As the year winds down and we think about what we want to improve in our lives in 2023, time management consistently shows up on virtually everyone’s list of personal development priorities.
And for good reason: Time is, as a mentor of mine puts it, “the great equal opportunity employer,” meaning we all have the same 24 hours every day.
Time doesn’t discriminate.
With the two exceptions of the day you’re born and the day you die, everyone gets exactly the same amount of time.
And while no one would deny that we can and should make better use of every precious moment in our days, I’ve discovered that so much of the time management advice out there (Amazon.com lists over 35,000 titles on the topic) isn’t all that helpful.
As Steven Covey shared in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, most of the success literature of the last 50 years focuses on personal efficiency at the expense of effectiveness.
But there are some exceptions, one of which is a recently published book, Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Rules to Calm the Chaos and Make Room for What Matters by Laura Vanderkam.
Instead of the same hackneyed time management tips centered around mastering to-do lists and cramming more activity in less time, Vanderkam offers a refreshingly creative field guide to extracting maximum meaning and purpose from our daily lives, regardless of how hectic and overscheduled they’ve become.
Over the next few weeks, I will share some of my key takeaways from the book in short, bite-size posts that, I hope, will inspire you to launch into 2023 with renewed enthusiasm and focus.
Here’s my first:
Takeaway #1: Give yourself a bedtime.
Although there are many differing opinions among medical experts on how to combat disease and maintain good health–the acrimonious debates on vaccine efficacy and mask-wearing from the pandemic is a prime example–the critical importance of quality sleep, backed up by voluminous data in recent years, is one area on which everyone agrees.
Sleep is the scaffolding around which our physical, mental, and emotional health is constructed and maintained.
What’s interesting is that most Americans report sleeping an average of over 8 hours a night, which is good, if not ideal. If this is so, Vanderkam asks, then why do most Americans say they’re so tired?
The answer, the author surmises, is disordered sleep.
Indeed, most time diaries show lots of inconsistency in American’s sleep patterns such as binge sleeping on weekends to make up for lost sleep during the week. Vanderkam writes:
The average might be 8 hours but each day is undershooting or overshooting in a way that wreaks havoc on someone’s ability to function.
The solution? Vanderkam recommends that rule #1 is to set a consistent bedtime, which not only ensures that you get sufficient rest (she recommends counting back 8 hours from your projected wake-up time), but it also makes your evenings more productive.
What I like about this rule is that it empowers you to decide when your day is over.
By compressing your evening, you must be more intentional about how you spend the hours between dinner and bedtime. Vanderkam writes:
Mornings are relatively regimented for people, but evenings are all over the map. Giving yourself a bedtime gives you a framework for the evening that ensures enough sleep. You can stay up later — you are a grown-up, after all — but then you need to justify to yourself why you’re doing it, acknowledging that the time you are blowing past is the time you should go to bed to feel best in the morning.
Her suggestion: Set an alarm for 15-30 minutes before your target bedtime and use that time to unwind and ease into bed.
For most people, the staggering array of distractions in the age of streaming video and scrolling social media is at its peak in the evening hours.
How often have you watched one more episode of a Netflix series knowing it would cost you precious energy and alertness the next day?
Giving yourself a bedtime, in effect, forces you to choose how you invest your time in the evenings more mindfully.
How would you describe your evening routine? Do you feel you’re getting enough sleep? Do you have a consistent bedtime? What would it mean to the quality of your life in the new year to be more intentional about how you end your day? I’d love to hear your feedback.