Why Time Management is a Myth, And What To Do Instead

Author: Katerina Thomas

herd mentality in marketing

Sometimes we imagine ourselves to be like computers or machines. But we cannot work like machines. Unlike machines, we are actually cyclically moving organisms. And, time management is a myth. 

In this episode, Katerina talks about..

Part 1: What’s wrong with the time management concept

Part 2: Understanding Ultradian cycles

Part 3: 4 Components of energy management

Elon Musk… Every time I think about the subject of time management, I picture how many hours of work this person puts in week after week.

Elon Musk once said: “If other people are putting in 40 hours in a week and you’re putting in 100, you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.”

Musk is the founder, CEO, and chief engineer of SpaceX; angel investor, CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; founder of the Boring Company; co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI; president of the Musk Foundation; and owner and CEO of Twitter, Inc.

It’s a fact that neither I nor the majority of people know how he finds time to even sleep or devote to his family. It’s strange that he has admitted he hasn’t had the chance (or, I assume, the interest) to read a book about time management. But I bet he could pen a best-seller on the subject himself.

When you put yourself in his shoes, just think about all the distractions that might occur at any moment. It’s not surprising that few people can confidently claim to be able to manage their time appropriately, much less effectively.

According to a pair of articles by Business Insider and Mashable, here’s what his schedule looks like:

1. Monday: He’s at SpaceX in Los Angeles

2. Tuesday and Wednesday: Tesla in Palo Alto, Calif.

3. Thursday and half of Friday: Back at SpaceX

4. Remaining half of Friday: At Tesla Design Studio, which is adjacent to SpaceX

5. Weekends: With family

On the other hand, he swears to sleep for six to six and a half hours every day, shuns calls, avoids getting bogged down with emails, and, most intriguingly, divides his day into five-minute chunks. The final one is somewhat intriguing. In the greater scheme of things, five minutes is not much.

However, it appears to be a significant productivity booster for the CEO in question—a tool that gives him a variety of ways to manage his busy schedule.

Elon Musk is unquestionably a living example of commitment, dedication, creativity, and inspiration. Some people believe he isn’t even human. Perhaps an extraterrestrial from another planet? But.. on a serious note.. how can we match Elon’s level of creativity and productivity?

Part 1: What’s wrong with the time management concept

A famous English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, Stephen Hawking, once said: I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.

Sometimes we imagine ourselves to be like computers or machines. But we cannot work like machines. Unlike machines, we are actually cyclically moving organisms.

Trying to find better ways to accomplish more will drive you crazy because you will always have more to do than time to do it.

The 20/80 rule is most likely something you’ve heard of. Everyone keeps telling you to work smarter, not harder, but a lot of people just aren’t sure what that really means.

Well, one way to read this is: A lot of people just use time management, and then they just get worn out and quit due to the stress of running a business. You experience a great deal of stress as a result of running a business, and anxiety is more likely to increase as a result. Thus, time management will not make you feel less stressed.

Time is a limited resource, which is why working more hours is not a good idea. Different rules apply to energy.
In our work, we want to be innovative and successful. The question is, how do we do that?

How can we access “the zone” without having to wait for inspiration to strike? I’m talking about the space where our creative flow happens.

According to Mihaly Robert Csikszentmihalyi who was a Hungarian-American psychologist, creative flow is associated with subjective well-being, satisfaction with life and general happiness. At work, it’s linked to productivity, motivation and company loyalty”.

“Flow” is a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity. It’s a trance-like, altered state of total absorption and effortless concentration. Period of hyperfocus ‘being in the zone’. We can experience flow whenever we are fully engaged with our work or hobbies or relationships.

You must first create the ideal conditions for entering your flow state. But, how?

Part 2: Understanding Ultradian cycles

You must understand ultradian cycles. Nathaniel Kleitman, a sleep expert, found that the body goes through 90-120 minute cycles.

These cycles correspond to the various phases of sleep at night. For example, we go through different stages such as alertness, light sleep, REM, arousal, deep sleep, and so on.

Additionally, Kleitman discovered that throughout the day, these cycles correspond to various states of energy and alertness. He referred to the cycles as the “basic rest-activity cycles.”

So, what are these cycles? Heart rate, hormone levels, muscle tension, brainwave activity, and other factors are just a few psychological indicators of these cycles or rhythms. These indicators help to explain how energy flows throughout the day.

