University is hard. Between balancing between life, extracurriculars, and getting your work done feels like a never-ending list of things to accomplish.
Getting your work done is really about having a good set of habits and work systems to produce a good return on time. It’s also about knowing what tasks you need to accomplish when you’re accomplishing it, and how to get it done in the shortest amount of time. This article is about finding that golden ratio between the amount you input for your required output.
Focus on the important
What are the most important actions that you must accomplish in your life right now? Focus on what is important rather than what is urgent. Too often, we fail to make the right decisions by emphasizing urgency over importance.
Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Ultimately, we spend too much time reacting to the urgent tasks rather than focusing on what is important. It’s something our brains have now become conditioned to do–we are drawn to urgency because we are genetically wired to worry about immediate consequences instead of thinking about long-term strategy.
In order to maximize our time and ultimately get shit done, it is crucial to constantly ask ourselves; “is this task really important?”
“You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life” – Warren Buffet
What’s on your to-do list?
When you try to put too much on your to-do list, you’ll ultimately feel overwhelmed, procrastinate more, and accomplish less. If you followed the last piece of advice, you might feel like everything is important. You’ll try to juggle all of these “important” tasks at the same time and ultimately break productivity.
It’s crucial to prioritize all of your tasks – determine the order of what’s important and what is not. Take a step back and try to recognize your mindset – are you rushing? Are you trying to balance everything at once? Also, be sure to bring it back to the crucial question, “is this really important?”
The goal with this practice is to be able to recognize what your distractions are and what is important. Developing a sense of what is important and what is most important is crucial to improving efficiency.
It can be assumed that every single day, you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things. The 1-3-5 rule to managing your daily schedule can help you feel less overwhelmed and minimize wasted time.
Distractions, distractions, distractions
As with any university student, I struggle with staying focused. We live in an attention economy where distractions are constantly breaking our workflow, from social media, notifications, friends visiting, loud noises, etc.
These distractions bring you away from what you’re trying to accomplish. Once your focus is pulled away, it can take up to 25 minutes to get back into what you’re trying to accomplish.
Once again, PRIORITISE, and have the ability to remove yourself from distractions in order to do so. Sometimes distractions can seem like important work – long meetings, other people’s work, and discussions with friends. Yes, these can be considered important in some cases, but often, you should be concentrating on your own work.
Roman philosopher Seneca perhaps has the best take on the subject of busyness and the art of living.
He wrote, “It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much… the life we receive is not short, but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
It’s crucial we take a better look at our activities and figure out where we are losing time. Look at your typical day to figure out where you are spending your time. See what meetings, chats, emails, and other distractions that are draining your time.
After doing so, reflect on the time you spend on all of your activities. Figure out the amount of time you ACTUALLY need to spend on each activity.
Schedule your time based off of this analysis. Then, plan out your life and minimize the amount of time wasted in your routine.
Here’s a system that can help how you work:
- Figure out the to-dos for the next day to accomplish your list of important priorities.
- Try to accomplish this action list before a certain deadline you appoint based off of your schedule.
Less Wasted Time
Like Jay Shetty said, “If we had a bank account into which $86,400 were deposited each day, with the remaining balance being deleted at 12 AM, we’d all be sure to draw out every cent and spend it wisely. Yet, we give away the 86,400 seconds we’re given each day to strangers and senseless pursuits.”
Let’s try to spend those 86,400 seconds well.
Author: Eastelle Ding
Eastelle is a second year science student at the University of Western Ontario. If she isn’t running the CSA social media sites, you can catch her at Taylor Library or on instagram @eastelle.ding!