I’ve had a couple of viewers ask me to write a post on time management. How do I manage being a father, husband, son, working 40-60 hour weeks, run the blog and podcast, and stay in shape? The answers to how I do so are below. This post covers mostly strategy for productivity and time management and not tactics. That means I’m not giving you the perfect morning routine. I’m giving you the high-level mindset that I approach life with to be as productive as possible. It is important to note that I am able to do every single thing I do because of the family and friends I have who support me in doing so. A man is not an island.
Some of you will want more about tactics for time management. I post three books on tactics for productivity and time management at the end of this post. I recommend them in the order I provide them.
I have to thank the Marine Corps for teaching me this one. If you want to be more productive you have to live in transitions. Pay attention to yourself the next time you are leaving your home to get in the car and go somewhere. How much time do you take getting out of the door? How much of that time is wasted on things that can and should be streamlined? The next time you come home put your shoes, keys, and wallet in the place you will put them from now on. You have eased your mind from attempting to remember where all of these things are and streamlined a transition-process.
Engineers have gotten a lot of things right on this earth. Potentially most accurate is their view of the world in systems, and processes. Without boring you to death, a system is something that has inputs and outputs. You can and must measure time and think about things in terms of processes. You are not going to work in the morning. You are carrying out a process. That process is repeatable and can be constantly refined. There are areas where we can make that process faster and more efficient. Just take the time to think about what you are actually doing and ask yourself, “How can I improve this system or process.”
Carrying on the systems mindset; there are systems and processes you will find do not work. Generally these things present themselves as the problem that happens over and over again. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. A great example of this in my own life is the things my wife and I constantly forget at the grocery store. Week after week we would look at each other and say, we forgot X or Y. Then we would do nothing about it and repeat the act of forgetting things at the grocery store.
This is a great example of a system that is not working. We would have a huge loss of time going back to the grocery store a second time at a time we did not plan or schedule for. We needed to create a new system to take back our own productivity. That system was updating our Alexa to build out a grocery list we could pull up on our phone in the store right before we left. That would stop us from repeating the insane habit of forgetting things at the grocery store and doing nothing about it. We developed a new system to fix this issue sapping our productivity.
It’s worth getting a little tactical here. Alcohol is a huge productivity reducer. There are few other things that impact your sleep the way alcohol does. That lack of good sleep crushes you the next day. Drinking a six pack on a Friday doesn’t just crush outputs on Friday, it crushes them on Saturday Morning, and potentially Saturday afternoon. Repeat the process on Saturday and your weekend is trashed. I love to get down with friends, choose when you will do so wisely.
I have worked extremely hard to maintain composure dealing with trivial things. One thing I struggle to this day to maintain my composure dealing with is people who do not respect my time. I also punish myself dearly for wasting the time of others. You will die. That is final. Your time is a finite resource. It must be aggressively protected. There are tactful ways to do so. I communicate frequently with my wife or co-workers in the most tactful way possible when I find they are wasting my time. I do so to prevent them from doing so.
It’s not easy to do this and I recommend reading more on tactful conflict resolution. That being said, you can and must aggressively protect your time. That person who regularly wastes it must be excluded from your life like a cancer. After all, cancer and that time-waster are doing the same thing, taking away your precious time on this earth.
It is important to note that this mindset can make you an absolute drill sergeant. Not kidding, and no one likes the person standing behind them yelling at them to get out the door. Family time should be scheduled with great latitude. If your wife wants an hour at the park, schedule two. She’s most likely going to be a half hour late and your child will take a while to recover from that fall in the parking lot. We can and must accept that there are times when our productivity and time are out the window. This is ok.
I have met that person who absolutely loses their shit when their schedule gets thrown off. I was that person at times. It actually reduces your productivity to throw a fit and think the entire day is lost because of one little issue. Just be flexible and roll with the punches. Do not punish yourself unnecessarily.
I loose my keys more than anyone I know. David Rubenstein founder of the Carlyle Group, does the same and says it’s a sign your mind is pondering bigger things. Don’t punish yourself for losing your keys after promising you would always put them in the same place. Just make a conscious attempt to do better next time and roll with the punches.
There are countless strategies, mindsets, and guides out there on how to be more productive in life. I always say finding the wrong system and sticking with it is better than being the person who never implements a system for productivity. I meet countless people who waste their time trying to be more productive. In the end if your job is to write a 10 page business strategy just write the damn strategy.
Don’t convince yourself that building out the perfect outline will make it that much better under the guise of illustrious productivity. Execution is everything. I meet countless individuals who spend hours and hours doing useless things in the name of productivity. In most situations it’s better to get a process going, watch it fail, and refine it. So why don’t we just get started and stop worrying about all of the useless things we are using to distract ourselves from doing so.
The books below are what I would recommend if you want to get more tactical about what you do with your time. Otherwise develop your own higher level strategies and rules like the ones I outline above.
Daniel J. Levitin uses neuroscience in this book to help you organize your own life which I believe is a core requirement for increased productivity. I found the book to be an awesome read. It educated me on the way the mind works and organizes thoughts. It then recommends using that process to organize our lives so the our mind and our lives are moving together in harmony. Who doesn’t love harmony?
I am a student of David Allen. He just understands productivity at a level higher than all of us. He recommends viewing the world as a series of systems. Sound familiar. This man is literally the productivity guru. He has made his life about the art of getting things done and has managed to retire to Amsterdam after doing so. This book should be number one but it’s not because I’m a fan of the way the mind works.
This book is about as tactical as it gets. It covers how to organize your inbox in outlook, how to be more productive at work and all of those really awesome tactics that probably never matter in life. Regardless we carry them out because they give us a sense of control over the chaotic world we live in. Which is really what all of this is about anyway isn’t it?
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.