Category Archives: Productivity

Q&A with Davis: Questions about Time Management

Reader Submitted Questions

When did you start applying the time management principles (ex. Paretto and 80-20 rule)?

I started using a planner in middle school and then the Parkinson’s Law and the Paretto/80-20 rule when I read about them in high school.

What would you do when tasks take longer to finish and your mind is not in the zone to tackle them? Do you switch to another item on the to-do list or continue to push through the time allocated for it?

I do advocate to-do lists because they don’t give you a sense of what is important and what is not. To-do lists encourage quantity instead of quality.

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How to Overcome Procrastination

Procrastination comes from the Latin word “procrastinatio” meaning to “put off until tomorrow.” The roots are pro- meaning “forward” and crastinus meaning “of tomorrow.”

Procrastination can be described in a hundred different ways, but the central idea of procrastination is delaying a high-priority task in favor of a lower one. If I put off doing my tax returns to play my Wii, I am procrastinating; but if I choose to do my tax returns instead of playing my Wii, I am not procrastinating because playing the Wii is a lower-priority to me.

Procrastination can exist because of many reasons. These reasons appear in different ways and as such, you won’t always procrastinate for the same reason. For example, sometimes you are stressed out by your to-do list and procrastination gives you a temporary escape. Other times, a more fun, but low-priority alternative is more attractive to you.

Procrastination management is an art and not something that happens in a short time, but it is a skill that can be learned. In this article, I will address some of the most common causes of procrastination and the ways you can overcome these to minimize or even eliminate procrastination.

1. Overburden/Stress

One of the most common reasons to procrastinate is the overburden which causes stress. This is why most students will procrastinate on schoolwork. With so many reading assignments, extracurricular activities and events to attend,  it seems to never stop. The best way to overcome the feeling of being overburdened is to learn to say “No.”

I found that during my second semester at Yale, I was taking 5.5 credits (24 Credit Hours) and was extremely involved in six of my extracurricular organizations. I was constantly being pushed from one event to another. Even though I didn’t procrastinate on my homework or meetings, I found that I didn’t have as much fun as I did first semester when I only took 4.5 credits.

Last semester I took 4.5 credits with five extracurricular and never felt happier to be at Yale. I found the right balance that allowed me to take one task at a time and never feel rushed. I have time for two-hour dinners, to watch TV, and play some poker. Even as you learn to overcome procrastination, remember that it is okay to enjoy yourself once in a while. Play another round of 18 or load up another Just Dance 4 track. Less is more.

Other times, I might be stressed because I don’t know how to begin or what I am doing. In these cases, I break down what I want to do, what I don’t know, and how I will figure out the skills needed or figuring out how to get the job done. In these situations, I just ask for help.

2. The Lazy Bug

Sometimes we procrastinate because we are tired or just want to be lazy. Maybe we had a long day or didn’t get enough sleep. The lazy bug is contagious and once we begin to watch one movie or play one hour of League of Legends, the next thing we know is that our entire day is gone.

The solution to the lazy bug induced procrastination is using Newton’s First Law of Motion: an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. Start doing something to get yourself moving and working. When you feel lazy, do something that won’t drain you completely, but will contribute to your greater project.

When you are too lazy to write a paper, start brainstorming some topics for the paper. Then start some outlines and light research. As you begin to build momentum, keep going and start doing more demanding tasks. This is doing research and piecing together arguments. The key is to start building energy and eventually get you in the “zone.”

3. Lack of Motivation

Sometimes we aren’t lazy, but we just don’t want to do something. We don’t see the reason why we should spend time doing something we don’t enjoy for a result we don’t really want. This is, for example, not studying for a class because you don’t enjoy it or know why you enrolled in the class. When this happens, you need to re-evaluate why you are doing what you’re doing. You need to find something you enjoy that will keep you moving and motivated to complete the work. My friend Mendy will talk about this Friday in her Featured Friday Post about learning to say “no.”

4. Poor Self-Discipline or Time Management Skills

Sometimes, you have the will-power, but not the time. In these instances, you need to apply a lot of your self-discipline to find time and work through tasks you might not enjoy for a result that you want (ex. An “A” in the class). If your self-discipline is lacking, procrastination becomes a tempting mistress. To overcome this, remind yourself of the benefits from doing the task and start small until you have built enough momentum to continue with the larger tasks.

