This is a transcript of Podcast #3 that I made on Instagram: @potatopaikia, in which I shared my thoughts for the following question from a first year University student-athlete from Singapore Management University (SMU):
What advice can you give someone who has poor time management skills, who has poor will power and no discipline to balance studies, training and social life?
My answer: First things first, I’m going to start off by reminding you of the same principle I always emphasize on: Be kind to yourself.
That’s not to say of course that you don’t do anything to improve in this area because you should! It just means to allow yourself the freedom to fluctuate between improving and making mistakes. There is no limit to the number of times you are allowed to make mistakes, so you should not punish yourself excessively for falling short.
College and university life can be tough. And all the more so when you are someone popular. You have to understand the context of the situation you are in. Not many of your peers or people in general will understand the challenges and pains that come with being popular or with fame.
Not only are you under greater scrutiny, but you are also expected to be perfect and to be able to manage your time equally as well as everyone else. But the reality is that whatever comes more easily for them, will come doubly as hard for you.
Because how on earth are you going to stay focused when everyone is trying to get a piece of you and your attention, when you are invited to all sorts of events, and your phone gets blown up with texts and social media messages non-stop, while on top of that you have guys who are trying to date you, friends who are trying to get you to hang out, lots of studying to do, and projects to complete just so you can pass and clear each semester?
Where the hell do you even start (time management) right?
My dad, who was a university professor (he was the Vice-Dean at the Faculty of Business Administration at NUS for 20+ years), once shared a very insightful thought with me.
“Time management isn’t about adding more moments to your life, but rather putting more life into each moment.”
What this means basically is that you are to be fully living in the present. It’s about realising that the time that you are given here on earth is limited, and because of that time is incredibly precious and valuable. The value of your time as a high value person is even more scarce as a result, so you have to choose wisely what you take up, and what you turn down. You don’t just give your time to anybody who asks for it. There has to be a trade off some where.
There’s a very good book called “Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less” by Greg McKeown, which goes in depth on why time management isn’t about getting more done in less time, and it’s more about getting only the right things done. The things that matter. The rest are actually time thieves that can actually be removed from your calendar.
This is a particularly useful book if you have found yourself stretched too thin, always being busy but seldom productive, and you feel that your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas.
In order to know where to start, your highest priority at the moment is to protect your very ability to prioritise. Because when you are so busy, you don’t even have the time to set your priorities. This is where creating space for yourself (away from everyone and everything) is essential. And within that space you have created, you need to exercise the power of extreme criteria to eliminate the many things that may look or feel good, but are actually less important when you have time to think about it.
There is also a huge difference between doing what you want, and what you really need. A good example to use is your wardrobe, since you like to shop so much.
What can you typically do when you cannot decide between two dresses? You end up buying both. But if you continued this way very soon, you would need to get a bigger wardrobe or build a bigger one, which cannot happen forever.
So the real problem does not lie in the size of your wardrobe, but in your decision making process where you have to be more stringent and extreme in choosing who and what you allow to enter into your life.
And just like your clothes, the same principle applies to your time and where you choose to spend it on and whom you give it to. I hope this helps.