The truth about time management is learning to work like a well-oiled machine. This can transform you into a powerhouse 10x engineer.
I’ll show you how to unlock superhuman time management skills that’ll slash your stress levels and help you conquer your to-do list. The more you adopt a machine-like work ethic, the more success you’ll achieve.
First, let’s get on the same wavelength. What is good time management, and what isn’t? Let’s break it down together!
What’s poor time management?
The media often shows super busy people as frazzled individuals, constantly pulling their hair out as they struggle to complete an endless to-do list. They’re stressed, overworked, and seem to be running around like headless chickens. But guess what? That’s not good time management.
In reality, the calmest person in the room is usually the one nailing their responsibilities and accomplishing the most. It may not be as thrilling as the chaos portrayed in the media, but it’s way more effective.
Believe it or not, fantastic time management thrives on boredom. And what’s duller than a working machine?…
What amazing time management looks like?
Imagine juggling all your tasks effortlessly, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks, while chasing your goals at full throttle—all without breaking a sweat. In short, you work like a machine, never missing a beat.
It’s like those top athletes who remain calm and composed on the grandest stage, even with a hundred distractions vying for their attention. They’re successful because they’ve mastered time management.
Take Michael Jordan, for example. He was super calm, nonchalantly chewing gum and blowing bubbles before NBA Finals tip-offs. Once the game started, he showed no jitters, and he became the ultimate cold-blooded assassin on the court, demolishing opponents and ripping out their hearts without remorse. Jordan was the NBA’s terminator, programmed with a single mission in mind!
What does Jordan’s killer instinct have to do with time management?
He was laser-focused on his goal and programmed himself to be the NBA’s best. So, on his days off, away from the cameras, he practiced relentlessly, searching for any advantage to fuel his ambition. He left no stone unturned. This mission led him to his winning formula:
- Hiring a trainer and dietician
- Practicing X hours daily, starting early in the morning
- Constantly learning new moves to outwit the competition
- Giving 100% in every practice and NBA game
- Continuously setting new goals, pushing his limits
- Learning to focus on his mission, despite life’s distractions
This is similar to a machine built on machine learning. The algorithms learn from past experiences, striving to improve the initial programming. Jordan was always hunting for a competitive edge, with each discovery fueling the next.
As Dean Smith said, “He was one of the most competitive [players] we’ve ever had in our drills. 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.” Jordan was always seeking ways to improve. This learning structure allowed him to balance his family and businesses because he’d already optimized his basketball training to be the best in the world.
Making excuses about how much time you have
Machines? They’ll keep chugging along no matter what, even in the midst of a nuclear war. But us humans? We’re a whole different ball game.
Our emotions can be like a rollercoaster, making us come up with every excuse in the book. But here’s the deal: those excuses about being too swamped to do X, Y, or Z? They’re only hurting you, not anyone else.
How often have you heard someone say, “I don’t have time to exercise or eat right,” as they justify their unhealthy lifestyle? As if having a big-shot job means you can’t do anything else in your life…
But listen up: nobody cares how busy you think you are. You don’t score brownie points by convincing people you’re swamped. The cold, hard truth is that this kind of talk only bites you in the end. You box yourself into a limiting mindset, and before you know it, you don’t even bother to squeeze in exercise or healthy meals.
So, here’s a thought: ask yourself these questions instead:
- How can I sneak exercise and good eats into my daily grind?
- How can I turbocharge my work tasks?
- What daily tasks are just sucking up my time with no payoff?
- How can I chill out and de-stress to boost my productivity?
Boom! Those questions will set you on the path to self-improvement. Because, let’s face it, everyone can level up their daily routine. No excuses!
I know this might sound harsh, but changing yourself isn’t a walk in the park, especially after years—or even decades—of bad habits. So, don’t slam the door on opportunities to up your time management game. Remember, even the mighty Elon Musk is always fine-tuning his crazy-busy schedule.
Elon Musk on time management
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with more on their plate than Elon Musk. The man seemingly juggles it all without breaking a sweat:
- Startups like The Boring Company and Neuralink
- 10 kids
- Media management
- Personal hobbies
- Exercise twice a week
Some might argue that Elon’s only able to juggle so much because he’s got an army of employees and a mountain of money to help him. Sure, he’s a billionaire with plenty of resources, but the truth is that Elon is deeply involved in his companies. Engineers at Tesla and SpaceX consistently report that he’s hands-on in all aspects of the work, constantly on the front lines and engaging with all engineering disciplines at a detailed level. Not an easy feat, by any means.
Factor in that he’s also working on cutting-edge technology and still finds time to tweet daily – it’s clear that Elon has mastered the art of time management.
Elon Musk: Becoming a Time Management Machine
Believe it or not, Elon Musk says,
“I’ve actually not read any books on time management.”
Instead, his deep passions act like hardwired goals in his mind, propelling him forward with a single-minded purpose. He constantly fine-tunes his actions, always striving to optimize his work through a feedback loop.