Other times, you procrastinate because you have no choice. You are always working from one task to another. I talk about this in one of my favorite posts. Developing better time management habits to help you overcome procrastination due to “not having enough time” involves identifying your current problem, time wasters, and figuring solutions for these time wasters. I talk about time management at the end of last year. You can find solutions to common bad time management habits here.

I would love to hear your opinions about procrastination. What causes your procrastination? How do you overcome it?

TimeHacks: Limiting Email

Today is the last article in a series of posts on effective time management.

One of the common problems people have when working on their goal is finding time. Often the people I coach or consult complain, “I simply don’t have enough time.” But then I ask them to record what they do in a week and the results of astounding. After seeing where their time goes, they are able to devote time to their goal by getting rid of what ate away at their time.

Today I want to give you one of my favorite time saving/effort maximizing ideas that I use every day. I like to call it one of my many TimeHacks.

  • Limit Time Spent Checking Email

When I was interning at America’s Realty (a real estate firm), I found that most emails came in at certain times of the day (before lunch, after lunch, and before closing). When I first started working, I did my best to answer each as they came in, but later found this method to be inefficient. Then, I started checking only at the beginning of my day, before lunch, after lunch, and before closing. I set an auto-response so that if an offer needed immediate attention, they would call the office directly (common practice). I found this boosted my efficiency, and we never had any conflict. Even as a real estate agent, I found emails are not always as urgent as you think they are.

Then there is personal email, even less urgent than business ones. Personal Emails are never too urgent that you would need to respond to them immediately or even within a few hours (otherwise, I would expect a phone call or at least a text). My friends know that if they need to contact me immediately, they have my phone number. And if there is a location change for a meeting, they will text me.

I answer my emails twice a day and check three (the third time is to scan in the morning for important emails such as classroom changes or reminders [never to answer or pay attention to unimportant emails}) .

By answering my emails before lunch (11:30 am – 12:00 am) and before dinner (5:30-6:30 pm), I cover the majority of emails that come through the day, without having to constantly worry about checking my Gmail.

I find TimeHacks fascinating because they free up time to do other things like working on goals. I will introduce more TimeHacks in the future.

Do you know or use any TimeHacks? I would love to hear about them.

Exercise:

What other TimeHacks do you know? Please comment below (no registration required)

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily. Come back tomorrow for another article.

Using a Planner

Today is the third article in a series of four posts on effective time management.

One of the common problems people have when working on their goal is finding time. Often the people I coach or consult complain, “I simply don’t have enough time.” But then I ask them to record what they do in a week and the results are astounding. After seeing where their time goes, they are able to devote new found time to their goal by getting rid of what ate away at their time.

Today I want to talk about why everyone should use a planner. When people hear “planner”, they think it means scheduling every minute of your life. That is not how a planner should work. A planner should provide you with a tool to prioritize your life not bog you down with unimportant things. A planner should allow you to see what is coming up and prepare; giving you more freedom.

At the beginning of each semester, I run through my class syllabi and write down all the assignments, reading, essays, exams, and projects I have due. I record the dates and type of work into my iCal. This way, as the semester progresses I can see what weeks I am “heavy” (have assignments due) or “light” (little work). I can plan ahead. So when I plan an event for one of my student organizations I know what dates work for me, and which do not.

Each Sunday night before I go to bed, I sit at my desk and run through my next two weeks and see what I have coming up, how much time I have to study, what I volunteered for, etc. By knowing what is coming up I can plan ahead. I don’t live by my planner, but I use it to optimize my time.

For example:

  • If I know I have 2 chapter of reading for psychology this next week but only 10 pages this week, I will get started on next week’s reading this week.
  • If I have two club meetings/dance rehearsals/magic rehearsal/etc. I do my best to schedule them so I have plenty of time to sit down and study and get other work done. I block them as close together as possible.

Nothing kills your flow more than opening a book only to have to close it due to another commitment. Blocking out time to perform tasks saves you time of having to getting into your “zone” again.

These are just a few of the many benefits of using a planner. I will let you figure out what works for you.

Exercise:

Try sitting down and planning your upcoming week. Do it for a week to see how you enjoy it.

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily. Come back tomorrow for another article.

The 80/20 Rule for Goal Achievers

Today is the second article in a series of posts on effective time management.

One of the common problems people have when working on their goal is finding time. Often the people I coach or consult complain, “I simply don’t have enough time.” But then I ask them to record what they do in a week and the results are astounding. After seeing where their time goes, they are able to devote new found time to their goal by getting rid of what ate away at their time.

