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Derek Sivers, Laura Vanderkam (& Leo Tolstoy) on Time Management

Derek Sivers, an American entrepreneur, musician, author, and motivational speaker, once said that “being busy” actually means “being out of control” and lacking priorities. During his conversation with Tim Ferriss on the “The Tim Ferriss Show,” he gives the example of a donkey who dies of hunger and thirst (from the fable “Buridan's Ass”), because it can’t make a decision about whether to first quench its thirst or satiate its hunger. Moral of the story: Prioritize your tasks and work through them one at a time.

Along similar lines, time management expert, Laura Vanderkam, speaks about optimizing one’s time in her TED Talk, “How to gain control of your free time.” She points to the fact that there is plenty of time outside of work and our sleep schedule for quality activities. Not having enough time to work on something is simply an indication of not wanting to. “Time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it.” In other words, how we spend our time is our choice.

In order to keep us accountable and manage our list of tasks, Laura suggests two helpful activities. First, write an imaginary end-of-the-year performance review (or family holiday letter, for personal goals). This will help you determine 3-5 goals to make the best out of your remaining year. Once you set goals (of the things you want to include in your performance review), Laura suggests putting them into your schedule before you enter the week. This can be anytime before the new week starts, like a Friday afternoon. Take some time to make a short list of priorities for your career, relationship, and self with 2-3 items in each category.

In many instances, we let time get the better of us. Although it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, tired, or even lazy at times, writing down your priorities and setting attainable weekly goals will help you gain more control over your life and get your ducks in a row. The “bits of time” that we have in our day can be turned into “bits of joy” with a little bit of effort and sacrifice. To quote the renowned Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, “true life is lived when tiny changes occur.” So, tiny or large, let’s make it happen.

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