We have all had days when we wake up and feel a tightness in the pit of our stomach just thinking about the many tasks and obligations ahead of us and yet, at the end of the day, we end up feeling that we have achieved absolutely nothing or that we have done only a fraction of what we set out to do.
Whether it’s housekeeping, personal projects or work, many of us struggle with time management. We put things off, waiting for a better time to sort them out, or we get easily distracted by doing anything else to avoid tackling what we’re supposed to do (especially when it comes to tasks we don’t like): with computer and phone alerts, or getting up to grab a snack, we go for more coffee, check social media, call a friend for a chat, and so on. Other times we try to multitask and instead of concentrating on one thing, our attention is scattered and we do them in a half-hearted way. In addition, we often have activities, habits and even people around us that drain our time and energy. Later on, when we finally switch off, we can’t help but feel frustrated and disappointed that we haven’t completed the tasks we intended to do. We feel that we have wasted time and realize that things are piling up for the next day.
Within the philosophical system of Yoga, one of the five Yamas – self-restrictions or, according to T. K. V. Desikachar, “relations between the individual and the outside world”– is Bramhacharya. This precept to be followed by Yoga practitioners is traditionally described as sexual restraint, abstinence or celibacy. More modern interpretations of the term refer to the non-dispersion of energy in order to stay focused on our purpose. How we use our energy and what we do with our time is important.
How can you make the most of your day?
“Eat the frog” technique:
Start the day with what you dread the most but need to tackle. It pays off! Easier said than done, but it’s a powerful way to be pleased with yourself once you’ve done it.
Break it down:
Divide and sort complex tasks into small, doable tasks that you can address in shorter amounts or time. You may not be able to complete the whole assignment but you’ll certainly move in the right direction. Consider cleaning your house. If you get up a Saturday morning thinking “I need to clean my entire house”, unless you love wiping every surface and leaving your abode in pristine condition, it will feel like a daunting and not so pleasant endeavour. How about concentrating on just a couple of rooms?
Establish a time frame:
Not long ago I read about the Pomodoro technique in a book called “El Método Ikigai”. It’s an easy method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s to increase productivity and get things done on time. Divide work time, without distractions, in 25-minute slots and set a timer. Make a 5-minute break after each 25-minute period. Take a longer break after 4 Pomodoros. Read more on this topic here.
Be present and remember your purpose:
Consciously choose how you want to spend your day and develop a realistic plan. Even if sometimes there are unpleasant tasks that need to be done, an effective way to deal with them and stick to your plan is to see the bigger picture.
Have a plan B:
Planning might be an easy one for you, but life often gets in the way. Consider alternatives and be prepared to improvise. What else can you do instead?
Change the perspective:
Going back to the example of cleaning the house, think of it as a workout! It’s a great way to get moving, work up a sweat and keep your home more enjoyable. Take advantage of your baby’s nap time to read a few pages of your favorite book while you put on a face mask (talk about multitasking!). Take the long way to the supermarket and turn it into a walking meditation. Think of a difficult o complex problem to solve as an opportunity to learn something new. Sometimes things that seem very complex turn out to be not so challenging and, instead, mastering them turns out to be very rewarding.
Go with the flow:
Energy levels vary throughout the month. Respect and honor your biology and natural rhythms, but also what life brings you. Let go of fixed ideas about how much you should get done.
Endless to-do lists, unforeseen troubles and high expectations of ourselves greatly influence our perception of our productivity, efficiency and time management. On days when you feel that you’re getting nowhere, think that we all have the same number of hours per day and accept that you can’t do everything. Take a moment to appreciate what you have accomplished and pat yourself on the back for it.
Don’t compare yourself to others:
We all have different paths, experiences, obstacles and goals in life. You don’t know exactly what other people’s lives are like, just as other people don’t know what yours are like. Keep your energy focused on your own journey in order to use your time efficiently and wisely.
 Desikachar, T. V. K. 1995. The heart of Yoga. Developing a Personal Practice. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, p 98.
 The Yamas: Brahmacharya: https://blog.glo.com/2012/11/the-yamas-brahmacharya/
 García, H., Mirailles, F. 2017. El método Ikigai: Despierta tu verdadera pasión y cumple tus propósitos vitales. Barcelona, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, p 128.