Many life-defining moments happen when you’re in your Twenties.
For example, it is known that the first ten years of your working life can have an exponential impact on your overall earning capacity.
At least half of us are already married or have met the person we will marry by the age of thirty.
And when you’re in your Twenties, your brain goes through a final growth spurt and rewires itself as it prepares itself for adulthood. So if there is anything you want to change about yourself, your Twenties is a good period to work on it.
I learned of this recently when I stumbled across and an excellent Ted Talk entitled, “Why 30 is not the new 20”, presented by Dr Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Education at the University of Virginia.
If you have 15 minutes free, you can watch it here below.
We’ve all heard of child development, but there is such a thing as adult development and according to Dr Jay, most of it happens in your Twenties.
“Claiming your Twenties is one of the simplest, yet most transformative things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness . . . maybe even for the world.”Meg Jay
That’s not to say that you can’t do anything meaningful in your Thirties, Fourties, Fifties or any other decade for that matter, but your Twenties are a special ‘sweet spot’ between adolescence and adulthood.
So it got me thinking back to my Twenties and the things I wish I’d known (there are many!), particularly in relation to time management, which I am sharing with you here.
Here are my 2o things I wish I’d known about time management when I was still in my Twenties.
1. Time is more precious than money
They say that time is money, but it’s considerably more precious than that.
When you’re in your Twenties, it’s likely that you’re in a position where you finally have your own income and are no longer relying on parents for money.
This is also a point when adult life is just getting started and you feel that you “have all the time in the world”.
But you don’t.
Life flies by very quickly and if you waste time in your Twenties, before you know it you’ll be approaching fifty, wondering where the hell all the time went.
This may sound like a clichéd thing that older people say, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
For sure, what you do with your money in your Twenties – how much you’re earning, how much you save, your spending habits, any debt your incur – can have a huge impact on your Thirties and beyond.
But how you spend your time can have a much bigger impact.
Time is a precious resource and once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.
Spend your money wisely, but your time more so.
Don’t waste it on activities that you don’t enjoy or that don’t bring you any value or with people that you don’t want to be around.
2. Control your own time
Something I learned when I started working was that if you don’t control your own time, there will always be someone else controlling it for you.
To my mind, this is one of the most important ones, because you can’t choose how you use your time until you take control of it.
Taking control of your time means becoming skilled at time management, so learn some techniques that will help you with it. There are loads to read about on this blog!
3. Not all tasks are of equal importance
Look at how you are spending your day versus how you want to spend your day.
There is always time to do the things you want to do – managing your time well is about making priorities.
Do important things first and use the 80/20 principle on the things you spend your time on.
Read more: How To Audit Your Time >>>
4. Invest time in self-development
As mentioned above, time is more precious than money, so you should invest it in activities and experiences that develop you as a person and add value to your life.
HINT: that does not include wasting your day on social media. Take a time audit if you want to get slapped in the face with the reality of how much time you actually spend on social media.
5. Multi-tasking doesn’t work
Spinning numerous plates sometimes seems like a necessary evil.
We don’t always have the luxury of giving our undivided attention to every single task we need to take care of.
I used to think that I had a talent for doing several things as once, but it turns out that I wasn’t actually as efficient as I thought I was being.
And, unfortunately, I learned about the inefficiency of multi-tasking and things called context switching and attention residue much later in life.
6. Routine is key
Having some routine in your daily life will give you a huge advantage over those that don’t.
In your Twenties, you can often have a lot going on in both your professional and personal life. Finding some balance between the two requires allocating sufficient time to both.
Scheduling activities and establishing a daily routine may sound as if you are restricting yourself to a life without any spontaneity, but it actually provides you with a lot more freedom.
Read more: How To Create A Schedule >>>
7. The power of breaks
Sometimes taking a break is more effective than working.
Taking the time to recharge is important if you want to remain productive and operate at your best for longer.
Incorporating microbreaks into your daily schedule is an effective but hugely underrated way of maintaining high performance throughout the day.
8. Use systems to remind you
Don’t trust your memory!
I’ve always had a decent memory and used to think that I could carry around everything I needed to get done in my head.
I was wrong.
There comes a point when you have too much going on and other stuff has a habit of distracting you all the time, so you need a framework and a point of reference you can go back to when that happens.
Use a To-Do list to get everything out of your head.
Read more: How To Write A To-Do List – Properly! >>>
9. Say ‘no’ more often
Having a positive attitude and being open to opportunity is generally a good thing, but that does not mean you need to say yes to everything that comes your way.
Some people claim that saying ‘yes’ to everything is living life to the fullest.
