In this previous post, I talked thoroughly about the efficient use of resources at my workplace. What I stated there is also true for the scarce resource par excellence, time. Being precious, I started to make careful use of my time several years ago. I wanted to manage my time as well as I had been managing my colleagues’. But suddenly something happened that triggered the need to push my time management to another level.
People commonly associate aging with negative consequences only. Of course, body and mind gradually lose their abilities as time goes by. This is the inevitable, physiological evolution of the biological process called life. Nevertheless, today’s society has forgotten this elementary fact because of the intensive advertising that aims to convince us that aging is horrible and even wrong—the growth of the anti-aging product market witnesses to how effective this message is. As a matter of fact, I think that aging brings with it positive effects as well. Improving your time management is just one of these.
In my late 30s, I started to feel a sense of urgency that I had never experienced before. It was like my subconscious mind realized suddenly that the sand left in the upper half of my biological hourglass was running out; especially when compared to my still long to-do list. This fact prompted me to give an increasing value to time and to become less tolerant of wasting any of it. As a consequence, I have been paying even more attention to the use I make of my time. For example, during the daytime, I repeatedly ask myself: “Am I using this moment efficiently? Could I make better use of it?” This mindset has made me wonder how I could improve—on a regular basis—all the moments of my daily routine during which I used to do nothing interesting and/or useful. If you think about it, there are many moments that you can’t avoid: waiting your turn at the doctor’s office, driving a car, getting to sleep (especially if you suffer from insomnia), etc. So the question is: how to turn these moments into something useful?
On several occasions, I mentioned the Internet addiction that afflicts young generations. The compulsive, uninterrupted use of the smartphone is the most blatant and known manifestation of this disorder. As a matter of fact, I have to admit that sometimes I feel like I have become a little bit like these kids. The smartphone turned out to be a phenomenal tool to accomplish my goal, in fact. Thanks to its portability and its versatility, it can be leveraged to exploit many of these downtime moments to make them worthwhile. In this regard, the following is a list of things that I have gotten into the habit of doing regularly. Hopefully, it will inspire other people to find smart ways to use their dead times.
The Internet provides tons of resources to learn new things. In this regard, I find that podcasts are one of the most efficient and valuable tools. A broad variety of topics are covered such as economics, technology, and science, just to mention a few. Thanks to the fact that you don’t need to watch the screen to follow a podcast, you can listen to it while you are doing something else like driving. Also, most apps used to play them—I use Podcast Addict, for example—allow changing the playback speed. This is very convenient because playing podcasts at a higher speed increases time efficiency significantly. Usually, I listen to Italian podcasts at 1.3x speed. Podcasts are also energy efficient: since the screen can be turned off while playing, you can listen for hours even if you can’t connect it to a recharger. Of course, this frees you to listen to podcasts almost everywhere.
If you don’t have battery life concerns, you can also consider YouTube. Like podcast channels, on this platform you can find millions of captivating clips. Over the last few weeks, for instance, I’ve been recovering from an injury. So, while I’m working out at the gym as part of the rehab process, I watch motivational clips like the following:
This kind of footage helps me to achieve multiple goals at the same time:
- It pushes me to work hard because it fuels my desire to fully recover and play basketball again as soon as possible.
- Secondly, it’s a good way to exercise my English listening capability
- Last but not least, it makes the exercises way less boring because the mind travels elsewhere!
Smartphones have become so popular that the app marketplaces exploded in recent years. Apps of any kind are available nowadays. Many of them are devoted to education. And if you are studying a new subject your smartphone can become a valuable ally to achieve your goals. For instance, if you are studying a foreign language, your smartphone can make you learn a new word every time you unlock it. To do that, just install the WordBit app. Every time you unlock your phone it shows you a new word—or expression—with the translation in your native language. You can also listen to the pronunciation and you can set the level of the words that best fit your vocabulary. If you think about how many times check your phone during the day, you’ll understand how powerful this simple trick can be. By the way, if you are interested in tools to learn new languages, please refer to this post too.
The Ultimate Clipboard
The human brain is really a fascinating thing. A lot of people including me have ideas and intuitions about a problem they are dealing with when they are doing a totally different thing and nobody knows why. Hundreds of times I have heard my colleagues say, “While I was having a shower, I found out how to fix this problem I have been working on for days.” I usually have such “aha” moments with regard to my job. Sometimes they relate to this blog as well. When this happens, I come up with a topic for a new post, a title, or even an entire paragraph. And no matter what I am doing, I feel the urgency to save whatever I thought about in order to work on it later. In this respect, I like to think about my smartphone as the ultimate clipboard. Modern devices are so versatile that you can secure that very idea quickly and in different ways: by writing a text note, by drawing a sketch, by recording a voice message, or even by editing the draft directly on platforms such as Google Drive or WordPress. Taking into account that we almost always carry our smartphone with ourselves, the risk of losing this information is extremely low.
PS: This blog itself is a result of the urgency associated with my age that I mentioned in this post: after turning 40, I have felt the need to put in writing many of the things that flow through my mind before it is too late.