The truth about time management lies deep within you. I’m going to show how you can maximize your time management by thinking like a machine.
Our discussion will also show you what NOT to do if you want superhuman time management skills.
As we slowly merge with machines, we need to steal as many lessons from them as possible before it’s too late.
The alternative is we get stuck in the same feedback loop, always stressed out. You’ll constantly question why you don’t have enough time in your day to accomplish your goals.
What’s more, you’ll think your commitments are causing your problems. But in fact, it’s your human side holding you back.
Before we start, let’s define what good time management is and isn’t.
What good time management isn’t?
The media tells us what insanely busy should look like.
It’s someone who pulls their hair out while fuming with stress. BUT, they do check off many things from their daily to-do lists.
And the more they check off, the better their time management skills appear. So we’re told…
What’s more, it doesn’t even matter if they’re running around like a chicken with their head cut off.
Let’s fully STOP now. This is absolute chaos!
What I described is someone who has poor time management skills.
Usually, the calmest person has the tightest control over their responsibilities. Plus, they’re probably accomplishing much more in their day.
Yes, sounds boring!
But let me tell you, amazing time management feeds off of boring.
And what else appears boring? Working machines!
What amazing time management looks like?
Juggling all your lines of work effortlessly. Nothing falls through the cracks.
At the same time, you’re pursuing your goals at the highest possible level. All without becoming flustered.
In short, you work like a machine not missing a beat.
I compare it to top athletes who look so calm and composed on the biggest of stages. This despite their attention being pulled in one hundred different directions.
They’re successful because they’ve cracked the time management code.
Just look at Michael Jordan.
He showed no stress as he chewed his gum blowing bubbles before NBA Finals tip-offs. Then once the referee blew the whistle to start the game, he again showed no jitters.
Instead, he was the ultimate cold-blooded assassin on the hardwood court. He’d destroy his opponents taring out their hearts without remorse.
Jordan was the NBA’s terminator with only one programmed mission in mind!
What’s does Jordan’s killer instinct on the court have to do with time management?
The secret IS Jordan’s killer instinct mentality.
He was laser-focused on his goal. He programmed himself to be the best of the best in the NBA.
So on his days off, away from the cameras, he endlessly practiced. He looked for every advantage he could find to fuel his goal to be the best.
He left no stone unturned. This mission led him to find HIS winning formula by doing the following:
- Hiring a trainer and dietician
- Practicing X hours every day starting early in the morning
- Always learning new moves to exploit his competition
- Giving 100% in every practice and NBA game
- Constantly setting new goals, to create new limits
- Learning to zone in on his mission no matter the distractions in his life
This is all no different than a machine built on machine learning. The algorithms learn from past experiences, trying to better the initial programmed mission.
Jordan was constantly scouring everywhere to find any competitive advantage. One discovery fed the next.
“He was one of the most competitive [players] we’ve ever had in our drills,” Dean Smith said. “He wanted to get better and then he had the ability to get better.”
His assistant coach Williams at UNC even said, “he never freaking turned it off.” He was constantly looking how to become better.
This learning structure allowed Jordan to fit his family and businesses in his life too. Because he already figured out how to optimize his basketball training to be the best in the world.
Making excuses about how much time you have
Machines will do what they’re programmed to do. Even if they’re operating in the middle of a nuclear war. Nothing changes!
Humans are a different story though. We make all types of excuses as our emotions are wild and go all over the place.
But the excuses you make that you’re too busy to do X, Y, and Z will only hurt you in the end. It doesn’t hurt anyone else.
I hear so many times, “I don’t have time to exercise or eat healthily.” Hence, justifying to yourself why you’re so unhealthy.
Because you know, working an important job disallows you from doing anything else in your life…
Honestly, no one cares how busy you think you are.
You don’t win any points with others by convincing them how busy you are. Truth is, this type of talk only hurts you in the end.
You create this self-limiting reality in your mind. Thus, you don’t even try to add exercise and healthy eating into your daily routine.
Instead, ask yourself these following questions:
- How can I fit exercise and healthy eating into my daily routine?
- How can I make my work tasks more efficient?
- Which of my daily tasks are time sinks, that have no positive ROI?
- How can I reduce my daily stress to increase my productivity?
These questions will point you in the right direction to improve yourself. Because in the end, EVERY person can improve their daily routine. No exceptions!
