A couple of months ago, I put out a survey to our email subscribers, asking what their biggest problem was in life.
Overwhelmingly, they responded with “time management.”
AoM readers are busy men. They’re juggling school, jobs, family, and volunteer work and also trying to improve themselves with fitness and hobbies.
We’ve done a bunch of interviews on time management during the podcast’s 15-year run. I figured it might be helpful to compile the best in one place for listeners to peruse.
A quick observation on time management from my own life: Early in my adulthood, I went on a productivity kick where I was reading about and trying out all sorts of productivity systems and hacks. I was probably spending more time learning about being productive than actually being productive. I finally realized there’s no single silver bullet that will solve your time management problems. Things that work for one man, might not work for another. Maybe routines work for you; maybe they don’t. Also, things that worked for you in your twenties, might not work for you in your forties. You have to try different things and then just go with the productivity system or mindset that does a good enough job for you. You’ll waste your time trying to find the perfect way to do things. Just find the approach that gets the job done.
To get some ideas on discovering that approach, listen to these episodes. Find some techniques or ideas that call to you and experiment with them. You’ll likely find something that works for you and helps you get more out of life.
Before you start trying out time management systems and productivity hacks, get a bigger picture view of time. In this episode, Oliver Burkeman takes listeners on a deep dive into a seldom-explored subject: the philosophy that underlies time management. We explore why you’ll always feel like you can never get ahead, why being more efficient just creates more work for you, and how engaging in “cosmic insignificance therapy” can help you put your to-do list in perspective. This has been one of the most impactful conversations I’ve had on the podcast and has inspired a few articles, including Autofocus: The Productivity System That Treats Your To-Do List Like a River and The Challenge of Social Discoordination.
Productivity expert John Zeratsky lays out his four-step daily framework that has helped him and thousands of other people get more of the really important things done each day. The key takeaway is to establish a daily “highlight.” This is the one thing you want to get done each day that contributes to a bigger vision for your life. Once you establish that highlight, you put it on your calendar and protect that spot from being encroached on by other activities. The other big takeaway I got from this episode is the importance of using tactics to spend less time in your smartphone’s “infinity pools” — apps that offer an ever-replenishing source of content. Things like Twitter and TikTok. Those are time sucks. Avoid them.
Laura Vanderkam is a productivity expert who spent a year field-testing a bunch of time management techniques with regular Joes to find out which ones provided the most ROI. We talk about a few of my favorites in this episode, including giving yourself a bedtime, planning one big adventure and one little adventure each week, and creating a “punch list” for tasks.
Matthew Dicks wears a lot of hats. Among other things, he’s a storyteller, communications consultant, writer, and schoolteacher. In order to excel in his professional life, as well as do what he loves in his personal life, he’s developed a set of strategies that help him be more creative and productive and can be used by anyone who wants to start making the most of life. This episode is filled with actionable advice that you can start implementing today to get more done, including thinking in minutes and not making a thing, a thing.
One way many people try to wrangle their busy schedules and get more done is to establish strict routines for their day. But author Madeline Dore argues that routines are fragile and can actually backfire. Instead of creating routines, she makes the case for going about your days and tasks in “higgledy-piggledy” fashion. Madeline’s advice syncs up with what I’ve naturally settled on when it comes to getting things done. Instead of routines, I just have a checklist of things I’d like to accomplish each day. The routine checklist is flexible. It can shift to fit the changing landscape of each day. And that flexibility results in more consistency.