On Managing Time Efficiently And Effectively

Time is the most valuable asset for humans. Sure, we almost tripled our life expectancy over the centuries but still, there is so much more to do. One of the best quotes I could find to really bring this point home is by Abraham Lincoln:

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

Of course, this is easier said than done, but one of the key lessons I learned over the years is that you need to know what it means to have no time, to really enjoy having time. Especially if you want to be really effective in your life. Depending on what you want to achieve in your life (if you already have a cause) you need the experience of what it means to manage time.

Thinking back to one of my most productive years between 2012 and 2015 where I was working full-time plus doing my Master on the side with 16 hours of presence time each week (including Saturday), juggling two bands, writing for the university magazine, trying to get fit and catching 7 hours of sleep every night. This was all I did for the better part of three years without letting anything slide.

This formed the basis for some serious time management skills that I since then deploy against work or private related issues almost every day.

I always run "marathons"

Not literally, but figuratively. I've always been someone who valued quality over qunatity. I enjoy having vivid contact with some of my school friends for over 20 years now. Personal relationships that last for years, working with the same company for years and so forth. I love the details, the context and learnings that you can gather. Sure, other people enjoy fast paced change and new expereinces, but I value meaning. Short trips or vacations can be a major catalysator for new experiences but it's not my regular thing. I need time to reflect, I'm like the calm in the storm.

This gave me an edge over the years to really know myself, how I work, how I learn and what makes me tick. So everything that I decide in the future builds on this foundation.

Why is this important? Efficiency!

It all comes down to be efficient. What does that mean? Here is a small definition from thesaurus.com of efficiency:

"Accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort"

I knew early on, what I liked and wanted to do later in life so I focused on it for years and years, so there are exceptional benefits to that approach. I can make a living and pursue hobbies with incredible efficiency. It gives me the freedom to take new approaches and invest time that I save on other ends.

So my major advice on being efficient is to really know your stuff to a nano-degree. This will give you the possibility to engineer everything to it's maximum potential and take it to the automated high ground.

For example the 2-minute rule

You will find this in a lot of productivity posts. Everything you can do in 2 minutes or under should be finished on the spot so you won't have anything snowball on you later. In a fast paced world with email becoming the most over-used tool of all time, this rule is the holy grail.

The more experience you have the more activities fall under that description. You automatically become more efficient, you tackle things directly and under minimum efforts. Being in the same company for years help you develop this skill. You know exactly how to solve a problem, help someone or what to do.

The other side of the coin - Effectiveness

Productivity is based on both, efficiency and effectiveness. I found it easier to start with efficiency, because most of the time, do we really know what we are actually doing in the grand scheme of things? Just think about the following scenario. You are with a group of people and want to get some food, it's already late, so the most efficient way is to use an app or your local pizza guy. Depending on the size of your group, what should be on the pizza (now we are talking about effectiveness) takes a lot more time.

Effectiveness, doing the right thing, is a lot harder to figure out. Where should I spend my marketing budget? Do I invest in Social Media? Where are my customers most active? All these questions are the key problems we have to solve on a daily basis. Once the "what" is understood, the most efficient way is (easily) found.

The key to understand what is important is to listen and reflect on all fronts. Thinking is hard work but necessary if you want to reach the bottom of your solution. Just think about how we make visions come to life and how companies execute on it.

For example the greenfield approach

In 2050 there will be flying cars and people won't need the streets to move from A to B. Would you know what to do straight away and how to get their most efficiently? Probably not (if yes, please make it happen). But then you think about the idea, we need air travel rights, floating "street"-lights, new technology and fuels, micro engines for flying cars to fly etc. etc. The more detailed you get the more clearer the picture will get and you will find very actionable tasks. It's that simple and basically popular management theory to do so. Yet, it is very hard to execute on, who got the time left to talk, right?

In a world where we text more than speak and seek a life style with no strings attached, we are getting pretty good at efficiency (low cost carrier flights for example) but the reason behind it gets lost.

Make your time matter

Lastly I want to stress that a goal in life, at work or for your future is not easily made and it might also be dynamic and change over time. Knowing it although will help you map yourself towards the goal rather than suddenly falling over it out of luck or never ever seeing it become a reality.

You can only manage your time well, if you know what you want to spend it on.

If you liked this short essay, feel free to leave a like or comment. I'm curious about your views on the matter.

Thanks for reading!

Sebastian