Today I will talk about the Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) which states that roughly 80% of your rewards come from 20% of your effort. In order works, 80% of your time is spend doing 20% of your tasks, while the other 20% gets 80% of your work done.

The 80-20 rule applies to many areas of life including business, work, personal life, and school: 80 percent of all income from a business comes from 20 percent of the consumers, 80 percent of sales are closed by 20 percent of the sales team, 80 percent of clothes are only worn 20 percent of the time, and 80 percent of your grade will be determined by 20 percent of knowledge in the class.

The 80/20 principle is not just limited to 80-20 but anything as 75-25, 70-30, etc. The point is that not all efforts are rewarded equally, and making the best use of your time requires focusing on the 20 percent that gets 80 percent of your tasks done and eliminating as much of the 20 percent time wasters as possible.

The next question is where do the time waster’s come from? The answer will vary but consider these common ones:

–       80 percent of your headaches come from 20 percent of the people you spend time with

–       80 percent of your daily tasks only produce 20 percent of your long-term success

–       Only 20 percent of your time is really spend doing 80 percent of the things that matter or necessary in your life.

Exercise:

What 20% of your unnecessary activities are wasting 80% of your time?

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily. Come back tomorrow for another article.

Parkinson’s Law (Work expands to fill time)

Today begins my first article in a series of posts on effective time management.

One of the common problems people have when working on their goal is finding time. Often the people I coach or consult complain, “I simply don’t have enough time.” But then I ask them to record what they do in a week and the results are astounding. After seeing where their time goes, they are able to devote newly found time to their goal by getting rid of what ate away at their time.

Today I will talk about one of my favorite “laws”: Parkinson’s law.

Parkinson’s law says:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

In other words, the more time you are given to do something, the more you begin to see the task as more complex and important. As Tim Ferriss says, “Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline.”

If I give you 24 hours to do a task, you are forced to devote attention to completing the task: skipping over unnecessary steps and time wasters.

But if I give you the same task but a month to do it, you begin to overthink the importance of the task and you add unnecessary steps and processes to fill the time; this includes procrastination.

By having shorter deadlines, you will still get about the same quality as the longer deadline, because you devote more focus and attention to the pressing matter.

If instead of writing Find My Motivation each day, I gave myself a week to produce an article, I would still have to plan, research, write, and revise. But with the week deadline, I spend time researching and editing on the margins.

Instead I give myself about 1 hour per article. This is enough time for me to plan, research, write, and revise. Essentially I skip the fluff and get down to the point.

Exercise:

Next time you are given a long deadline, mentally set a shorter deadline.

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily. Come back tomorrow for another article.

Learning to live in a 40 hour world (The Secrets of Time Management)

I am going to spend the next couple of days discussing one of my favorite topics in goals achievement, making time for your goals. Effective use of time allows you to do more of what you want with less stress and anxiety about completing everything.

A common misconception about effective time management is that you have to schedule your day minute by minute, cut out things you enjoy doing such as relaxing and watching TV, and carrying a planner everywhere.

On the contrary effective time management is about giving you more freedom. This freedom comes from having more time to do the things you want. This could be to write a book, exercise, spend more time with family, anything.

Every day I find time to go to the gym, write a new article for Find My Motivation, attend classes, study and do homework, have 2 hour dinners with friends, lead 4 student groups at Yale, dance, practice magic, apply for exciting new opportunities, read interesting articles, watch TV, call my family and girlfriend back home, and sleep about nine hours each night.

I mention my daily activities not to brag, but to show what is possible and achievable by just understanding a few basic principles and techniques of effective time management. We are all given 24 hours each day, but not all 24 hours are spend equally.

To give you a preview of what is ahead this week (and why you should come back), here are a few of the secrets to doing more in less time I will write about.

  • The 80/20 Rule

How to decide what is optimal to do and what is not.

  • Parkinson’s Law

Why deadlines matter (hint: shorter deadlines are better)

  • Automating Routine activities

Make paying bills and answering emails less time consuming.

  • Using priority lists not to-do lists

How spending 20 minutes a week planning can increase your efficiency throughout the week.

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Exercise: 

Email me questions, ideas, or comments you have about effective time management.

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily. Come back tomorrow for another article.

What to do if you have to leave

Credit to epSos.de of Flickr

Being home is bittersweet. On one hand, I get to see my high school friends, my girlfriend, and my family, but on the other hand, I am not as productive. With all the people I want to see, the places I want to go, and the extra sleep I want to get, I sometimes feel unmotivated to work on things I normally do at Yale. Last year, when I came home, I stopped working out and I regretted it when I came back to Yale when I lost all motivation to continue. I am sure many of you probably feel this same way too when you are on a trip or away from your normal setting. All hope is not lost.

