Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Effective time management: my experience with impossible to-do lists

Managing time effectively is not everybody's cup of tea and howsoever good you might be at it, you can always get better. And a psychology student always knows better. Reasons sufficient enough for you to read the entire thing I suppose. Of course, at the end of it, you may find me conceited. But you have been warned ;) Ok go on and read it. You know you want to.

People have got funny ideas regarding me and they keep asking me funny questions. Yes, I have actually had people asking me how I manage to do so many things. But these people consider necessities of life like reading, writing, counseling peers on relationship matters and the like to be extraneous affairs that take up my time and demand efforts on my part. I am tempted to ask them if they can think of not brushing their teeth or applying kohl or bitching about other girls in the class as it takes up time and effort but trivial as that may be, I do have some good sense to know what to say and what to keep inside. And I have always given my classic humble answer- "oh it's not as good as you make it sound; you really overestimate me" while imagining myself in a tee that says I'm superwoman (which I mean to buy and wear someday) :D

If I were to answer such a question seriously here, which I won't elsewhere for various reasons (*wink*), I would tell you you about one tried and tested but little known formula.

 Work expands to fill up all the time you have. For e.g. if you have got all day to prepare a birthday card, you will end up taking the entire day to do it. You will spend ridiculous amount of time on selecting the right colour of the paper to be used , the perfect colour combination of pens and the just right quotes. Call it care if you will. If you have, on the other hand, just an hour, you'll still be able to complete making a nice card with a little bit of single-mindedness and staying away from your phone. Now how nicer the card is that you spent an entire day on as compared to the done-in-an-hour one is a good question to ask and my answer would be to selectively apply this rule. I used the wrong example just to show you both sides of it. To be specific, this principle should be applied to tasks that do not need repeated polishing. For e.g. you can't possibly decide to start working on an essay the night before its submission. No wonder that would save you a lot of time if you're an efficiency freak but that would also take away the advantage of repeated editing over days. Mechanical tasks and odd jobs that need to be done as well as activities in which you partake just because you have to, would be the right ones for you to apply this principle on. Hence it is actually good to set impossible goals in your to-do list. At least you won't have spare time that would be taken up by expanded work. Remember the 80/20 principle? "Of the things you do during your day, only 20 percent really matter. Those 20 percent produce 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on those things." For the rest, apply the principle we just discussed.
Whenever you feel like you have less time and more work work to do, remind yourself that even Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare and Einstein had 24 hours in a day to do all they could have wanted to. And keep away from the internet. You should be able to do fine.


  1. Nice post, That 80/20 principle made sense. I will try to apply it.

  2. It's just the thing I desperately needed. Tons of thanks to you! Do write more about this topic. And needless to mention, you have a nice blog per se !


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