Umberto Eco, author of the famed book, Name of the Rose, was asked how he juggled his various passions of writing, teaching, and philosophical studies. His reply, “… and then I have a secret. Did you know what will happen if you eliminate the empty spaces from the universe, eliminate the empty spaces in all the atoms? The universe will become as big as my fist. Similarly, we have a lot of empty spaces in our lives. I call them interstices. Say you are coming over to my place. You are in an elevator and while you are coming up, I am waiting for you. This is an interstice, an empty space. I work in empty spaces. While waiting for your elevator to come up from the first to the third floor, I have already written an article!.”
As easy as it is, a lot of us fail to use, or even identify our interstices. Time management is an art, and art is about perfection, and perfection is the horizon that one must constantly pursue. To get better at something, one needs a feedback mechanism. Unless the errors of the methods are corrected, our efforts will continue to fail us.
1. Identify your gaps.
Transit time, waiting time, ticket queue time – notice something? It’s all time; time that could be used effectively. Plan ahead. Make sure you carry things that allow you to work. Carry a textbook, or the math problem you are trying to figure out, or the article you wanted to read. Above all, always carry a notebook. Practice your math, or revise the formulas and proofs.
2. Do NOT completely depend on interests.
Stephen King, author of fifty novels, two hundred short stories, and works of non-fiction has a completely different philosophy about managing time. He writes 2000 words every day. He does this in his room. He sits on the same table, in the same chair, in the same posture every day. He claims he almost never misses his two thousand word mark. Does he write more? Maybe. But he always finishes the planned out portion of his work.
3. Technology can be your friend.
Google ‘time management.’ Dozens of apps, dozens of websites that help you track activities. In short, technology helps leapfrog over our mundane tasks.
If you use your email a lot, make sure to use labels. Organize the incoming mail. Read them in order of importance.
Responding to email is now easier with templates and canned responses. Save a standard message and reuse it.
There was a time when people ‘forgot’ things. Not anymore. If you have a smartphone, use the calendar app, make to-do lists. Set alarms and reminders. It’s a smartphone, be smart. Minimize, or better eliminate, memory lapses.
4. Punctuality Pays.
Our perceptions are usually double-ended, meaning one behaves the way they expect people to behave with them. Being punctual shows that you value time. It shows that you run a tight ship. The more you are aware of others’ time, the more you are aware of your own. Be on time. Keep things close together. Use these interstices too.
On the long run, time management becomes a habit. Your senses are honed to view activities and appointments in terms of time consumption.
5. Always be aware of time.
Buy a watch if you don’t have one. Keep a clock visibly in front of you when you work. Or better, get a clock that chimes every quarter hour. This reduces the time you stare at the clock. The chimes will remind you every quarter hour.
Respect and value time, learn time management and it won’t be very difficult for you to juggle all aspects of life smoothly!