This year I have come to realize that I can make all the plans and to-do lists I want, but I won’t be able to accomplish everything (to see why, read about the planning fallacy), but that is okay. Instead of using the excuse of being home/break/vacation for why I am not working on my goals, I have learned to adapt my goals to my routine when I am home.

I don’t have access to my dorm gym, but I can still run in my subdivision and do push-ups on the floor. I don’t have the time to write long posts for Find My Motivation, but I can write short ones. I don’t have my poker club, but I do have friends who play poker.

Compromising your routine for a short-period of time does not mean you have given up on your goals. When you are going to be away for vacation, conference, or visiting family and continuing your routine is essential as is working out and writing my blog, have a back-up plan. It doesn’t have to be as intense as your regular routine if that would be an inconvenience.

Exercise:

If you had to take an unexpected trip or break, how would you continue your  goals routines?

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily. Return tomorrow for another article.

Combo Packs except with Goals (Bundling Goals)

Credit to Kelp of Flickr

Sometimes I bundle some of my goals together. Last year, I started to make a list of documentaries my friends recommended for me. When I first started the list, there were only three documentaries: Food Inc., Waiting for Superman, and Freakonomics. As the months went on, my list grew longer and longer, but I never made time to watch the documentaries, because other activities were more important to me at the time.

This year, I found time (sort of). I notice that when I am running on the treadmill, I am listening to music anyways so I decided for one morning to swap my iPod for my laptop. Now, when I am running on a treadmill I also watch my documentaries.

While this does limit my effectiveness and I would be better off doing each separately, I don’t think I would enjoy each separately. Sitting at hours at a time watching a documentary might be not the most productive way to spend my day. I found that by watching a new and interesting documentary each day crosses one off my list, makes running fun, and passes the time.

I don’t particularly enjoy multi-tasking as it takes attention and effort from each task, but when both are important to you and you can’t find the motivation to do them separately, bundling might work. The key is that adding one activity to the other does not take away from your focus. But just because I can bundle goals does not mean I will be running, listening to a documentary, and reading a book anytime soon.

Tomorrow’s Featured Writer is Jason Young who founded Global Health Professions Microfinance (GHPM), a micro-lending non-profit with the mission of improving the resources available to medical professionals in developing countries. He will talk about social responsibility and how it shaped his motivation for founding GHPM.

Exercise:

Consider any two goals you might like to bundle. Analyze the benefits and costs of doing them together.

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily. Come back tomorrow for another article.

Knowing when to stop (Keeping Good Form)

Credit to fuzzcat of Flickr

The lesson today is learning to keep “good form”. The term “good form” comes from running, where keeping good form helps you run faster, decreases stress on your body, and reduces risk of injury.

But what if your goal is not running? Every goal has its own version of “good form.” For students this could be studying after a good night’s sleep, for writer writing after breakfast, or for professors having material ready beforehand.

When you are in “good form” you are more alert and actively engaged in your goals. It is not how many hours you spend on your goals, but how well you spend those hours. Quality should be taken over quanitity.

To maximize progress on your goals, you need to find a time of the day or place where you can work at your optimal. Some people like to call this being in the “zone.” But there is a difference between being in “the zone” and when you are forcing yourself to continue. When you force yourself to continue, beyond the point where you should stop, you are prone to mistakes and risk losing progress you have already made. For example, in studying a foreign language, learning more words than you can remember, leads to you forget what you are trying to learn (just ask anyone who crams for an exam).

Working towards goals should be fun not a chore to be crossed off your list. The limit to how much you should spend on a goal will depend on the nature of what you’re doing and your personal limits, but you should make it a priority to find out where your limits are.

No matter how well rested you are, how balanced your meal, and how focused your mindset, at a certain point your form will be compromised. I could practice magic from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed again, but without breaks I will begin to lose “good form”; I will begin slouching over (not good for stage presence), perform my tricks faster or slower than normal (not good presentation), and feel pain and stress in my fingers (not good for practicing the next day).

As Tony Horton, creator of P90X, says at the beginning of each workout, “Don’t sacrifice form.”

Exercise:

When working on your goals remember not to sacrifice form.

If you have any comments, suggestions for future topics, or want to write contact me at findmymotivation@gmail.com.

My blog is updated daily.