One Bad Habit You Should Change This Week
Work + Life Balance

One Bad Habit You Should Change This Week

by Abby Roskind
Photos Stephanie Yang | March 29, 2016

BY THE TIME YOU ENTER THE WORKING WORLD AND ARE SUPPORTING YOURSELF, YOU'VE PROBABLY FIGURED OUT HOW TO PRIORITIZE TASKS EFFECTIVELY (MORE OR LESS).

Time management often involves simple answers. In college, you couldn’t go out all weekend if you had a big final the following Monday. At your current job, you wouldn’t organize your desk supplies when you have a big project due in a couple hours. You prioritize tasks everyday, probably with little to no thought about what needs to be accomplished first. Leaving fresh groceries in your car while you go to the gym makes no sense.

It’s relatively easy to make decisions in a vacuum, but how often do we actually operate like that? On any given day, you probably have hundreds of different people and activities pulling you in various, and conflicting, directions. SO’s, team projects, friends, family, appointments, personal errands all require your attention. So what happens when those priorities don’t align?

THE TROUBLE WITH TOO MUCH FRUIT JAM

Choice is a powerful thing. It’s also the single greatest threat to our productivity. {click to tweet} Consider this study by Columbia University psychologist Sheena S. Iyengar (also referenced in Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance):

At an upscale food store, Dr. Iyengar set up display tables that offered samples of jam. Sometimes there were only six samples to taste, and other times she offered 24. Customers who were offered 24 different samples were more likely to stop and have a taste, but they were almost 10 times less likely to actually buy jam than the people who only had six options. The results make sense when you think about how you feel when confronted with complex decisions. Simpler is often better—and more rewarding. 

Categorize your tasks in a way where you know what's absolutely vital (can’t be pushed off) and what could be accomplished on a different day. 

THE TROUBLE WITH DEPRIORITIZING YOURSELF

If there’s one thing threatening your ability to get things done, it’s second guessing yourself. {click to tweet} Even with the little things. I struggle with this when deciding where to eat—“Do I really want Thai? Maybe a salad would be better. No, I had a salad for lunch…” It’s absolutely maddening sometimes!

After you’ve prioritized your day (or your week), it's so so so important not to let someone talk you out of your plans. This isn’t to say that sometimes you’ll need to edit or redirect, but try to stick with what you decided on, and make decisions based on what you need. At the end of the day, you're the primary person responsible for dotting all your T's and crossing all your I's—generally making sure your health and well-being is looked after—not your BFF who just went through a breakup and needs someone to go to the bar/ gym/ mall/ grocery store with.

In recent memory, some of the most frustrated I’ve felt has been when I abandoned my plans to opt into a friend’s, or SO’s, or whoever’s. More often than not, letting go of my own decisions in favor of someone else’s leaves me feeling unorganized and unbalanced.

Some helpful tips for making sure you stick to your guns:

Plan, plan, plan: Nothing new. Everyone on God’s green Earth has told you that in order to be productive, you must plan ahead. I’m going to say it again here. You can’t go about your day, or work week, without a plan! And you definitely can’t resist the urge to bow into someone else’s plan if you don’t have a solid one of your own. Also, if your tasks involve travel, make sure you plan out where to go first; morale will be low if you’re wasting your time running around town, or stuck in traffic for half the day.

Write it down: Something about the act of writing down your plans makes them more concrete. Whether it’s in your phone or your planner, jot down what you’re going to be doing at what times. Visualization also helps determine how many tasks can fit into one time period.

Simpler is often better—and more rewarding. 

Turn off communications: This is a little drastic, but if you think you’ll be tempted to switch course mid-stream, forget your cell/ laptop/ tablet/ pager/ carrier pigeon at home.

Communicate your schedule: Tell your people about the things you need to be doing. Give them a rough estimate when you’ll be free, but probably not before then! You’ll call them if things change.

Factor in some cushion: Just because you didn’t achieve everything you wanted in a day, or week, don’t feel like you shouldn’t do anything else. If you’re out on a Saturday doing errands, allow some time to meet up for coffee or sit in a park. If you’re slaving away at a project for work, go out to lunch with your colleagues. Categorize your tasks in a way where you know what's absolutely vital (can’t be pushed off) and what could be accomplished on a different day. That way, if someone offers you free tickets, you can accept without remorse.

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What seems to be the biggest time suck in your life? How do you combat it?