How to get important things done
Most of us accept that there’s always more to do than there is time to do it. What’s less acceptable, however, is feeling there’s never enough time for the activities you really value. What can be done to change that?
Until recently, the most widely held explanation for why we never get around to spending time on important activities is that we’ve used up our energy and self-control on other tasks already (also known as the ego depletion theory).
Research by academics such as Roy Baumeister at Florida State University claim to show that self-control, or ‘willpower’, is a limited resource and therefore must be used with care.
To test this, researchers conducted a number of studies in which some participants are subjected to an initial test of self-control – for example, resisting a plate of cookies, while others are allowed to eat as many cookies as they like.
All participants are then given a second test of self-control. Those who’d had to resist the treats perform less well than the others. This has been taken as proof that when individuals ‘use up’ some of their self-control on one task, they’ll have less available when challenged by a subsequent task.
A deluge of advice followed from this finding, advising individuals to do what matters most to them at the beginning of the day when theoretically, they’ll have the most willpower to remain on task.
Recently, however, a number of researchers – one team led by Martin Hagger at Nottingham University, and another by Evan Carter at the US Army Research Laboratory – reviewed the literature and repeated a number of the studies. They conclude there’s little evidence to prove that ego depletion is a real phenomenon. Counter-arguments have followed, and the debate is ongoing.
Meanwhile, what’s the best way to feel you’re getting done what matters most in your life?
First, gather your facts. How are you actually spending your time? Keep a diary for a week, recording what you do and when.
Next, make a separate list of the activities you value most, the ones you’ll be glad you prioritised when you look back in years to come.
Third, determine your chronotype. Are you a lark (you have most energy in the morning) or an owl (you’re at your best later in the day)? There are a number of tests you can access online to determine chronotype, although most people know when they’re at their best without completing a questionnaire.
Finally, take a look at what you’re currently doing during your most energetic times of day. Are you using your energy as wisely as you could? If not, reorganise your schedule so that, each day, you do something important to you during the times when you’re at your best. Write this into your diary, just as you would any other appointment.
Combining your natural energy cycle with what motivates you most means you’ll have the best chance of feeling satisfied with the way you spend your time.
Bron: The Telegraph
Bron: Het Tsuru Team