Among the things that make all men equal is time. Whether you’re rich or poor, educated or uneducated, male or female, young or old, you get nothing more than 24 hours. What makes the difference is how we decide to make use of these hours that the Creator has given to us. The wise have understood this and so endeavour to maximise every hour of the day in other to get the best from it.
So, time is equally distributed but the value of our time differs. How do you get the best out of your 24 hours and train to become so wise that your earnings and free time increase significantly? It’s simple, by learning from God and the most effective humans that walk or have walked the face of this terrestrial ball.
Few things are as important to your quality of life as your choices about how to spend the precious resource of your free time.Winifred Gallagher
Here are some tips to help you efficiently manage your 24 hours:
1. Make a To-do list:
To live your day without having a list of things you want to accomplish is like driving a car with no steering wheel. You’ll be without focus nor direction, causing accidents and endangering your life and those of other motorists on their journey.
Have you been on the highway that has a speed limit of 130km/hr and someone in front is going at 50km/hr? That can be one of the most frustrating things. When someone doesn’t know where he is going, he’ll constitute a nuisance to the other road users.
You don’t live every day by simply “going with the flow.” No. That’s like having no goals, no vision, no objectives whatsoever. Little or no accomplishments come to people who aren’t intentional about it. You need to have something you are chasing every single day.
So, with a to-do list, you know the things you want to achieve for the day and you go for them. Without a to-do list, you wander all day doing several things but accomplishing little or nothing at the end of the day.
I can’t say that God had a to-do list, that’d be reducing Him to man, but you can find a pattern in His works. He had the number of days He wanted to dedicate to creation and He knew the things to create each day.
So, get your writing materials and list the things you need to do – don’t trust your brain. Also, When drafting your to-do list, you want to simply write down the tasks as they come, irrespective of priority level.
The second phase is ordering the tasks in terms of priorities. Here you want to order these items in terms of importance, deadlines and level of difficulty. Identify the parameter that best goes with your tasks and arrange the items on your list accordingly. If you don’t prioritise, you’ll be having several ‘O moments’ during the day, when you’d wish you had done this task before that task or when you miss deadlines and things like that. So, a list arranged in order of importance, deadlines and/or level of difficulty gives you a clearer picture of what task to commence with.
The non-essential tasks should obviously occupy the bottom position of your list. They are those tasks that may not be necessary for the day and sometimes represent a distraction. You can do them if time is left, else eliminate them and focus on the main things.
A to-do list is preferably written during the weekends for the coming week or the night before for the day. Some people also prefer to prepare theirs during the early hours of the morning. Whatever works for you is ok. But you must have a checklist of things to do.
3. Start with the most important or most difficult:
After writing your to-do list, the next thing is action. A to-do list remains a list until action is taken, then, it becomes goals accomplished and objectives met.
The most important task is that particular task on which other tasks hinge; so, once accomplished makes the accomplishment of the others less tasking.
The most difficult, however, may not necessarily be the most important on the list but it’s the one you consider either more time consuming, less appealing or more tiring. The most difficult may even be the one that requires the least amount of time but it’s a task you don’t like indulging in.
Starting with the most difficult is good because once you eliminate that from your list, you can heave a deep sigh of relief. And with that dopamine release, you can go about doing the others happily.
Sometimes, we spend so much time thinking about this most difficult task that it drains us internally. So, knock it out of the list immediately and free your mind.
4. Break the tasks into small parts:
The most important or the most difficult tasks often have several components to them. So, break them down into smaller parts. What this does is that it reduces the mountain to a valley or at least to a hill. When things are broken into several parts, it’s easier to know how much time they’ll take and it helps you see that those big tasks are actually doable.
For example, a medical student that needs to study the anatomy of the human body will be scared at the size of the textbook, Gray’s Anatomy. But if you break the whole textbook down to topics (organs) and sub-topics (structure of the organ, its function, vascularization (blood vessels), nerves, lymphatic system etc.) you’ll see bits that you can cross out in one day, one week and on.
5. Start from the smallest part to gain momentum.
When one is full of energy and bubbly, he can start from the largest portion of the task. But most times, we’re either tired or don’t feel like doing any house chores, studying, writing, doing paperwork and so on. So, it’s a good practice to start from the smallest part of the chore. Once you cross that off, the excitement that comes with it is linked to the release of the “feel-good” hormone (aka dopamine).
