Cal Newport is an American nonfiction author who writes books about self-help, work techniques, and finding ways to maximize your potential. His most well-known titles include How to Become a Straight-A Student, Digital Minimalism, A World Without Email, and Deep Work. He is the proponent of several well-known productivity methods including time-blocking, “golden hours”, and the foundational base of Parkinson’s Law.
Recently on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale took a look at some time management ideas and techniques in order to better understand how we can organize our lives. By doing so, we can put God first and give ourselves enough time for family, work, meals, and exercise.
Cale began by talking about one of Cal’s subjects, a woman who was over-encumbered by her daily responsibilities and struggling to find time for much else. She said that she employed one of Cal’s techniques called time-blocking. Essentially, time-blocking is the scheduled assignment of specific tasks into set time windows and the strict adherence to that schedule. For example, one could assign the task of reading and responding to emails to three 10-minute windows: one in the morning, one at midday, and one in the afternoon or evening. No matter how tempting it may be to check email after hours, if one is not in that window, it’s not allowed. In this way, you can assign barriers between work and family life.
Additionally, time-blocking works as a self-imposed set of rules. You generally know how long it will take to complete something so by giving yourself explicit time constraints, your brain and body will conform to the restriction. This is known as Parkinson’s Law. It is defined as the phenomenon that work will expand to fill the time allotted for its completion. For example, if you are given a week to write a paper that should take less than a day, you often end up procrastinating or stretching the task so that you finish it right before the deadline. But, if you gave yourself three hours to write the same paper, it would still get done. The timeline was more restrictive, but you merely adjusted.
To that effect, this woman fit her tasks into the systemic structure of time-blocking and Parkinson’s Law. According to Parkinson’s Law, she had 8 hours to complete all of her daily responsibilities. Then, she was responsible for chopping those 8 hours into segments and assigning each task a chunk of time. By the end of the day, all of her tasks would be done, and she would have time for her other necessities and leisure.
She whittled down her responsibilities and began scheduling less work for herself. Also, she only time-blocked out two-thirds of the available hours in her day. This way, she could account for problems and emergencies that inevitably take place. And if there were no issues that required time adjustments, then her work would expand to fill her time.
The other part of this woman’s solution was to honor the sabbath on the weekend. The sabbath was her day of rest where no work that isn’t absolutely necessary is forbidden. She sent her work calls to voicemail and began forcing herself to wait 24 hours before responding to news that made her very happy or very angry.
This woman expected that based on her work scheduling changes, people would get angry at her. They would see her less intense schedule and think she wasn’t working hard enough. To her surprise, nothing changed. She got all of her work done in a timely, effective manner, and when people did come to her upset, she was able to respond in a positive way. She was rested and prepared to face the problems of the day. Her conclusion was this: “Time management is a core spiritual practice.”
We don’t often attribute spiritual connotations to time management or organization, but it’s all tied together. By organizing ourselves, we make sure to grant God and others what they are due.
Listen to the full talk below:
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