By Akshad Singi, Medium
You don’t lack time. You just waste most of it on useless busyness.
Sooner or later, you’re going to have to accept this.
- An average user spends two and a half hours daily on social media in 2022.
- As of 2020, Netflix users watched an average of 3.2 hours of video per day through the service — that’s 6 billion collective hours per month.
When we look at these stats, it’s easy to think, “Wow! People waste so much time” as if we don’t contribute to these stats. But we do. You’re a part of these. And so am I.
And hence, it’s better to accept that we don’t lack time — but just that we waste most of it. Once you do that, you can do something about it: like incorporating tiny habits into your life that’ll save so much of your time. That’s what this article is about. Inculcate ALL 4 of these super-easy habits in your life, and I promise, the results will be extraordinary.
Time-blocking is an easy time-management hack by Cal Newport that takes just a minute but leads to so much clarity in your day.
The night before, simply divide the coming day into 30-minute blocks (or 5-minute blocks if you’re Elon Musk) and assign tasks to them. This is what it looks like.
Here’s why it works wonders:
- It eliminates the procrastination that stems from trying to decide “when” to start working. If you decide when to start working in real-time, procrastination is inevitable. You might think that you’ll start working in 5 minutes — but those 5 minutes will turn into an hour without you realizing it. But if it’s already decided that you’ll start working at 2 o’clock the next day, the chances of procrastination reduced massively — if not diminish completely.
- Also, when you lay out your day on a piece of paper and assign tasks to them, you’ll realize that you actually have a lot of time in a day. Do this every day, and it’ll get rid of the “lack of time” mindset forever.
5–4–3–2–1: Eat the frog for breakfast!
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Eating the frog is basically doing the most challenging and dreaded task of the day. And while you’re time-blocking it the night before, it’s best to schedule it first thing in the morning. Here’s why:
- The most challenging task of the day is also the one that induces the most procrastination. Hence, the later you schedule it, the more time you might waste time procrastinating because of the stress it induces.
- But if you do it first thing in the morning, you’ll feel like a winner all day. That’s why scheduled it for the morning.
Also, use the 5-Second rule by Mel Robbins to help you further. The idea is to start counting backward — 5–4–3–2–1 — and physically push yourself to begin working at 1. Mel says, “If you get the instinct to work on a goal, you must physically move inside of 5 seconds, otherwise your brain will kill it.” So if you’re supposed to start eating your frog at 9 AM, at 8:59 go, “5–4–3–2–1: Eat the frog!” and just get to work.
You’ve heard of visualization as a technique to improve your future. However, visualizing a bright future alone won’t do much if you’re not willing to dial it down to the present and inculcate the needful habits to convert those imaginations into reality. Because as F. Matthias Alexander said:
People don’t decide their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their future.
This is why every morning I visualize the day I time blocked the night before. I envision my day like this —
“I’ll start writing an article at 7:30 AM. Then, I’ll get dressed up and reach the medicine outpatient department by 9:30 AM. After my duty is over, I’ll have lunch at 2 PM, followed by a nap at 3 PM. Then, I’ll go to the gym at 4…”
…and so on.
This helps you double-anchor your mind to the day you planned out for yourself the night before. And this makes it even easier to stick to your plan.
Start a timer
This is the most underrated tool for productivity on your iPhone. I cannot stress how mind-bogglingly effective a timer is to increase your productivity.
Whenever you start doing your work, set a timer for like an hour, or maybe 40 minutes. Whatever works for you. I don’t really believe in techniques like the Pomodoro because I find that I can sustain my focus for different periods of time depending on the time of the day, how cognitively tired I am, and how cognitively demanding the task is.
But I do set a timer when I work. Here’s why: a timer anchors you to the task at hand and makes distractions almost impossible. Because your mind knows the timer is on, it’s going to stay focused. This happens because a timer creates a sense of accountability.
For instance, if I get up to pee, I’m going to pause my timer. I’ll resume only when I sit down again. Same for when I go to refill my bottle. And hence, even if I want to start using Twitter, I can only do so after I pause the timer. This adds a layer of accountability that enforces focused work.
Tying everything together
I promise, if you do all 4 of these, the results won’t disappoint you. Here’s how you can go about these:
- Time-block your day the night before.
- Then, micro-visualize the same schedule in the morning.
- When it’s time to work, speak out loud, “5–4–3–2–1: Eat the frog!” Eat the biggest frog in the morning.
- And then, start a timer to make sure you stay anchored to the work at hand.