Updated: Jun 17, 2021
Over the last few weeks, many colleagues and friends have asked me how I manage to train daily, be a mother to a 2 and 4 years old, be a dedicated manager and employee working +50h per week, write weekly, sleep 7 to 9h per night, maintain friendships, track all my food intake, read books, listen to podcasts, watch the latest TV show like the Friends Reunion or Mare of Easttown and be a good wife. It’s a good question. On a day-to-day basis, I don’t feel like I do that much, but when I take a step back, it can seem like a lot. Like everyone else, I only have 24 h available in a day and since I got kids, I have learned to maximize how I use my time.
To start with, I think that time management is a mindset and the way I manage my time is highly influenced by how I personally feel about time. Time is a limited currency and we only have a maximum amount of it. I actually hate and fear time. My greatest fear in life is to run out of time and therefore, I want to make sure I use my time the best way possible. In addition, time in general stresses me so I have learned many hacks to use it best. Implementing those various hacks took time, but came easily to me as I personally get negative feelings such as stress, remorse, frustration and anxiety when I don’t use my time right. I feel like I have wasted something I will never get back and the anxiety that follows can be a heavy burden to carry. Therefore, I try to avoid using my time in a way that will make me feel bad, hence why I think time management is a mindset.
Now, let’s not waste more time on this article’s intro and jump straight to the core. Here are my various tools, hacks and techniques I use to manage my time in a way that allows me to do more and feel like I am not wasting time.
*Note: this list is not in any prioritized order. Feel free to read, pick and choose as you see fit. In addition, I am always looking for new tricks, tips or advice. If you are using any tools or techniques not mentioned below, please share and comment!
My time management tools, hacks and techniques:
1. Prioritizing sleep: for a VERY long time I didn't sleep enough as I felt that sleep stole time away from me. Over the last couple of years (having kids really puts sleep in perspective), I have started to prioritize sleep and I aim at sleeping between 7 and 8 hours per night. It turns out that when I sleep more, I am in a better mood, I have better concentration and I can actually accomplish more in the day.
2. Training in the morning: I train in the morning as much as I can. I go to bed early (21:30) and wake up early (4:50) to train. I do so for two key reasons. First, training early in the morning while my family is still sleeping doesn’t make me feel like I am missing out on time with them. Secondly, there is nothing better than starting the day feeling like I’ve already accomplished something. No matter what happens next, I already feel great because I have already completed one goal I had set for the day. This helps boost my mood, my self-confidence and my productivity mindset. It also keeps me in check as I started the day on the right track so I am more keen on continuing that way.
3. Limiting pseudo work: I try, as much as possible, to limit my pseudowork, both at home and at work. Before I start a task, I always ask myself if this is really needed, if it will lead to benefits and add value to the overall goal it's related to. If you want to learn more about the pseudo work, here is a good book about it: Pseudowork How we ended up being busy doing nothing
4. Time boxing: instead of working with never ending to-do lists, I work with time boxing. I time box all of my activities as much as possible. Whether it’s training, reading, working, playing with the kids. Time boxing allows me to be fully dedicated to the activity when I am in it and be in the moment. It also allows me to accomplish more during that time as I know it’s limited. For more information on time boxing, read this: How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive
5. Constant reprioritization: I constantly look at the things I want to do and accomplish and re-prioritize them. I do so daily for various reasons. This can be because my mood has changed, my kids want to play, a meeting got cancelled, etc.
6. When I am bored I stop: if I get bored with something I stop. I never feel forced to finish a book or a tv show episode. I don’t waste time on something I don’t find interesting, especially if it’s within the leisure category.
7. Having a great partner: I would be lying if I didn’t thank my wife for helping me be as productive as I am. I have a great partner who understands me and gives me time and space to do the things I love. Without her I wouldn’t be able to do half of what I do!
8. Don’t force it: if I am not in the right place mentally or physically to train or write, I don’t force myself and I move things around in my schedule.
9. Combining activities: I combine activities like training and listening to podcasts and audiobooks
10. Walking the dog: I take time to walk my dog. I do so for 3 different reasons. 1. If I feel off, it gives me time alone to recenter myself. I find that walking is one of the most efficient ways to refocus and ground myself again. 2. If I feel good, I use the time to call my family in Canada and catch up with loved ones. 3. If I don’t feel like being social and I don’t need to ground myself, I use the time to learn new things by listening to a podcast or an audiobook.