As a result, between 90 and 120 minutes, our body starts to ache for some downtime to rest and recover.

So, if you think about your activity, you have the arousal of the activity, top performance, and then stress during this 90-minute interval, and then you have the ultradian healing response for about 20 minutes. The subsequent phases of the cycle are arousal, maximum output, stress and decline, and the ultradian healing response.

Numerous investigations have been made to learn more about the cycles. In the frequently referenced study of violinists, it was discovered that the practices of top performers were all the same. They worked out for three sessions in a row, beginning in the morning. Each session lasted no more than 90 minutes.

Think of this as a pattern because they took breaks in between each session. Concentrate, then take a break. Focus, then rest again.

So what does that mean for you? What if you’re a busy parent who wants to launch a company or engage in a side hustle in the evenings?

Knowing about these ultradian cycles can certainly raise issues with the eight-hour workday. We are not really productive during these eight hours.

When you understand the theory of energy, you can cooperate with your body to accomplish much more. We have 90 to 120 minutes of significant energy followed by a period of fatigue.

However, in order to accomplish much at all during the low point of the cycle, you kind of have to go against your body’s natural rhythm. And this is a losing battle.

Think about your day. You need to start considering your day as a series of cycles and taking advantage of those cycles to be as productive as possible.

The routine itself, however, is fairly simple to carry out. All you have to do is spend 60 to 90 minutes on your most crucial task. Check in with your body to see how you’re feeling when you start to lose focus and falter.

It’s a good sign that you’re getting close to this low point in your ultra-right rhythm, but all you need to do is break up these 60- to 90-minute sessions with 30-minute break sessions.

Use these ultradian rhythms as your roadmap for doing your best work.

If you need a coffee break, don’t feel bad about it. Once again, your time is not being wasted. Taking a break during the day is crucial to a productive day. Give yourself some time to rest.

Energy management has four components, which are physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy.

Part 3: 4 Components of energy management

1. The Body: Physical Energy

These are our “Ultradian rhythms,” or 90- to 120-minute cycles during which our bodies slowly move from a high-energy state into a physiological trough. To get the most out of the physical energy, take intermittent breaks for renewal. If getting outside and taking in the greenery around you helps you feel refreshed, do it. If a quick five-minute workout helps, do that instead. This is, in fact, very strategic.

2. The Emotional: Quality of Energy

Be in charge of your emotions. By learning to alter the narratives they tell themselves about the events in their lives, people can learn to cultivate positive energy. Do you engage in any behaviors that make you feel drained? Think about how you can change them.

3. The Mind: Focus on Energy

Are you a fan of multitasking? Rethink that!
As much as 25% more time is needed to complete the primary task when switching temporarily between tasks, a phenomenon known as “switching time.”

To get into your zone, think back to a time when you were most effective. When was the time of day? What were the circumstances?

Some people might experience this creative mood later in the evening. Some people might experience it first thing in the morning, but it’s crucial to tap into that state because you can accomplish so much more when you’re in that creative flow.

Stay away from interactions. Activate airplane mode on your phone or move it to a different bedroom. Close your emails and go into a different room. Stop using social media or your messaging services to avoid receiving pings. Listen to some focus-enhancing music.

Practice mindfulness. Almost any activity can be done mindfully – no yoga or meditation are not necessary.

4. The Spirit: Spiritual Energy

There is no “one size fits all.” Find out what this means for you, meditations, prayers, or else. If you’re introverted, maybe you want to be alone to reenergize by being in a quiet space with your own thoughts. If you’re extroverted, maybe being around other people will help you recharge. So first, understand yourself.

No matter what you do, don’t try to push through the cycle. Even if you still feel energized, this will fade, and you will feel much more stressed and tired. Take breaks, refresh your mind and soul, and then carry on.


So lets recap whats we have covered today..

1) Don’t manage your time. Manage your energy instead. One reason for that is time is a finite resource, energy is infinite, and if we take the right actions we can create more energy.

2) With the right actions, we can create more energy, and then we can work less and be very focused, effective, and productive. There are 4 components of energy management, which are physical energy, emotional energy mental energy and spiritual energy.

3) Tap into your state of “flow”, and get into your creative zone to make the most out of your time. The world needs you.

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