The Overlooked Variable of Time Management

When we think about time management, the first thing that comes to mind is planning. Planning is a critical part of time management, but not the only component.

The other component of time management is the willpower to follow up with your plans. You might analyze and prioritize your projects and plan them in your to-do lists. If you don’t complete the tasks on your to-do lists, all of that work means nothing.

Execution is as important as planning. I shared how you can audit and improve your execution in yesterday’s post. Today’s post will be about practical, yet effective mind hacks that you can apply right away.

The Optimal Emotional State for Maximum Performance

There is an optimal emotional state for maximum performance. It’s neither being too happy nor being too depressed. It’s neither being too optimistic nor being too pessimistic. It’s a sweet spot between those extremes.

Acknowledge Your Accomplishments

As humans, we tend to downplay positives and exaggerate negatives. As a result, we end up being too pessimistic and get depressed.

To overcome that pitfall, acknowledge your accomplishments, and be grateful for what you have. That doesn’t mean to ignore your mistakes or weaknesses. Acknowledge them too and convert them to points of improvement (POI).

The golden ratio between accomplishments and POI’s seems to be around 5 to 1. At the end of each day, write down five achievements and one POI. This practice boosts your self-esteem and keeps you motivated to achieve more.

Build Momentum

Once you have momentum, you’re unstoppable. You’re driven to create more, deliver more, and accomplish more.

You build momentum by completing a series of tasks, no matter how small those tasks are. The secret to creating momentum is to divide your big tasks into smaller tasks.

Ideally, your tasks should take somewhere between 20 minutes and one hour. That way, you can complete them in a single sitting.

Work through a Checklist of Bitesize Tasks

Before starting a work session, come up with a checklist of bitesize tasks. That way, you don’t need to think about what to do next. You have clarity.

You won’t lose time between steps. You won’t miss a step. You won’t have to deal with massive, hard challenges. All you have to do is to finish those tasks one by one.

You can even convert creative activities to checklists of bitesize tasks. For an example, check the post A Creativity Exercise to Come Up with Counterintuitive Blog Post Titles that Get Clicked.

The more you accomplish, the more motivated you get to accomplish more.

As you complete the tasks on your list one by one, you feel a sense of accomplishment. You feel like a machine.

Focus on a Single Task at Hand

You can start ten tasks and feel like you’re working hard. Or you can complete one task and make actual progress toward your goals.

Starting ten tasks won’t make any difference in your life. Completing a task will. Focus on a single task until its completion. Check it on your to-do list. And then, proceed with the next one.

Gamify the Process

Assign a duration to the next task on your to-do list. Set the timer and try to complete the task within the duration you set.

Create micro-challenges for yourself. Those micro-challenges have to be attainable, but slightly outside of your comfort zone. That way, you’ll push yourself to perform a little better each time.

Adopt the Optimization Mindset

Small improvements add up over time. If you improve your life 1% a day, you’ll improve it 38 times over a year. That is 3800% improvement.

Ask Yourself Motivating Questions

Work toward Weekly Goals

To-do lists consist of action items that are entirely under your control. It’s up to you to get them done or not. For example, it’s under your control to publish a post every day for the next thirty days.

Goals aren’t completely under your control. They involve events that are outside of your control. That’s what makes them exciting.

Focusing on short-term goals such as weekly goals can make you obsessive about your work. That’s the type of motivation to achieve enormous feats.

Your weekly goals have to be related to your long-term goals. Ideally, you start with a meaningful long-term goal and break it down into smaller goals until you come up with a weekly goal. Check how I came up with my weekly goal.

Find Accountability Partners

Find a person or a group of people that will hold you accountable. Report the completion rate of your to-do list and your progress toward your goals, ideally once a week. You can find an accountability partner or build an online mastermind group.

Create a Failproof Identity and Environment

Most of the time, we focus on our actions to accomplish our goals. There are two other ingredients of success. They are more fundamental than our actions because they influence our actions directly. These two ingredients are our identity and our environment.

Building an identity might take some time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start working on it right away.

Creating an environment is easier if you have the means. To start with, get rid of everything that distracts you and get the best equipment that would improve your performance.

Sustainability

Even though we can improve our performance, we all have limitations. Failure and dry spells are inevitable in any meaningful endeavor.

When I fail at a specific goal, I look at the big picture of my life and my long-term goals. That motivates me to keep going.

Your long-term goals could take longer than you expect. You need to survive those long stretches of dry spells. You can do that by focusing on essentials and letting go of everything else.

Reward Yourself

Last but not least, promise yourself some downtime and rewards. If your life looks like one big stretch of hard work, you might get discouraged and give up. To avoid that, schedule some quality time for yourself and for your loved ones.

Conclusion

There are a lot of little tricks you can use to improve your motivation and performance. I don’t expect you to learn, internalize, and apply all of these tips in a single week.

Pick one of the tips, and apply it for a week. Bookmark this post and come back one week later. Pick another tip and repeat the process.

Make continuous improvement in your life. Never stop improving your life and processes.

Your Turn

  • Which tip is your favorite?
  • Which tip will you apply this week?
  • Do you have any tips that I haven’t mentioned here?
Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.

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