I can see the appeal of trying new things and opening up your world to as many possibilities and opportunities as possible, especially when you’re in your Twenties. But saying ‘yes’ to everything usually means you are giving up control of your time to someone else. And giving up control of your time is a big ‘no’.
If you are someone that struggles to say ‘no’, read this.
10. Ask for help
Asking for help is a genuine life skill. Many of us are not good at asking for help and I was certainly one of those people when I was in my Twenties.
I have always been more of the introverted, lone wolf type and have never liked to feel dependent on anyone else, so I felt it was a sign of weakness and incompetence if I asked someone else for help whenever I faced a problem.
So I always tried to work things out myself.
While it could be argued that finding things out for yourself can have its advantages, it can also waste a lot of time, especially when there are people around you that have probably overcome similar problems to the ones you may be facing.
Take asking for help as an opportunity to learn, rather than an admission of incompetence. It will save you so much time.
11. Set deadlines for everything
There is something known as the ‘Planning Fallacy‘, which is the phenomenon of underestimating how long a task will take to complete.
The crux of this is that we tend to be too optimistic about what we can get done in a given time and end up rushing to get things finished or missing deadlines completely.
A classic example of this is college students pulling all-nighters to meet essay deadlines at university because they thought it would take them just a couple of hours but actually required significantly more time.
Be mindful of the planning fallacy and plan accordingly. Imposing your own tight deadlines before the given deadline is a good strategy.
12. Parkinson’s Law
This is one of those laws that become apparent in your life as soon as you become aware of it.
It is related to the planning fallacy and is described as follows:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”Cyril Northcote Parkinson
In other words, if you have three weeks to complete a task, it will take you the full three weeks.
Read all about it in this post: “What Is Parkinson’s Law?“
13. Our attention has limits
I used to try to operate at 100% all day every day. But despite the power and endurance of youth, it’s just not sustainable.
Understand that our capacity for productivity and creativity increases and decreases at different times throughout the day. Trying to hammer out high-value tasks that require a lot of attention and focus all day is counter-productive.
Instead of doing this, establish your most productive times of the day and schedule your tasks accordingly.
14. The difference between busy and productive
“Don’t confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but doesn’t get anywhere.”Alfred Armand Montapert
Distinguish between high-value and low-value tasks, especially in the workplace, which is often notoriously inefficient when it comes to the use of time.
Read : Workplace Time-Wasters And How To Avoid Them >>>
15. Do big tasks first
Procrastination robs us of our time.
A good way to overcome procrastination is to use Brian Tracy’s ‘frog-eating technique’.
Sounds gross, I know. But it can work wonders.
You can read about it here, but the potted version is that you can get more done if you attack the big tasks you don’t want to do first.
16. Do small tasks first
I know, there’s a bit of a contradiction here.
This takes the opposite approach of the ‘Eat That Frog’ method and that is to get stuck into some smaller, easily-doable tasks first. The thinking behind this is that it will help you build momentum and into the right frame of mind to attack the big stuff.
You need to be careful with this though – otherwise, you run the risk of might only ever tackling the smaller tasks, kidding yourself that this is actually a procrastination-beating strategy.
17. Perfectionism: enemy of the good
“A good plan, violently executed today is better than a perfect plan next week.”
That was said by General George S. Patton, a famous American Word War II field commander.
It would be nice to produce work that is perfect all the time, but most of the time, it is just not worth it and spending time on trying to attain perfection is just a waste of time.
Sometimes you just have to get things done and move on.
Read more: Time Management Tips For Perfectionists >>>
18. Longer hours ≠ more productivity
Just because you spend a lot of time working, does not make you productive. Consider how much time you are devoting to low-value tasks compared with high-value tasks.
Read more: Workaholic? Or Just Bad At Time Management? >>>
19. Pomodoro Technique
I only discovered this time management method very recently and I can’t help thinking that I could have got some much more done if I’d known about it earlier.
Read all about it here: “What Is The Pomodoro Technique?“
20. Elephant burgers
Question: How do you eat a whole elephant?
Answer: Elephant burgers!
Some tasks are big and daunting, but knowing how to break them down into bite-sized chunks will help you complete them more efficiently and with significantly less stress.
Time Hack Hero Takeaway
Your own hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The next best thing is to recognize the value of learning from someone else’s hindsight.
When we’re young, it’s not always easy to take heed of the advice dispensed by our elders. The world is constantly changing and it’s easy to think that what applied to your parents’ generation when they were your age does not apply now.
And that may be true to an extent.
But there are certain truths that remain the same regardless of the generation and one of them is that time is both fleeting and precious.
If you are conscious of this by the time you’re in your Twenties, you have an insight that you can truly leverage to your advantage, because if you can take control of your time and manage it well, you can achieve great things in life.
[Featured image credit: Nita]