Imagine you were a Jedi master called Bob (your parents, whilst skilled in the ways of the force weren’t the best at choosing names).The love of your life - Princess Lucia – is trapped in a burning building as you hurry to save her. You might think of Lucia as the embodiment of your dreams, your aspirations – she is your most important thing. We all know how a hero resolves this dilemma. If he takes his eye off the ultimate goal - his princess - then all his other efforts are for nought. He can engage an army of stormtroopers, cutting them down with graceful ease, but their numbers are limitless, and whilst momentarily satisfying they only distract him. Delayed too long, his princess will die.
And so it is with your life. You have things that are most important and things that are most urgent in permanent competition. The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency. Humans are pre-wired to focus on things which demand an immediate response, like alerts on their phones – and to postpone things which are most important, like going to the gym. You need to reverse that, which goes against your brain and most of human society. Look at what you spend your day doing. Most of it, I’ll warrant, is not anything you chose – it’s what is being asked of you.
Here’s how we fix that, young padawan:
Kill notifications. Modern technology has evolved to exploit our urgency addiction: email, Facebook, Twitter, Quora and more will fight to distract you constantly. Fortunately, this is easily fixed: turn off all your notifications. Choose to check these things when you have time to be distracted – say, during a lunch break – and work through them together, saving time.
Schedule your priorities. Humans are such funny critters. If you have a friend to meet, you’ll arrange to see them at a set time. But if you have something that matters to you more than anything – say writing a book, or going to the gym - you won’t schedule it. You’ll just ‘get round to it’. Treat your highest priorities like flights you have to catch: give them a set time in advance and say no to anything that would stop you making your flight.