Elon does everything he can to shed his human limitations, aiming to work as much like a machine as possible. He even declared, “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.” This drive is partly why he founded Neuralink – to enable humans to interface with machines and become more efficient. He envisions it providing “superhuman cognition” for anyone who wants it.
So, what techniques does Elon use to optimize his time management, or in other words, how does he work like a machine?
Elon’s day is planned from the moment he wakes up. There’s no unscheduled time in his day; every minute has a purpose, be it eating, emailing, meetings, problem-solving, or media appearances.
Time blocking keeps procrastination at bay, holding him accountable and maximizing his output with each commitment.
As responsibilities grow, doing everything yourself becomes impossible. Delegating may seem daunting, but finding the right people makes it achievable.
Elon had to seek help as his companies expanded rapidly. To grow, you have to offload work to others – you can’t be a one-person team forever.
While you may not have Elon’s resources, consider hiring virtual assistants or subscribing to services that streamline repetitive tasks. Allocating your time to more important tasks is worth the investment. And remember, delegate 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.”
The takeaway? Identify your goals and cut out anything that doesn’t support them. Don’t get caught up in busy work that has no positive return – you’re just wasting time.
With only 24 hours in a day, Elon stacks activities together to get more done. For example, he might answer emails while eating or work on engineering problems on a plane. The key is to batch tasks without compromising quality.
Think like a computer
Emulating a computer means constantly seeking ways to improve your output. As Musk says,
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
Elon’s dedication might seem intimidating, but even adopting a fraction of his time management techniques can dramatically improve your productivity. So, channel your inner Elon Musk and start making every minute count!
Self-fulfilling prophecies and time management of doctors
Let’s talk about self-fulfilling prophecies and how they can wreck your time management like a runaway train.
Take doctors, for example. Although this issue touches every profession, doctors really help drive the point home.
Suggest better time management, and they retort, “Impossible. I’m a doctor!”
This mindset is a dead end. Blaming your job for your lack of time management, instead of owning it, is just plain weak-minded.
For the record, I know many doctors. Their time management skills? Not stellar. Surviving med school and residency doesn’t make you a time management guru.
The real culprit? Self-fulfilling prophecies. Thanks to media portrayals, doctors are seen as perpetually swamped with no life outside work.
But here’s the kicker: just because the media asserts that time management for doctors is impossible doesn’t make it true. In reality, effective time management is well within reach.
Meet the superhuman Doctor: Time management master
I have this incredible friend who’s not only a practicing doctor with his own clinic but also a master of time management. He agrees with me that many medical professionals don’t make the most of their days.
This friend of mine juggles a ton of high-level responsibilities. Apart from practicing medicine, he runs a successful tech startup and even competes in bodybuilding.
As a former competitive bodybuilder myself, I know how grueling the sport can be. If you’ve never competed, let me tell you, the self-inflicted pain is indescribable. Consider this:
- You’re preparing and eating 6 to 8 specially tailored meals around the clock.
- You train twice a day, lifting weights and doing cardio.
- You’re constantly prepping meals.
- There are no days off – the same intense routine, day in and day out.
In short, you’re always on the go. Plus, the lower your body fat gets, the crappier you feel.
It’s like you’re fighting your biological instincts. Your body thinks you’re killing yourself. Sounds like a blast, right?!
On top of all that, my friend is married with kids. Yet, he always responds to my messages promptly. So, what’s his secret?
He’s constantly tweaking his schedule and work style for maximum efficiency. He has set goals and, like a Terminator, hardwired his mind to achieve them at any cost.
The point is to ditch preconceived labels and carve your own path in life. You decide how much you can cram into 24 hours. Don’t listen to the masses, even if they’re medical professionals.
What’s the takeaway on how to improve your time management?
Work and think like a machine.
It’s actually quite simple!
All you need is to figure out how to get the greatest output with the least effort. Sometimes, that might mean practicing 8 hours a day, three times a week instead of 12 hours a day, five times a week.
Here’s how to pull it off:
- Assess your priorities and rank them by importance. More important priorities get more attention.
- Set up your schedule to fulfill each priority and reduce stress. Stress only hampers productivity.
- Cut the bullshit from your life.
- Research the best ways to reach each priority.
- Create a structured schedule you can follow daily.
Continuously review and tweak your schedule because there’s never just one perfect routine. I recommend doing the same for your work style, too. Build good habits to boost productivity.
For instance, machines start working at peak levels instantly. Humans, on the other hand, take time to ramp up. Fix that! Aim for maximum output as soon as your work begins.
In essence, this approach mirrors machine learning, where systems constantly learn and improve from past experiences.
The truth about time management is that we can all boost our daily productivity by thinking like a machine.
That’s why I’ve written about how to work like a machine. I’m not suggesting you lose your human side; that’d be nuts! But by working like a machine and focusing on high-quality work, you’ll free up time to be human and enjoy the things you love.
So, don’t self-sabotage with mental roadblocks, because life already has plenty of obstacles in store.
In the end, honing your time management skills will only elevate 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? Do you think working like a machine is effective?
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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.