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These days we are constantly distracted by our cell phones. There is an overload of information that needs to be managed and it seems like quite a task to concentrate on your work or studies. You struggle to get your tasks done and feel increasingly busy. It’s a contemporary problem that many people recognize themselves in. Don’t be sad, however, with the right mindset and tools, this problem will soon be a thing of the past.

In this day and age where people are constantly available and think they need to be available, the pressure is increasing. While humans as individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to stay productive, the world around us keeps moving faster and faster. Every company knows that they have to innovate and improve, so the pressure to perform is increasing. And precisely this pressure ends up on people who are already struggling to stay productive. Today’s generation will have to deal with a work environment in which we are distracted daily by the various streams of information while being under pressure to keep performing well. A combination that without a good mindset and the right tools, can lead to burnout.

If we look at students entering the work field, it is often the case that they have a lot of knowledge and are highly motivated to make a career. Especially in large companies, it is not unusual to work long hours in the beginning and overtime is seen as simply part of the job. But small or medium-sized companies are also starting to expect a lot of students, because of your study background, keeping pressure high. Generally, this pressure is solved by working harder. But is working harder still the solution to this growing problem?

Work hard or make choices?

In his book “Smarter Faster Better,” Charles Duhigg writes that you don’t have to be smart and you certainly don’t have to work harder to be productive. What makes people productive is that they develop habits forcing them to think harder about the choices they make. Force yourself to think about which tasks are important to perform first and which tasks lead to achieving your ultimate goal. An example is the habit of asking yourself the following question while working: Is what I am doing right now really the most important thing I could be doing? [i] Surprisingly, the answer to this question is more often no than yes. It makes you aware of the wrong choice and gets you engaged in the tasks that matter.

The above statements contradict the thoughts we have as students. The thought that we are well educated, that we have the brains and can and will work hard to make a career and therefore be successful. But we as a new generation should not work hard at all, we should make sure we do the right things. We need to work smart, prioritizing and giving ourselves time to make progress on the most important tasks.  Not letting ourselves be distracted by everything around us and allocating the valuable time we have in the right way. That quality, where you determine what you do with your time and thus manage it, is the most important quality of the 21st century as far as we are concerned.

The basics of time management

The art of managing your time, also called time management, is a quality you will not learn in college. There are certain courses available but for a limited number of students who happen to stumble upon them. Pretty crazy, because a quality like this is going to bring you a lot of value in your future career. Therefore, in the remainder of this article, we will cover the basics, after which you can get started on your own to make this quality your own. 

An important book in the field of time management is the classic “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, in which he explains a system that ensures you have an overview of all the tasks you need to accomplish at any time of day. You make sure you develop and maintain one system for all your to-do’s and trust this system. This way, you always keep track of what’s going on which leads to less stress and higher efficiency. The system teaches you to allocate your time optimally so that you are as productive as possible.

However, there is one caveat to the above method. Namely, time management was fundamentally about working as efficiently as possible and therefore becoming more productive. But once you work more efficiently, you can also get more work done. The pitfall of this system is that while you certainly become more efficient, it does not fundamentally mean that you become more effective as a result. The system does not take into account the statement that working hard is not the solution to being more productive, but that it is actually about making the right choices!

But then how?

In his book “Nooit meer te druk” Tony Crabbe explains that making choices is very important to going through life stress-free. Everyone is busy and people often think “being busy” is also a symbol of the fact that you matter. After all, anyone who is busy must be important. However, as soon as an overly busy person indicates that they have too much on their plate, it is often a sign of weakness that makes you wonder if being busy is a status that you can be proud of.

Being busy is a choice you make consciously, so you can also choose not to be busy. After all, you decide what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. If you don’t make choices, then you will automatically become busier because you will tackle everything and try to solve it with hard work. Choose which tasks will lead to your ultimate goal (e.g. promotion or a degree), which tasks you consider important and which tasks you can therefore drop. In a work environment, it is very important to make choices, because as soon as you tackle more and more work you will also become busier and busier. As soon as you complete all this well, people think you can handle everything, which will ensure that all the jobs come your way. Thus, a negative spiral.

So to work optimally, you will need to actively manage your to-do’s so that you know what you all have to do. Then make the right choices so that you accomplish the tasks that are most important to your goals. In another article, one of our writers explains some useful tools to improve your time management. 

On to a new mindset

Where we from often write about new technologies, the impact of all this technology on our society should not be underestimated. Should the above examples be recognizable to you, we may have made you curious about this topic. Fortunately, thanks to a large number of writers, there are plenty of ways to teach yourself the right mindset so that you get to work fully prepared and don’t fall into the “I’m too busy” trap. Therefore, time management is certainly not a new concept, but it is certainly still understudied among students. Nevertheless, we see it as an important quality that will make a difference in your future career.

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