Time management tips: Wrong answers only

In honor of April Fools’ Day, here are my top anti-hacks, welcoming pitfalls, and wrong-answer-only time management tips. Watch out though, some of them may hit a little too close to home.

  1. Being constantly connected is paramount to your productivity. Therefore, you should check your email every 2 minutes or less. Random e-mail checks are a great way to fit tiny bits of productivity into every waking minute. Be sure to check it on your phone, computer, and tablet, use multiple different e-mail programs, and avoid having a system of folders or filters to organize and manage your inbox. Instead, just repeatedly mark emails as unread so that you can come back to them 5 minutes from now, reread them, realize you still are not in a good place to deal with them, and mark them as unread again. Repeat this cycle endlessly.

  2. Don’t bother with productivity systems, to-do lists, timeboxing, or bullet journals. Those systems are for the weak. Instead, keep everything in your head. Your shopping list, family birthdays, tax details, work tasks, and any little thing that pops into your head should be kept at top of mind, so that you can deal with it when the time arises. Never mind that you can’t focus well on more complex tasks because you have all the open loops in your head. By keeping everything in your brain, you don’t have to worry about creating a task management system or adding things to your calendar. Instead, you can just keep it all in the little gray cells. If you absolutely must write something down, don’t put it in a centralized location where you will come back to it. Instead, put it on a random post-it note or an unused page of a notebook and spread the notes haphazardly around your office, desk, kitchen, and underwear drawer. By having a distributed arrangement of reminders, you are sure to find them at interesting moments.

  3. As a busy person in high demand, you should spend most of your time just putting out fires and dealing with urgent things that pop up. Don’t worry about spending time on long-term planning, thinking through your personal and team vision, or looking at your strategy to see if it is effective or not. Instead, just keep working on the urgent tasks that are due tomorrow.

  4. Double down on perfectionism. As a high-performing individual, it is important that absolutely everything you do is perfect. Do not distinguish between high-priority tasks and low-priority tasks. Even if going from a B- to an A+ level of work will not actually make a difference in the outcome just keep trying to make everything perfect. Even if it costs you countless hours, try to make everything perfect whether it needs to be or not.

  5. If you make a mistake or find yourself ruminating on past mistakes, you should make sure you do not forgive yourself. Instead, that sense of shame can help keep you stay motivated and do better in the future. In fact, it’s a good idea to bring up past mistakes or failings in your mind regularly to remind yourself of them frequently, to make sure you perform better in the future.*

  6. Ignore signs of depersonalization and burnout. These feelings are just a sign that you should push harder and do more, perhaps by cutting down on sleep, exercise, or seeing friends. Just because you have lost interest in work, feel exhausted all the time, and are no longer connected to your own sense of self and what is important to you, that is no excuse not to keep putting in all the hours at work. Instead, just keep chugging along within the current system. Surely someone will come and fix it for you before long. Don’t bother trying to fix it yourself as this is pointless, plus, isn’t it a little bit entitled to think that you deserve a rewarding career and a workplace that values you? You should also be extra sure to follow items 3 and 4 above even more assiduously.

  7. Don’t take time to think through your goals and priorities for each year, week, or day. Instead, just jump into your tasks and bury yourself in them. Taking time to reflect and think about your personal mission, values, and goals is probably the type of thing that people who meditate do, but it’s not for you. Instead, just keep doing what you’re doing, whether you enjoy it or not.  

  8. If you download one more app maybe that will fix things. The last 20 apps didn’t help, but maybe this one will be different. Download the app, transfer all your to-do items into it, and create a complex system of notifications and timetables for when things will get done. The more complex the system, the better. Don’t listen to the voice telling you that your phone is already a graveyard of planning apps, just try one more.

  9. If you’re unsure of what to do in life and are feeling unsettled, unhappy, or burned out, just add more to your plate. Sign up for a few more committees, take on unpaid and unappreciated tasks at work, and make sure that you make homemade rather than store-bought treats for your kids’ school events (see item 4 above). Perhaps in order to feel a sense of personal meaning and accomplishment, you just need to try harder to climb the corporate ladder. Once you get to that next rung, surely then you will feel more successful. To get there, in the meantime, you should just ladle on more tasks, roles, titles, and responsibilities. If this has been your go-to tactic already and it hasn’t worked so far, perhaps you just need to try harder.

  10. Lower your expectations of yourself, of others, and of life in general. Just kill the spark of originality and humanity that makes you unique. Embrace the fact that you are just a cog in a machine, and probably not a very important cog at that. Embracing this mentality will help you more fully embody your role as a cog, rather than trying to be an individual with your own hopes, dreams, and values.

We have probably all fallen prey to some of these pitfalls in the past. If you find yourself resonating with any of them, let’s talk. Coaching can be a great way to get more clarity about your thoughts and desires and to create a strategy to make change. My goal is to help partner with individuals to catalyze growth and renewal in their lives. You can find out more here.

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining?
The whole future lies in uncertainty:
live immediately.

Seneca – On the Shortness of Life

*In fact, studies show that students who were able to self-forgive after procrastinating on one exam were better able to procrastinate less for future exams (Wohl et al Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 803-808).