run on auto pilot mode? Are trivial things taking up too much of your time? Did you spend your time well enough?

How much of the time did you spend on chattering and complaining? How much on TV, movies, internet, video games, drinking, smoking and other sensual pleasures?

How much attention did you save for creativity, passion and bringing a positive change in your life or learning a new skill?

Basically, the goal here is to identify the activities that are not aligned with your goals and stop paying attention to them. When you identify the distractions and get rid of them, you will find that you have more time and space for the things that you would love to do. The more attention you save from distractions, the more time you get.

Everything around us wants to receive our attention. The daily work and life demands our attention. The applications on mobile phones and on the internet are engineered to take away your attention. The shops, their discount offers and their salesgirls lure our attention. The TVs and their advertisements beg for our attention.

Can you say no to the distractions and save your attention?

Pay attention to me
Pay attention to me (photo: Dailybits)

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