In meditation this morning, I asked The Universe to show me the opportunities I needed to make our goals a reality. The Universe’s response* was “Your opportunity is time, allocated wisely.”
This reminded me of a meme I saw four or five years ago:
That realization was the catalyst that started me on my quest for optimal time management. Because if Beyoncé could figure out how to become Beyoncé with only 24 hours in every day, then I could certainly figure out how to become Danielle.
Since then, people have asked me things like, “Do you ever sleep?” and “I feel like you’re a rush of activity, but you also seem to have so much leisure time. What?”
Friends, I get 8 – 9 hours of restful sleep every night. I meditate almost daily. I dork around on Facebook for 1 or 2 hours every day. Russ and I have dinner together almost every night, and watch between 3 and 4 hours of television every night. And yet I also lead a small company called Outlaw Soaps, have a great contracting job with Mozilla, and wrote a book (and continue to write them). I go to the gym about 3x per week and hang out with people I love, doing exercises I enjoy.
It’s a good life.
There’s no reason you need to be running around harried.
Here are the fundamental driving principles behind my time management strategy:
1. Manage Your Priorities
I have tried many time management techniques, and really, the biggest and most important time management technique I have found is PRIORITY MANAGEMENT. Because you can optimize every one of your actions, work 30 hours every day, and chase your feet to the bone on a treadmill, but if your actions are working toward a goal you don’t care about, then your time is still wasted.
This is why I created the Goal Workshop as one of my very first pieces of content. It’s that important to me.
When you are clear about your priorities and what is important to you:
- You can stay motivated even when stuff gets hard – and stuff will get hard
- It’s easier to decide what tasks are of no use (see point #2, below)
- It’s easier to identify what tasks are valuable, and make time to prioritize those tasks (see point #3, below)
- Articulating your priorities to other people is easier, so if you’re working with other people, they can understand the logic behind your priorities and not even bother you with stuff that isn’t in your priorities
2. Reduce Inefficiency
“Do nothing that is of no use.” – saying I heard somewhere
“80% – 90% of stuff we do doesn’t matter.” – Gary Vaynerchuck
Between these two principles is the answer: Don’t do 80% – 90% of the things that you think you “have to” or “should” do. If it aligns with your priorities and is in the 10% of tasks that will create meaningful progress, then it must be done. Otherwise, don’t do it. Delegate it to someone else and let go of the outcome, because it probably isn’t that important.
3. Actually do the things that need to be done
This is actually the hardest part for me, and I have been trying my darndest to figure out a way to be sure to actually do the things that need to be done. From the beginning of my time management journey, I have been trying to craft systems. The Checklist of Doom was one such attempt. I still do believe in that and am going to be incorporating it into my future time management system, but I am shamed to admit that I don’t use it now.
For now, I just have a bunch of pieces of paper with daily lists on them.
I know. It’s not fancy. There are online tools like Asana I have tried to use, but the tasks build up.
Since most of the tasks are timely, if I don’t finish a task list in 24 hours, I decide what to carry over (what still fits in the 10% of things I need to do) and throw out the rest. There’s no point in doing tasks too late (except taxes). Let them go. It has been proven time and time again that letting shit go (and self-compassion is a big part of this, which I’ll discuss later) is the best way to reduce stress and build enjoyment of life.
My most recent attempt is this daily worksheet:
(click to download)
The best explanation I have come up with so far is this: As long as you are only attempting to do the 10% of tasks that create meaningful progress toward your actual goals, even if you don’t do all of them, you’re still making measurable progress.
Perfection is not the goal here, incremental improvement is.
Assorted other rabble
Once those Big Three Principles guide your time management, you’re doing great. Not only will you be living on purpose, you’ll be making progress toward your measurable goals in a stress-free way.
There are a few other things that you can add to the mix like salt:
- My friend introduced me to the 1 Minute Rule the other day, and I have been dabbling with implementing it.
- Delegation: I am really blessed to have capable, competent people around me. If I delegate something to Ruth or Russ or Alyssa, I know it’s going to be done right 99% of the time.
- Ask for help. People really do want to help you. And yeah, in some cases, you have to ask them, and you feel like you shouldn’t have to ask them… but do you want to be offended, or do you want to get the shit done? It is what it is. Get shit done.
Ok, that’s it! Those are my principles! And now I’m off to conquer the day!
* Yes, I do believe that I can get divinely-inspired messages