“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson’s Law
“Earnest men soon discover that if they are to accomplish anything that is successful, strong, and enduring, either in worldly, intellectual, or spiritual channels, they must curb their desires and must sacrifice much that seems sweet; yea, even much that seems important. Hobbies, bodily and mental indulgences, enticing companionships, alluring pleasures, and all work that does not tend to some central purpose in his life must be sacrificed by the man of strong resolve. He opens his eyes to the fact that time and energy are strictly limited, and so he economizes the one and concentrates the other.” James Allen The Life Triumphant
So much to do, so little time. I firmly believe that time is our greatest asset. Unlike other resources, time cannot be increased or recovered. Everyone gets the same 24 hours, but what you get out of them is vastly different and entirely up to you. As a grad student, who wants to do extremely well while still having some semblance of a social life and sanity, time management is paramount. Listed below are a few time management tips that I hope will help you, like James Allen suggests, to maximize time and concentrate energy.
How to use Parkinson’s Law and your available energy to your advantage:
PRIORITIZE – Understand the difference between what is important, what is urgent, and what is nice but non-essential. Identify what you and you alone can do and do better, what Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, calls your “core competencies,” versus what you can outsource which brings me to my next point. (For a worksheet on planning the best use of your 168 hours click here.)
DELEGATE – As a woman, I definitely fall prey to the Super Woman Syndrome where I think I must do everything, all the time, by myself, and extraordinarily well. However, this is just not smart. If there are competent and/or caring people who want to help with tasks that you lose nothing by not doing, then let them.
ASSESS – In order to maximize your workable time, you must allot the correct amount of time to tasks, and to allot the correct amount of time to tasks, you must first know long it takes to complete said task. Figure out how long it takes to do the task at hand and then, if it is a skilled task, give yourself 10-20% less time to do them (Unless by doing so you’re going to jeopardize the health and safety of yourself or others).
IDENTIFY when your energy is at its peak. Some people are early birds while others are night owls. Learn when you have the most energy and schedule your most important or mentally rigorous tasks to that time slot.
ELIMINATE distractions – Yep, turn that iPhone off and disable your Internet (Unless, of course, you actually need the Internet to complete your task.)
MINIMIZE interruptions – Retreat to some obscure place in the house/on campus where no one you know can find you. Carve out time and a place for you to do the things that you absolutely cannot afford to have interruptions while doing. Disruptions break your mental flow and cause you to lose time and focus. To learn how much time and focus loss they cause read this article by Franck Tetard.
STOP saying yes. This is related to identifying priorities. There will always be someone who wants something from you, and although you may truly want to get involved in whatever awesome cause, you cannot say yes to everything without sacrificing quality.