In attempting to juggle various domains of life—work, home, social life, hobbies— it is important to establish clear goals and priorities in order to set aside non-essential tasks that can eat up time and to monitor where the time actually goes.
In the 1970s, the ABC prioritization method was the rage. Any project or action item landing on the A list was deemed most important, with the second most important items appearing on the B list, and C items marked as least important. Various iterations of this formula continue to exist, all aimed at allocating priorities, and often doing the most difficult or onerous tasks first.
Poor time management can be related to procrastination, attention problems, or difficulties with self-control. To counter these behaviors, organizational psychologists promote the idea of setting up work environments that boost efficiency and productivity. An optimal surrounding that emphasizes a conducive workspace is key.
Cutting out sleep and trying to add hours into each day won't help, and neither will maintaining a lengthy and disorganized to-do List. However, streamlining life and knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses are better starting points. For example, a procrastinator must face his tendency to delay and not hide from it.
Setting a goal is important, but more crucial is setting a goal that is achievable. On any given day, it’s important to figure out whether there is enough time to devote to that one particular goal. After identifying and setting aside the necessary time, make that goal the day’s top priority.
The U.S. is unique in a focus on round-the-clock work life. On a scale from 1 to 10, Denmark enjoys a 9.8 in quality of life, while the U.S. scores a 5.3. Not surprisingly, the extended workweek applies to only 2 percent of the population in the Netherlands. But are Danes and Hollanders less productive? In a word: no.
Granted, many employees are expected to respond to emails at all hours. But being more deliberate about how one spends time away from work can help make time, in general, more valuable. Of course, there are certain mandatory actions that must take place, the most important of which is the need for optimal self-care.
In this, as in many domains, focusing on specifics rather than overwhelming generalities is a good rule of thumb. Breaking down tasks and taking on one thing at a time can help; focusing on just one assignment through to completion will help movement toward the next task.