3 Ways to Manage Your Time Sustainably

Published on
August 4, 2017
Subscribe to digest
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

In a keynote speech about the “third metric,” Arianna Huffington discusses the dangers of multitasking: “You think you’re being efficient, but actually you’re being stupid.” As Arianna points out, we now have scientific evidence proving we cannot successfully multitask.

What you’re really doing when you think you’re multitasking is shifting your attention from one thing to another at an astonishing pace. While it’s fascinating that you can do that, it’s not the most sustainable use of your energy.

When you choose instead to focus on what’s most important to you and take it one cake at a time, you begin to free up untold creative reserves and feel more fulfilled.

And, when it comes down to it, that’s the simplest way to make the impact you’re here to make.

What does that look like in practice? How can you stay focused on what’s most important to you in a world that’s so full of cheap and easy distraction?

1: Get clear on what you want.
The original meaning of the word vision is “to see clearly in the present.” It’s not some far-off aspiration or goal that you have to strive and struggle toward. It’s your current potential, which is unlimited.

Take a timeout from all the noise today and ask yourself, “What do I want?” What lights me up and how can I create more of it?”

When you thoughtfully consider these questions, you’re already engaged in the creative process of living into your vision. As you become more attentive to your deeper needs and desires, it becomes steadily easier to receive any intuitive hunches or insights that enhance your potential.

I know how hard it can be to stop and listen. But it’s also the first step out of the vortex of distraction and a never-enough mentality. Your long-term success and satisfaction depend on it.

Tuning out from the frenzy and urgency of other people’s priorities will allow you to tune back in in a way that serves you and creates the greatest ease in getting where you want to go next.

2: Tune out: prioritize your priorities.
When I tell people that I habitually turn data off on my mobile while I’m focusing on a project, they think I’m crazy. I’m convinced, on the other hand, that it’s one of the smartest things I do. The other option—the constant interruption of e-mail/Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp/[insert your favorite attention-grabber here]—simply doesn’t support my personal growth and wellbeing.

It’s almost impossible to avoid the lure of those pings—it’s called gamification.

So protect yourself and your time by consciously deciding when you want to let your attention wander, instead of letting those distractions decide for you.

For example, today—or as soon as you can—take one of the insights from the timeout above and set aside time to act on it. Select something small to start out.

Next, put a “focus session” note on your door, turn off the Wi-Fi, unplug the Ethernet, silence cell notifications, and block out FOCUS time in your calendar so others won’t disturb you. Worried about missing something on e-mail? Set an auto-reply telling folks that you’re not available for a set amount of time, or that you’re in an important meeting—which you are: a meeting with yourself.

Maybe self-care is your focus and the first action is getting a pedicure. You’ll still want to eliminate distractions, even when resting—to be fully present to experience the simple act of putting your needs first.

3: It’s okay to opt out.
After you’ve gotten the hang of singular-focus sessions, consider where else in your life you can eliminate distraction and say “no” to what doesn’t serve you.

The easiest way to decide what to opt out of is by asking, “Does this platform/newsletter/[insert potential distraction here] inspire, educate, or entertain me?” and/or “Does it have anything to do with my vision?”

A few months ago, I opted out of all but three newsletter subscriptions. I chose to stay on those three because every update from these sources provides an opportunity to learn and grow and is also directly related to what’s most important to me.

I also opted out of a couple social media platforms for the same reason. Business experts warned me, “You’ve gained a following and your clients are active on these channels.” But my intuition was quietly countering, “Get off.” So I got off.

All that noise wasn’t inspiring me; it was draining me. The choice to remove myself freed up so much mental and creative energy and allowed me to be more present where it truly counts, like with my family.

What are three things you can opt out of right now?

In a society that urges us to rush and to always stay “up to speed,” a lot of what you’ve read here may seem counter-intuitive or feel uncomfortable to start. But stick with it and soon you’ll not only be managing your time more sustainably, you’ll also be able to show up fully for what you’re most excited to create or experience.

Cortney McDermott is an award-winning writer, speaker, and strategist to Fortune 500 executives, entrepreneurial leaders, and think tanks around the world. She writes for a number of international publications, including She Owns It and HuffPost. Her debut book, Change Starts Within You is “soulful, sassy, and full of practical insights,” as best-selling author and Harvard Valedictorian Monika Lutz puts it. “If Eat, Pray, Love married The 4-Hour Workweek, Cortney’s book would be their firstborn child.”