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Making the Most of your Time

  • By Ryan Skidmore

Yes, this is yet another time management article. But… Instead of offering exhaustive and cumbersome advice to temporal freedom or a top 10 so thin literally anyone could have come up with it in seconds, we offer the best tools and let you decide how to best implement them. These tools are a to-do list, a daily routine, and delegation.

What are we doing? In a work world that requires ever more thinking, the brain is a tool for calculating and creating, not remembering. Write everything down. The to-do list is born. Not sure how to make an effective to-do list? There are thousands, maybe millions, of people with an opinion, and outlines, on how to do just that. The important factors are estimating how long most of your task will take, determining levels of importance, deciding when to finish more important tasks over less important ones, knowing when to delete an item, and knowing when to quit working for the day. In order for these rules to work, the Listist (that’s you) must create a to-do list according to these or some chosen set of rules, periodically. Whether it’s every week, day, or half day, a list that is not tuned to some set of rules will not work. Secondly, the Listist must work their way through the to-do list. Finish as many items as possible, move critical items to a later date, and delete the rest. Most importantly, tailor your system to you. By starting with a prescribed system from a book or a blog and then modifying it into something that works best for you via trial-and-error, you end up with a to-do list that actually functions well for you.

When are we doing?  Humans are creatures of habit. Doing the same thing more or less everyday will give you a safe place to get things done. Let’s start with the most basic advice, get up every day at the same time. Move on to anything, but keep it the same from day to day. Advice ranges from do creative work first thing in the morning to do clerical work first thing in the morning. Opinions differ here obviously, but the consensus is the same. A certain level of consistency is needed daily for a to-do list system to work. When everything is generally the same, the Listist can know what interruptions to expect, make small improvements over time that create a more effective to-do list, and bring down the overall willpower need it takes accomplish tasks during the day.

Outsource the rest. Getting other people to do all the work and kicking back on a beach somewhere is the proverbial goal of every wantrepreneur. We all know someone that dreams this lifestyle. At the top of that food chain is Elon Musk, who famously runs two or three companies at once. (Check out his weekly schedule) This man knows about delegation. Delegate tasks that have low ROI for your time (mailing letters or buying office supplies) or that you are not good and don’t enjoy (accounting, web development). The methods for accomplishing this are more plentiful than ever. Cloud services, apps, Craigslist, virtual assistants in other countries, pick one and run with it. The one requirement is effective systems. Specifically, having a system for assigning and reporting on work and a system for training and providing feedback to workers. Anything more hands on or effortful defeats the purpose of giving work to other people. Chris Ducker’s book Virtual Freedom provides a realistic framework for utilizing virtual assistants. It’s far more actionable than, say, Wikihow’s article on Delegation.1  Delegation of this kind is the missing piece of most to-do-list/daily-routine combos. Most people try to do more than any single human was meant to do. However, having a to-do list and a stable routine is the foundation, for most people, to living and succeeding in a society like ours. First things first.

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