Time Management: Lessons from High-Functioning People and Emotion Management
You have probably given up on your standard lament, “There just isn’t enough time in the day!” Motivation experts, bosses, and best friends have taken that complaint away from you. The motivation experts explain that “everyone has the same 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week.” Bosses have given you more work than is humanly or possible to complete with even 12-hour work days. Best friends have given you a side eye when you flake on something you have been planning for months. Time is not the problem. Time management is the solution.
Yet, you know this as well. The million-dollar question (quite literally) is how to consistently implement a habit, ethic even, of time management. The answer begins, from my perspective, with two activities. First, research high-functioning, high-achieving, and even imbalanced individuals. Second, understand the impact and import of emotional energy. Once these two considerations are completed, you are ready to focus on the further solutions I propose as central skills of time management: productive activity scheduling and priority care and cultivation.
You will hear seemingly ridiculous and unbalanced stories concerning entrepreneurs and moguls who succeed. They will talk about 18-hour days, nights with no sleep, an incessant focus, and a lack of a social life. You can learn from them, but not in the typical ways this information is presented. What is most sustainable to take away from this presentation is the passion and commitment of the high-functioning person, not their unbalanced approach.
It is true that many people have performed on little sleep across multiple days, but that is not a recipe for health. It also obscures a bit of the story opting for the more sensational optics of sold-out commitment. The truth is, many people who are engage in focused activity integrate intensity and reflection, frustration and triumph, wakefulness and sleep. They may have fallen asleep at the desk, only taking a 20-minute nap, but they are not machines. They may have insomnia leading up to a deadline. They may write through the night until day-break, but they are still human.
How do You Replicate Sustainable Intensity?
The answer is so trite and overused that I hesitate to write it: Do what you love. I apologize, but it is true. When you love what you do, the time flies by. That 18 hours was time spent solving a problem. The goal in front of you was so valuable and potentially satisfying that the time invested was deemed a worthwhile investment. It is not until after it is over that you realize you were engaged for as long as you were.
The challenge for most of us is to find true love. You must wade through the deceptions of money and success, the distractions of fame and notoriety, the disillusionment of societal expectations and parent-based obligations to find what simply makes you feel like You. Without qualification, without guilt, without explanation, just You. The simplicity of that thing is that you already know what it is. You must only rinse off the deceptions, distractions, and disillusionment you have been wading in. Accept that love as purpose. Now, monetize it so that you can do it all the time—so that time is not as important as living.
You know what it is like to run, lift, or otherwise physically exert yourself. You understand the fatigue in the form of soreness, drowsiness, and exhaustion. Yet, you may not realize how mental exertion operates. You may not recognize the signs of mental fatigue and cognitive stress reactions. On another level, you may not realize the drain and impact of emotional exertion. In many ways, you already recognize from popular culture the fact that mental and emotional fatigue takes the body down with it. This is the reason we talk about athletes who have heart and mental toughness and those who choke and allow their opponents to get into their heads. The heart and mind can decrease the performance of the body.
How do We Emotionally Energize?
The answer is best given by your 10-year old self. Playing, singing, puddles, mud, taking apart, breaking, floating, ice cream or some varied combination of the like. It is the opportunity to take yourself less seriously and just enjoy life without responsibility for what it becomes.
Find your leisurely, recreative, rejuvenating activity. Even doing what you love can be emotionally draining. Creativity requires periods of intense activity AND periods of resting reflection. You must identify things away from the work that make you smile despite your sense of adult, stoic professionalism. These things refresh our hearts and minds.