How to Manage Actions and Gain Time

The relationship between time and our actions

For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose something he does not already possess. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Managing self

Now that I’m attempting to limit my smartphone usage. The next thing I want to focus on is time management.  During my year in Pharmacy school, I realized my time management skills were not adapted to that environment.

I could have done things differently.  This has me thinking about how I manage time and what I want to do about it.

There’s a lot of advice on time management, yet I find myself looking at time management not from a time perspective but an actions perspective. (See ted talk shifting time)

Every action has a starting point

There seem to be as many productivity strategies as there are stars in the sky. They offer advice based on personal experience and studies researching concentration.

There’s irony from all this information, taking the time to sift through all this information is probably the least effective use of your time. Do you need to search the internet for hours? No. What you’ll find are hundreds of ways other people organize their lives only to find out it’s not for you.

I made this mistake.  Now I’m back at the beginning trying to figure out what’s the best time management strategy.

The problem is not that we have a short life, but that we waste time. Thus the time we are given is not brief, but we make it so. – SenecaShortness of Life

So where do I start?  I inventory my actions.  To figure out how to manage my actions I’ll need to inventory all the time-consuming things I do. I need to know appropriately how I’m spending my minutes and hours of the day.

I don’t want to spend more time organizing my actions than I am trying to complete them. It’s a trap someone can easily fall into.

Perception is a remarkable experience, I always feel as if I need to get more done or that I don’t have enough time for everything.  I can track my time and realize I’m spending 1 hour on Twitter and 1 hour looking online for no purpose but only out of boredom. Only after looking at these numbers I can see an obvious path.

Managing what’s important

My goal is to track my actions, assign them a level of importance (1,2, or 3 with 1 being most important). I’m hoping to see if managing my actions is a better alternative than looking at the time.

I’m hoping to make better use of my time although I can see a point of difficulty when actions become very scheduled. Sometimes this can’t be avoided when there are meetings and appointments but I think this method can work around it as long as I have flexibility with other action goals.

This should also give me a realistic expectation of how much time I need for redundant actions. Maybe I’m giving myself too much or too little time.

This will also include downtime. If I want to watch a movie or read a book, I should be able to manage these actions by planning how long the movie should be or how many pages I want to read.

I’ll use my google calendar to track actions. I like to color code things so I can see what actions are taking most of my time. This isn’t going to be highly scheduled where my google calendar is going to be completely blocked but it will let me see how I use time. I’ll be using my smartphone for some calendar entries so I’ll have to track my usage and balance it out.

Time as a necessary resource

One advice I heard about and was a line of thinking I found interesting was treating time the same way you treat food.

There’s food that’s good for you, this can be my necessary actions. Then there’s junk food, this can be Netflix or surfing the internet.

When I wanted to work out and lose weight, I found apps to help me monitor my food intake and workouts. This worked. I lost the weight and was healthier.


This is consistent with a review of self-monitoring during weight loss showing people who tracked food intake lost more weight than those who didn’t. So why should treating actions and time be any different?  It shouldn’t be. I’ll be aware and accountable for what I need to do thereby giving me the time to do it.

Keeping track of my actions and their durations will let me see if I’m over-inflating or underestimating the time needed for a task.

Logging my time allows can allow me to track my progress whether its adjusting timescales for actions or finding what actions are really not helping (I’m looking at you Netflix). This can help me focus on creating a custom productivity method that’s based on real life instead of how I think things should be.

But each year, short lived, is unlike the last and rarely resolves in the style it arrives. – Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Final thoughts

There’s one thing I try not to do and that’s multitasking important projects. It’s been shown that multitasking can have negative effects on productivity.  Multitasking creates a high cycle of activities between different actions.  This doesn’t allow us to focus and create a meaningful impact on the action. Avoiding multitasking important actions will allow me to better track and organize my actions to evaluate my time.

So I’ll see what happens and readjust my plan as I get feedback from this personal experiment.


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