How to Effectively Manage Your Time Through Rhythms & Deep Work
The traditional perspective of time management is outdated.
You often fall victim to time slipping away.
Sometimes there’s simply not enough time in the day — or so it seems. And if this sounds like you, this probably means you’re mismanaging your time.
Time is the most valuable resource you have because you’ll never get it back once you’ve used it and it’s limited.
Time management is essential to success because it allows you to achieve your goals, which are the building blocks for success.
Think of goals like bricks. You take these bricks, stack them on top of each other, one-by-one, until you have a wall called success or your legacy.
But you need time to place the bricks in the first place. And proper time management will allow you to optimize the time spent laying those bricks without sacrificing the integrity of that wall.
Time is not what you think
“There’s nothing stopping you from taking a different perspective on time to absolutely transform your life.”
Time as we know it, is a series gradations embedded within calendars and clocks.
It’s the months of the year, days of the week, the hour, minute and seconds hands on a clock.
The gradations are simply reference points — markers of our current position in the universe. In other words, time is an illusion. MJ Demarco said in “Unscripted:”
“The fact is, named days are a hyperreality, one the industrialized world has perfected to perfection. Beneath the named-days scheme is a man-made illusion your mind has made real — the illusion that your life’s limited and precious time must be systematically segregated by days, with each day’s title designating whether work or play is expected.”
There’s nothing stopping you from taking a different perspective on time to absolutely transform your life. And that’s what I’m challenging you to do.
Learn to dance
“Ultimately, think in rhythms not gradations. Learn to dance with your circadian rhythm instead of stepping on each other’s toes.”
Dancing is a series of movement patterns strung together to illicit what’s called choreography.
But behind this choreography is music which is predicated on a rhythm. Following a particular rhythm builds a specific choreography — different genres.
The same can be said about time management. We all produce a different genre of life based on the way we manage our time.
When you think about time management from the perspective of rhythm and not a planner, you’re tapping into organic power predicated on the pattern of your biological rhythm.
This biological rhythm I’m referring to is called the circadian rhythm. Daniel Pink wrote in “When: The Scientific Secrets of perfect timing”
“Since de Mairan’s discovery nearly three centuries ago, scientists have established that nearly all living things — from single-cell organisms that lurk in ponds to multicellular organisms that drive minivans — have biological clocks. These internal timekeepers play an essential role in proper functioning. They govern a collection of what are called circadian rhythms (from the Latin circa [around] and diem [day]) that set the daily backbeat of every creature’s life.”
This circadian rhythm dictates when you’re the most productive, creative and useless. It’s characterized by peaks and troughs of energy levels. Daniel Pink said:
“Across continents and time zones, as predictable as the ocean tides, was the same daily oscillation — a peak, a trough, and a rebound. Beneath the surface of our everyday life is a hidden pattern: crucial, unexpected, and revealing.”
And more specifically, according to Wikipedia:
“A circadian rhythm, or circadian cycle, is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep–wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. It can refer to any process that originates within an organism and responds to the environment.”
If you pay attention to when you have the most energy, when you’re most productive and creative, you can build a schedule of work around those energy levels. You can manage your time for optimal work cycles. You’ll define when to do your most mentally demanding tasks such as problem-solving or knowledge work.
For example, for me, I know that I’m in problem-solver mode early in the morning after I wake up. I front load all of my problems at the beginning of my day when I’m the most alert and mentally sharp.
At night, before bed, is when I’m the most creative. I back load my creative work after dinner when I’m more reflective and introspective.
For you, this might look different. But the general ideas are the same:
Pay attention to when you’re at the most energetic.
Schedule your most mentally demanding tasks during that time.
Schedule lunch or a break during your least energetic time of the day.
Ultimately, think in rhythms not gradations. Learn to dance with your circadian rhythm instead of stepping on each other’s toes.
Now of course if you work a 9–5 this might be difficult if you’re expected to keep a certain pace of production throughout the day. But if you have the liberty to schedule the bulk of your work when you’re the most energetic this will pay off big in quality and quantity.
One thing at a time
The focal point of your time management efforts should be an existential one.
What are you ultimately trying to achieve with your time in life? These small moments add up to your legacy.
What do you want to do with these small moments in order to build that legacy?
Every second of every minutes of every hour of every day is driving you toward a specific outcome in the future. Your time should be managed with that esoteric point in mind. Therefore, you need to identify that one thing and build your life around it. Your daily schedule should answer the question of how you’re going to construct your day to exact specific goals that are the building blocks of your legacy.