With that excitement, you can move over to the next task and the next and on and on. If you are already demotivated and you start with the most tasking part, chances are that you’ll be more discouraged while doing it, or you’ll do it shabbily.
6. Declutter your mind and physical space from distractions.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear full of hearing says the Holy Scriptures, and that’s the truth. Anything you see or hear will always call for your attention even when you’re not interested in it.
So, for example, whenever you need to study, you should be in the library or if you’re comfortable at home, take away anything you know that will constitute a distraction. They could be your computer, phone, tablet, videogame console, favourite outfit, football shoes, interesting books, movies; anything that you know that isn’t necessary for what you’re doing should be away from view. Not everyone has separate rooms for work and study, however, you can organise your one room to have a night (sleep) corner and a day (work/study) corner.
7. Get all necessary materials ready.
This is vital because it curtails the time unnecessarily wasted in going to pick the items one after another, distracting yourself and wasting useful time. So, if you need to accomplish goal A, get all the materials needed to achieve goal A. Things concerning goals D, L and W, should be removed. They’ll only return when it’s their time.
8. Focus on one thing at a time.
When on the road to accomplishing your goals, doing multiple unrelated things makes you less effective and less efficient; you take more time to accomplish your objectives, you do things wrong that you have to repeat, waste energy unnecessarily and you’re unable to properly manage the outcomes of the things you’re doing.
Simply focus on one task or a few closely related tasks at a time. Once you’re done, move to the next one. Some matters require your maximum concentration over a short period of time, like when you’re preparing for some professional or school exams. Some other tasks require that you show up over a long period and do a bit daily.
9. Recreation and Relaxation – Take Breaks
Recreation is a vital part of any plan that works. If God rested on the 7th day, then you need some small breaks as well.
Breaks are the rewards you give yourself for performing a given task. Incorporate them into your daily timetable. They are very important because they help you recuperate some energy and relieve your brain cells and muscles. And they make you feel good too. If you’re studying, they help the ideas you’ve read to sediment a bit.
A break could be to sing and dance to your favourite songs for some minutes, call a friend or family for a chat, go to take a walk, just lay down on the desk, go take a snack, have a warm bath or whatever that means to you. So, detach from the task and do anything that makes you feel good (and by “anything,” I mean, any good thing).
Have breaks but be careful not to turn a mini-break into a feast that will make it difficult to return to your schedule.
The duration of breaks vary – they could be short breaks of 15 minutes or long breaks of an hour or so for lunch, dinner, siesta or going to get the kids from school.
10. Delegate some tasks and focus on the most important.
You don’t have to do everything or oversee every activity especially if you’re a leader. Delegate some tasks so you can focus on the most important things. If possible, outsource some matters too. You already have so much to do; so, you can’t afford to focus on every little thing.
11. Delay gratification.
Taking breaks between major tasks is important, however, you don’t want to hold a feast for every little task accomplished. See delayed gratification as a necessary sacrifice to reaching the peak. So, accumulate the small wins and let them propel you to keep pushing and pushing.
12. Always keep the Reward or benefit of your accomplishment in mind.
For example, if the toilet is clean, I’ll receive inspiration while sitting on the seat or while having a shower. If I study for my exams, I’ll acquire knowledge and pass my exams. When I read more books, I’ll get better in my profession. If I write more articles, then I’d have time to travel on vacation this summer and spend time with my family. There’s always a reward attached to accomplishing a task– you can adapt to your situation. Whatever is the benefit you stand to gain from accomplishing those tasks, write them down and rehearse them to yourself. They’ll spur you on.
13. Keep your feelings in check.
Don’t always trust your feelings. Feelings come and go, and that should make you wise. Whenever you feel a rush of some feel-good hormone, just exploit that and do as much as you can because feelings don’t usually last for long hours.
However, even when you don’t feel like doing anything, still get up and start tackling those things on your to-do list. Why? Because bad feelings go away as well but unaccomplished tasks remain and will keep staring at you until eliminated through action.
14. Practice, Practice and Practice.
Practice makes for improvement. The more you do a thing, the more you learn to do it better. You won’t get it right the first time and that’s fine. You may not even get it right the second time, and it’s ok. But with daily practice, you’ll turn this activity into a habit and you’ll flow seamlessly. So, repetition is the word.
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