I learned that sharks sleep parts of their brain, like rolling blackouts; they can’t fall asleep because they can’t stop moving or they’ll suffocate. So they sleep sections of their brain at a time. So I do kind of a version of that, where I shut down brain centers. I literally tell myself, “Don’t logistically problem-solve for the next three hours, but you can talk to folks. Driving my kid home from school—don’t think about all the professional things you have to do.
— Mark Hoffmann comments on this NYT Well blog post, suggesting that willpower improves when you define your tasks better.
We are constantly trading off what we are doing now against what we might do in the future. As long as we are doing that in a reasonable way, it doesn’t matter that we are putting some things off.
Frank Partnoy reports on how experts in different fields view procrastination in Procrastination Rules. He describes how a journalist manages time by managing delay:
For projects that require different amounts of time, Guerrera makes separate lists. He describes a technique he and many other journalists use: “We have two sets of notebooks, a small one and a big one. The small one is for immediate day-to-day stories, the work we have to do right away. The big one is for big thoughts, features and stories that have some time. There’s an actual physical distinction between our immediate stories and the ones we can wait on. The physical form of two notebooks is our way of saying it’s too overwhelming to do both at the same time.”
Managing delay or, yes, procrastination, can be positive, reasonable behavior depending on what you’re actually trading off.
[T]ime management isn’t primarily about using minutes well, it’s about using yourself well. And using yourself well means spending most of your time in your sweet spot, which is at the intersection of your strengths, weaknesses, differences, and passions.
Peter Bregman found that many people “agree or strongly agree that they don’t spend enough time at work in their sweet spot, doing work they’re really good at and enjoy the most.”
Focusing at work isn’t just about concentrating on the tasks at hand, but also about focusing your talents. Stay in your sweet spot longer.
Leo Babauta of zen habits is all for killing time. To Leo, “killing” is a misnomer.
Reframe killing time as enjoying time.
Is this what our lives are to be? A non-stop stream of productive tasks? A life-long work day? A computer program optimized for productivity and efficiency? A cog in a machine?
What about joy? What about the sensory pleasure of lying in the grass with the sun shining on our closed eyes? What about the beauty of a nap while on the train? How about reading a novel for the sheer exhilaration of it, not to better yourself? What about spending time with someone for the love of being with someone, of making a genuine human connection that is unencumbered by productive purpose, unburdened by goals.
Recently, we highlighted a method of planning your day that consisted of asking yourself what you’d say “No” to. Just as important is to ask yourself “Why?” when it comes to the items on your to-do list.
Psychologist Michael V. Pantalon recommends making a Why-Do list to increase your motivation on those items that just never seem to make it off your to-do list. The key to Pantalon’s “Why?” exercise is keeping it positive. So instead of asking yourself negatively charged questions like, “Why can’t I do ____”, focus on the reasons why you wanted to do it in the first place and why those reasons are important to you.
This way, you may see how some to-do items don’t belong on your list and be more motivated to accomplish others — which connects back to knowing what to say “No” to.
Ask yourself “Why?” to know what to say “No” to.
Photo: Sarah-Wynne Taylor
Life might be a race against time but it is enriched when we rise above our instincts and stop the clock to process and understand what we are doing and why. A wise decision requires reflection, and reflection requires a pause.
Frank Partnoy, “Waiting Game”, Financial Times.
Partnoy, author of the forthcoming book Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination, writes about the value of delay and taking the full time we are given to make better decisions.
Maybe the best way to think about time management is in terms of delay management!
Photo: Katie Weilbacher
Over at The 99%, Tony Schwartz offers some excellent advice on how to accomplish more by doing less.
It’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk that determines the value we generate. It’s the energy we bring to the hours we work … . Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy – physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually – requires refueling it intermittently.
Schwartz’s insistence that real productivity requires real rest, recharge, and renewal is in tune with Ken Robinson‘s focus on energy. Robinson suggests that having passion for your work is a built-in energy renewal system. Schwartz’s point on sustaining personal energy levels is even more basic, whatever your passion (or lack of passion) is for your work — simply take more meaningful breaks.
Get outside, move around more, and please, stop eating lunch at your desk.
Terri Trespicio is a writer, editor, host, broadcaster, healthy living expert, and former senior editor at Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine. She also hosted the live, daily call-in show “Whole Living” on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius XM 110. Terri has appeared on the Today show, Dr. Oz, The Early Show, and The Martha Stewart Show. She’s also the creator of Best Decision All Day.
We chatted with Terri about the connections of health and wellness to productivity, the power of owning your time, and the navigation of career paths, as she steps out into a new chapter of self-employment.
Photo: Chad Griffith Photography, 2011
You’ve been a great supporter of iDoneThis. How did you start using it?
This app is something I actually use is because I really do tie my sense of wellness and calm to feeling productive. Nobody wants to feel like they’re spinning their wheels, not sure from one day to the next what they’re doing. Now that I’m not answering to a team so much and working on my own from home, I like to be able to keep track of what I’ve done. it’s just a cool way to feel good about not just what tasks you’re getting done but things that are building you toward what you want to achieve.