There’s a book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller. The main idea of the book is to focus on ONE thing that will make everything in your life easier and it fans out into three sub ideas that make this main idea possible.
Focusing on one thing at a time is the optimal way of achieving success in life.
Achieving your goals and ultimately success is the result of drilling down into one concentration at a time.
Success is edified, brick by brick, of sequentially goals.
Using these three ideas, time management should be straightforward. This means it should be easier to:
Stop making excuses.
Everything isn’t a priority.
The vehicle that drives that one thing
“Chunking facilitates an environment that nurtures the development of your one thing.”
Chunking is a great way to eliminate distraction. It’s when you dedicate blocks of your day to specific tasks.
For example, Monday mornings between 8:30am and 12:00pm I record videos. Then Tuesday mornings between 8:30am and 12:00pm I edit videos.
These portions of my day is spent uninterrupted. This means putting my devices on do not disturb. No one can get through, not my friends, not my family, no one. I spend that time focussed on the work.
Chunking facilitates an environment that nurtures the development of your one thing. Your time is spent on that one thing everyday and you get better at it.
And this is what separates productive, deep thinkers from hapless, shallow wanderers.
When you allow interruptions, you’re wasting brain power because you have to break concentration, tend to the distract, then you have to refocus while attempting to shake off attention residue.
“Focus on one thing at a time to access flow states. Let the inertia of focussed time produce your best work each and every day.”
Tim Denning and Ayodeji Awosika has informed you time and time again about the power of flow states. Accessing flow states will dramatically increase your productivity and change your life. And it is our biological imperative to integrate flow states into out daily lives.
A flow state is a state of full immersion in your craft. A period of a sustained flow state can allow you to get a massive amount of work done in 2–4 hours.
Managing your time to facilitate flow states is a huge win.
How do you get into a flow state? Well the first thing you want to do is:
Put the spoon and needle down
Delete all of the social apps off your phone and put your phone in another room.
Having your phone in close proximity reduces your brain power.
And this makes sense because, nowadays, we’re addicted to our phones. Resisting the urge to pick up our phones saps our energy.
For example, you might have been trying to finally sit down and read a book or talk to a friend and you cannot concentrate because you feel this weird pull from your phone. You have an urge to pick your phone up when you know it’s inappropriate at the moment. You try to convince yourself that a quick check won’t hurt. But you remind yourself that it’s not the time.
All of this back and forth drains mental energy. It reduces your ability to work deeply through flow states.
Choose one or none at all
Multitasking sucks. If you’re trying to multitask, you’re wasting your time.
Focusing on multiple tasks at one time reduces your quality of overall output. Trying to multitask is like trying to water five plants with only enough water for one. Let’s play a game.
Say you have five plants that need watering but you only have enough water for one. You have two choices:
You either water one plant and that plant lives or
Water all of the plants and they all die
Which one will you choose?
You only have enough energy to effectively do one thing at a time. It might seem like you can do multiple things at once, but you ultimately degrade the quality of overall output.
Another force at play when you’re switching back and forth, from task to task, is you’re prone to attention residue.
Attention residue is when you’re still thinking about the previous task up to minutes after you’ve task switched.
How is this productive? It’s not.
Focus on one thing at a time to access flow states. Let the inertia of focussed time produce your best work each and every day.
Flow states are not something exclusive to the top 1% of creators, knowledge workers and problem-solvers. They’re accessible to all of us.
Flow states are a matter of subtraction, not addition. Subtract the distractions, the unnecessary tasks and self-doubt you’re well on your way to managing your time efficiency through deep work.
The magic of the written word
“Write it down and watch it come to life.”
When I was studying for the CCNA, I planned my day out and followed it like a machine.
It didn’t matter how I felt.
If I put it on my to do list or schedule the night before, I did it the next day without fuss.
That’s called discipline. And it’s a huge part of what it means to be an adult — doing things we don’t necessarily want to do but we do it anyway because we know it will exact our goals.
There’s also something to be said about the momentum you gain from checking off items from your todo list.
As your traverse to the bottom of your todo list, the tasks seem to get easier to complete. Maybe it’s purely psychological. Maybe not.
But I do know that discipline creates the conditions to increasing productivity at this scale.
Write it down and watch it come to life.
A new age, a new perspective
In this technologically driven era, we have to be careful not to become slaves of speed. The best way to check that is to get closer to what it means to be human.
And what better way to do that than to adhere to our biological rhythms?