This all may sound harsh, but personal change is never easy. Especially after years or even decades of building bad habits.
So, NEVER shut the door on ways to improve your time management skills. Even Elon Musk is constantly optimizing his already insane schedule.
Elon Musk on time management
I doubt many of us have more commitments than Elon. Elon juggles the following almost effortlessly:
- Other startups (e.g. The Boring Company and Neuralink)
- 6 kids
- Media management
- Personal hobbies
- Exercise twice a week
One can argue Elon is doing a half-ass job with his commitments, as he has thousands of people doing his work for him. Can’t leave out the fact he’s a billionaire too.
So he can afford the best maids and butlers for his kids.
But at the same time, Elon isn’t passive in his companies.
All the engineers I know who work at Tesla and SpaceX say Musk is heavily involved in all parts of the work. He’s always on the front lines doing the dirty work.
Plus, he speaks with all disciplines of engineering on a detailed level. Anyone who knows anything about specialty engineering skills, know this isn’t easy.
Processing one specialty alone is a huge mental load. Now combine this with the fact he’s working on the bleeding edge of tech.
What’s more, he has time to tweet at us daily.
Without a doubt, he makes it look easy. That’s key!
When you make an insane schedule look easy, you know you’ve mastered your time management.
Elon Musk works like a Machine
Elon stated, “I’ve actually not read any books on time management.”
Instead Elon’s deep passions, are like hardwired programmed goals in his mind. These programs drive him, like he has a single purpose in life.
He then constantly iterates over his actions. This way, he’s always optimizing his work through a feedback loop.
So, Elon does everything he can to strip away his human shortcomings. He wants to work as much like a machine as possible.
Elon even went as far as to say, “if there was a way that I could not eat, so I could work more, I would not eat. I wish there was a way to get nutrients without sitting down for a meal.”
These are big reasons why Elon started Neuralink. He wants humans to interface with machines and become more efficient.
He stated, “it will enable anyone who wants to have superhuman cognition.”
Let’s now go over some techniques Elon uses to optimize his time management. In other words, what he does to work like a machine.
From the time he wakes up, his schedule is already planned out. He has no unscheduled time in his day.
Every minute serves a purpose in his day. Whether it’s for eating, emailing, meetings, solving engineering problems, media, or whatever else.
Time blocking dissuades you from procrastination too. Your schedule holds you accountable. In other words, it holds your feet to the fire.
What’s more, his schedule is set up to maximize his output with each of his commitments.
As your responsibilities grow, you can’t do everything yourself. It may seem daunting to delegate your work to others, but it’s possible if you find the right people.
Elon had to find others to help him, as his companies rapidly grew. Thus, growth either halts or you offload your work to others.
In short, you can’t be a one-person team forever, if you want to grow.
Now, I know, you don’t have Elon’s resources to delegate as he does. But you can hire virtual assistants to help you.
Or, pay for services that’ll remove repetitive time-consuming work from your day. Paying $10 a month for a service that’ll free 10 hours in your week is a no-brainer.
This allows you to allocate your precious few hours to more important tasks.
Also, you always delegate the lower-level work first.
Get rid of time-wasting activities
“Spend less time on finance, spend less time in conference rooms, less time on PowerPoint and more time just trying to make your product as amazing as possible.”
Elon applies the Silicon Valley startup work motto to all his businesses.
The key takeaway is to identify your goals.
Then cut out everything that doesn’t support your goals. Most people do so many activities that make them feel busy.
But in the end, these activities have no positive ROI. You’re just spinning your wheels, wasting your time.
With only 24 hours in a day, you need to stack activities together to get more done.
Elon does this frequently.
For example, while he’s eating he may answer emails. Or, while he’s on the plane, he’ll work on engineering problems.
The key is to batch activities you can do together without compromising quality.
Think like a computer
When you think like a computer, you’re constantly looking at how to improve your output.
We’re just a summation of inputs, that generates an output. Except instead of silicon and metal parts, we’re made of flesh and blood.
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop,” Musk details, “where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
All this may sound like madness to some people. But this level of madness is what allows you to branch out and successfully juggle many things.
Of course, if that’s what you want.
Because applying just 10% of Elon’s time management processes will increase your productivity.