11. Pomodoro: for tedious tasks, I use the pomodoro technique: there are pros and cons for this technique, but for me it works well. If you don’t know what the pomodoro technique is, read this: The Pomodoro Technique
12. The 2 minute technique: I try (but sometimes forget) to use the 2 min technique as much as possible. In short, if anything takes less than 2 min, I do it right away instead of postponing it. It allows me to get things done immediately instead of procrastinating and creating negative feelings around the task. This applies to emptying the dishwasher, sorting the laundry, etc.
13. Limit daily goals: I only set 2-3 goals for each day such as training, writing, etc. I have come to realize with time that if I set too many goals, I get discouraged and I procrastinate and do very little.
14. Emails hacks: for a long period of time, I felt that people would think I didn’t read their email or cared about them if I didn’t reply. The more emails I sent and replied to, the more email I got. I now longer reply to all my emails. I strategically decide which I should reply to, which I should follow-up with a conversation instead and which should be converted into a text message chat.
15. Do not disturb: when I need to concentrate (for example writing this blog post), I put my phone on do not disturb and I disable all my computer’s notification. I use my time way better when I can fully focus on the task at hand without any interruptions.
16. Early deliveries: when I have an important work deliverable, I do it early and way ahead of the deadline. Why? I have discovered that if I wait, the idea that I have this deliverable due weighs on me. I think about it frequently and it disturbs my concentration on other activities. By doing it early, I take it out of the way and can focus on other things.
17. Same song on repeat: when I need to concentrate and be fully focused, I listen to the same song on repeat. I have discovered that sometimes, when I am very concentrated, (especially when I write) my focus gets disturbed when the song changes and the beat changes. I have discovered that if I pick a song that fits my mood and pace of work and simply have it on repeat, I can stay in the focus zone and hyper focus for a much longer period without getting disturbed and losing flow in my progress.
18. Very little news: over the last few months, I got overwhelmed by the news. As the pandemic unfolded globally, I spent so much time reading about it and about general international news. Not only did I realize I used way too much time reading the news, but in general, reading about the state of the world left me feeling depressed, discouraged and anxious. The news doesn't tend to be positive and therefore I decided to quit on the news. I read main headlines now and again but I no longer spend hours reading what’s happening in the world as it overloads me with negativity.
19. Wearing the same clothes: I wrote a post about this recently. See here. I wear the same clothes everyday. This allows me not to question myself as to what I should be wearing and it has surprisingly reduced my stress. It also gives me more time in the morning to train or to be with my family instead of trying on various outfits.
20. Planning my day the night before: I always plan my day the night before. This allows me to get up in the morning knowing what I have to do and get right to it.
21. Waking up early: as mentioned above, I prioritize sleep and I train in the morning. To do so, I wake up early. My alarm is set at 4:50 on weekdays and 6:00 on weekends. When I wake up early, I feel like I have the whole day ahead to do what I need. As we say in french “L’avenir appartient a ceux qui se levent tot” (the future belongs to those who get up early)
22. Self-care: I schedule time for self-care and being alone everyday. As I wrote about in my post about being an introvert here, I need time alone everyday. To make sure I am productive and manage my time right, I time box self-care and time alone daily. This helps me recenter and ground myself.
23. Book summaries: there are so many interesting and great books out there but I will never have the time to read them all. Over the last couple of years, I have started reading/listening to book summaries instead of reading the original books in full. This allows me to learn about the essence of the book without spending hours reading it. Many audiobook platforms offer book summaries. Otherwise, you can try Blinkist, a service that does exactly that.
24. No time wasting apps: when I first got an iphone and for years after, I had hundreds of apps on my phone. Games, news app etc. I spent so much time using apps that didn’t add any value to my life and just made me waste time. Now I made it a rule to delete all unnecessary apps from my phone and apps that I don’t enjoy using.
25. Artificial deadlines: for a long time, I considered all deadlines with equal weights. That being said, a lot of the deadlines we have in life are artificial. They are not really deadlines that have an actual impact on anything. Therefore, I started recognizing artificial deadlines and modify my priorities accordingly focusing on real deadlines first.
26. Plan my week on sundays: I always plan my week on Sunday so I can start Monday focused as I know what I have to do.
Those were my time management hacks. If you have your own tools or techniques to manage your time, please share. I am always curious and ready to learn new ways.