Organizing Time

Organizing Time

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I recently learned that I don’t organize time inside my own brain, the way most other people do. Other people apparently have internal clocks that tell them, “Hey, 15 minutes have passed.” I don’t have that at all. 

In some ways, my “time blindness” has been a gift. I have no trouble getting in “the flow” creatively, if I am left to my own devices. In fact, the longer the layover on a flight, the more likely I am to miss the connection because I just zoned out writing in the Admirals lounge. 

This realization spurred us to dedicate an episode to how we organize time, and we interviewed. neuropsychologist Dr. Sam Goldstein, workplace expert Dr. Chris Mullen, and stock trader Emilio Valentine.

Better Time Management Starts With Self-Awareness

Dr. Sam Goldstein is a pediatric neuropsychologist and author who teaches at the University of Utah School of Medicine. His most recent book, co-written with Robert B. Brooks, is Tenacity in Children: Nurturing the Seven Instincts for Lifetime Success.

According to Sam, all living things have a complicated relationship with time — for example, dogs don’t have the ability to track time in the way that we do. And then human beings themselves have varying relationships with time.

This means there’s no one size fits all solution for “better” time management.  Instead, what’s most important is recognizing where your deficiencies are, and having the self-awareness to create strategies that specifically address those. “The way I look at it, is [time management] is a fluid continuum,” he says. “Knowing where you fall — how much external prostheses do I need? — is critical for anybody, whether you’re a student, in business, or even whether you’re trying to manage your time on the weekend.

The Power in Patterns

Emilio Valentine works as a trader in Chicago, which means timing is everything for him. He’s also Elena’s husband.

But how do you learn to perform under this constant pressure? For Emilio, the secret was in realizing that there was an opportunity for growth in every missed opportunity. “With trading, some things are cyclical and a lot of things are repetitive,” he says. “You may not get the first opportunity … but that will happen again.”

As Emilio learned to see patterns and recognize the moments that passed him by, he became a more confident trader — and learned to use his time more effectively. But if that sounds daunting — or exhausting — it actually isn’t. Emilio compared his experiences growing as a trader to simply walking through your neighborhood. The more times you walk through your neighborhood, the more you notice the details of how things in your neighborhood are changing. “You can notice when a house gets remodeled because you’ve walked by that house hundreds of times, and something just looks a little different,” Emilio says. “The same thing happens in the market … and the more screen time you have, the more confident you become in your decision-making.”

Say Goodbye to “Work-Life Balance” 

Dr. Chris Mullen is the executive director of the Workforce Institute at UKG. Chris studied work-life balance for his Ph.D., and he actually thinks the idea itself is …  bullshit. While researching his Ph.D., Chris found something startling: no one he interviewed could find work-life balance. “No one was happy with it,” says Chris. Instead, he realized that what people called balance was actually “satisfaction.”

As his work progressed, Chris realized that this “satisfaction” meant different things to different people. Some enjoyed their work, while others hoped to leave it at the door. This led Chris to coin his own term that he believes better explains how we negotiate the relationship between our personal and professional lives: “work-life negotiation.” It’s a concept based on the fact that every day is different, and we have to make choices in response to evolving circumstances. “Some days I give more to my work, if that's what is needed for the day. And some days, I give more to my family or my life because that's what's needed,” Chris explains.

But ultimately, Chris says, what’s most important is that you thoughtfully make those negotiations — because time is precious. “It is that commodity we can never get back.”

“Too many people take care of everybody else and forget themselves. We just need to be selfish sometimes. If you can take care of yourself once a day, by either going to the gym, doing your reading, whatever is important to you for self care, then that's what you need to do because then you're a happier person for everybody else.”

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Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO of Rep Cap. Before creating her own content marketing firm, she served as director of content development and a senior general business and finance editor at SmartBrief, a leading publisher of e-mail newsletters. Before joining SmartBrief, she spent 8 years at The Washington Post, where she authored the Career Track column and worked as an editor in the business news department. You can find Mary Ellen on Twitter @MESlayter.

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