Self-fulfilling prophecies of doctors and time management
It’s important I touch on self-fulfilling prophecies when it comes to time management. As it can derail you faster than a runaway train.
Doctors will best exemplify the point I want to get across. Of course, these issues plague every profession to some degree. But doctors will best illustrate my point.
In non-pandemic times, I hear practicing doctors all the time say, “I’m too busy. I don’t have the time for everything I personally want to do.”
Then when someone suggests they do X to improve their time management, they say, “I can’t, I’m a doctor!”
This is a complete defeatist attitude. You’re placing the blame of your deficiencies on your career, instead of on yourself.
To point out, I know many doctors on a personal level. Their time management skills are far from optimal. Plus, they have many inefficiencies in their daily routines.
And getting through med school and residency isn’t a signal you have amazing time management skills.
The main problem in medicine here is the self-fulfilling prophecy. You associate yourself with a preconceived label.
The media paints a draconian picture of doctor’s schedules. Doctors are super busy and have no lives.
So if the media or other doctors with bad time management skills say this, it must be true, right?
Far from it!
Superhuman doctors do exist with amazing time management skills
My good friend is an amazing practicing doctor with his own practice. He agrees with me, in how most medical professionals don’t optimize their days.
He personally juggles countless high-level responsibilities in his life.
On top of practicing medicine, he has a successful tech startup and competes in bodybuilding.
As a competitive bodybuilder in the past myself, I know a thing or two about the sport.
To say the least, it’s grueling! If you haven’t competed before, I can’t put the self-inflicted pain into words. Keep the following in mind:
- You’re eating specially tailored meals around the clock, so 6 to 8 meals per day
- Training twice a day, lifting weights, and doing cardio
- Constantly preparing meals
- There are no days off – day in and day out it’s the same routine without any breaks
In short, you’re always in go mode. Plus, you feel like shit all day the lower your body fat gets.
It’s because you’re fighting your biological instincts. Your body thinks you’re killing yourself. How fun, right?!
To top it off, he’s married with kids. With all that said, he always still quickly replies to me when I message him.
So, what’s his secret?
He’s constantly finding ways to tweak his schedule to become more efficient. Also, he’s always tweaking his own work style.
All because he has several goals and he’ll do anything to achieve them.
Like the terminator, he has hardwired his mind to do anything possible to achieve his goals.
The point is, throw out pre-conceived labels and pave your own path in life.
YOU determine how much you can stuff into 24 hours.
Don’t listen to what the masses say. Even if the masses are medical professionals.
What’s the takeaway on how to improve your time management?
Think and work more like a machine.
It’s actually quite simple!
You just need to figure out how to get the greatest output with the least amount of effort.
Now, sometimes this may mean 8 hours of practice 3 times a week. This seems like a lot!
But you don’t have the entire story. Because the alternative is practicing 12 hours a day, 5 times a week.
Now to pull this off, you do the following:
- Assess your priorities and rank them on their level of importance. Priorities that are more important, will receive more of your attention.
- Set up your schedule in a certain way to best fulfill each priority. At the same time, to reduce your stress. Because stress will only hinder your productivity.
- Cut out all the bullshit from your life.
- Research to find the best way to get from point A to B for each priority.
- Build a fixed structured schedule you can follow day in and day out.
Then constantly review your schedule, to find how you can improve it. You can always tweak your schedule, as there’s never one best routine.
I recommend you do the same for your work style too. Build good habits to become a more productive worker.
For example, when you turn on a machine, it starts working at peak levels right away. But humans a lot of the time take a couple of hours to ramp up to maximum output.
Fix that! Aim to get max output right when you’re scheduled to work.
In short, all of this is like machine learning. Where systems constantly learn and improve from their past experiences.
The truth about time management is, we all can increase our daily productivity. But you need to think like a machine.
I strongly believe in this. It’s why I wrote about how to work like a machine.
I’m not saying to lose your human side. That’d be insane!
Truth is, the more you work like a machine and do your work at a high level, the more time you’ll have to be human.
What’s more, don’t self-sabotage yourself by creating your own mental roadblocks. Because life already has endless roadblocks made for you.
In the end, improving your time management skills will only increase your quality of life.
What are your thoughts on time management skills? What do you think holds people back the most when it comes to time management? What are your thoughts on working like a machine?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.