Hi, I’m Luna, this is my first English blog.
It is related to a presentation I have given recently in my professional year class.
The topic is exciting, I believe everyone who wants to be happy and satisfied in his/her life would think about time management at some point.
Each of us has a different approach to managing our time. Some techniques are suitable for some people, while others are not.
In this presentation, I shared all my recent years’ experience of **energy management **in an easy-to-follow way. All the content is based on my personal experience, which means that the idea and techniques work for me, but not necessarily for you.
Hopefully, it can help you to think deeper and come up with your methods later.
The presentation lasts for about 20 minutes, you can watch the video recording (Thanks to my friend Angela).
Unfortunately I ran out of time during the presentation, so I didn’t cover all the points I wanted to make.
But the article itself is essentially the material I prepared for this presentation, so you can read it to get a better idea about what I am trying to deliver.
Today I want to talk about how my mindset works and how to manage your energy efficiency to achieve more goals in your life or career.
In this article, I will first discuss how powerful your mindset it, and then move to the importance and practical ways of observing yourself, enhance your self-awareness.
Furthermore, I will breakdown the steps I have been using to manage my energy efficiently.
Hope you enjoy it, any question or feedback is welcomed.
I bet you are wondering: What is the mindset? And why should we care about it?
Let me ask you a few questions (see image below):
My answers to these questions are all “YES.”
I do regularly feel bad about myself, my life, and my future. I always want to achieve more, but the reality is that I am just an ordinary woman.
I don’t have a rich dad, I am not a genius, I need an 8-hour-sleep to be productive, and when I am at home, I need to deal with all the family chores, play and educate my son.
When I read articles about superwomen, about how they are living a life with a well-paid job (or even leading her own company), about how they are not only successful in their career but also have a great family life, they have time to travel, take beautiful photos, and a lot more.
I feel even worse about myself.
Why is someone in this world living so successfully while my life is just so ordinary and full of problems?
And honestly, I don’t care how successful they are, I want to know how they become successful.
Well, enough complaints, after envying and admiring those people, I still need to go back to my life, right?
Let’s move to the next question:
What can we do about all these bad feelings?
Let me tell you more about my experience and how my mindset is changed.
When I started my project management job in 2014 as a fresh graduate student, I didn’t get enough training, and my supervisor rarely shows up in the office.
Obviously, I blame him for not onboarding me smoothly and not teaching me enough for the role.
I felt that I have no control of these things (I cannot make him come to the office, right?), and I didn’t know what I could do to make things better.
I came to the office to work every day, but I didn’t have any motivations or objectives at all, which I reckon was just a waste of time.
But even a waste of time can get myself paid, right? Why don’t I just keep working like that till my retirement?
It sounds not too bad, right? And the reality is that a lot of people are going to work just for money.
The only problem is that I feel that there’s no sense of accomplishment and satisfaction coming from my job, and if I am not creating any value for the company, how am I going to keep my position when the company wants to reduce labor cost?
It turns out that my supervisor and the CEO of our company are both going back to the Beijing headquarter, and before my probation period ends, the Shanghai branch welcomes its new CEO, who is also my career mentor - Crane.
The second day he came to the office, he gave me a book to read.
I cannot remember the name of the book now, but he is the first person in my career who gave me a book to read.
This book is about changing mindset, stop blaming others, and think about what I can do to make things better.
Because blaming others won’t give you the expected result, it only brings arguments.
The concept behind it is simple, and I’m sure many of you guys have already heard of this: everyone’s life has three circles:
A circle of control(the smallest one in the center),
A circle of influence(the middle one),
A circle of concern(the largest one).
Stop worrying about the things outside of your circle of control, put your energy on the things within your control circle, and your circle of influence will be expanded if you are doing the right thing.
Before reading that book, I have no idea of this circle theory, but what I can tell you is that the next day I came to work, I felt empowered and energetic because I know that there are things I can control, and even change.
I cannot control the amount of time I spend to go to work, but I can absolutely control what time I get up, what time I leave home and eventually, what time I arrive in the office (in most cases).
This is a simple rule I learnt from my career mentor - Crane.
He once told me that, some managers are result-oriented, they don’t care much about the process of achieving the result.
But he is more process-oriented because he believes if the team/person is actually doing the right thing, then the result won’t be too bad.
But a lot of people are not getting it, so I want to emphasize it again:
If you keep doing the same thing as usual but wish to get a different result, this is never going to happen.
In short, if you are not satisfied with your current life, do something about it.
Another thing I learnt from Crane is that a lot of skills are not as challenging to learn as we thought.
He said, you can learn anything, and you get 70 out of 100 for that skill.
So never say I don’t know, I cannot learn, it is too hard…
If you want to learn something new, you can achieve 70, for sure.
I guess the same rule applies in University study.
It is not difficult to get Credit(60-69) or Distinct(70-79) if you really want to study this unit and put your effort into it.
But it is sometimes difficult to achieve HD(80-100), especially above 90.
Anyway, not all jobs require average HD, right? They are just asking for Distinct, which is not impossible to achieve.
So if you want to learn something new, such as programming, just go for it, don’t say you can’t before you actually tried.
Do you actually know yourself?
Do you know how long you can concentrate on a task?
Do you know how to make yourself more productive by setting up the right environment?
Now let’s move to the next part - Self-awareness and Self-observation, which helps us know ourselves better.
Why do you need to know yourself?
Well, imagine you want to manage a subordinate at work, you need to know him/her before giving a real task to him/her, right?
You need to know his/her skills and knowledge, how long would it take for him/her to finish the task, and what you are expecting from him/her.
And if you want to manage yourself, please get to know yourself better.
Believe me, you are not wasting your time on this.
This might sound a little bit wired, but this is the best thing I have learnt in the past few years.
I started to observe myself in the following areas:
If I feel unproductive or frustrated in the middle of doing an assignment, I will try different ways to change my feelings, such as chatting with friends, having a cheesecake, or just go to the gym and run for half an hour.
And based on my own experience, running is the best way to clear my mind and bring back my best performance.
Everyone has his/her own emotion switch. You need to find yours and learn to get along with your brain better.
Remember, I mentioned mindset before self-observation? That’s because only after you realize the power of your own action can you actually know the importance of monitoring yourself.
And if you know yourself quite well, you will be able to tailor a personalized plan to improve yourself, and ultimately, achieve your goals.
We know what we want to observe now, but how are we going to observe?
Are we just sitting there doing nothing and try to talk to ourselves to find out what is going on?
No, no, no.
Here are two tools I use for self-observation.
Time Diary is simple, and I used it intensively in University because I have a lot of free time to do things with my own schedule.
Sitting in the library for a whole day can be easily distracted by a lot of unimportant things, so I record every time block in this way.
First, write down your available time, say 10:00 - 19:00;
Then write down your tasks (for example, Assignment A-part1 and Assignment B-part1),
Now, start to do your Assignment A without thinking about assignment B.
When you feel really difficult to concentrate on Assignment A, look at the time, record it with your current progress, and also, your rough estimation of the remaining task
E.g., 10:00 - 11:00 Assignment A - part1 50% done, might need 3 more hours to finish it).
Then, take a break and come back to continue when you are ready.
It really helps, for me.
Don’t lie to yourself.
Record your time as it is.
From my own experience, the most useful thing to do for a better self-understanding is to write a weekly reflective diary.
The diary aims to reflect on your behaviour and analysis how your brain works, what are the values you hold(which drives your action), and if you want to change your behaviour, plan how you would react in the similar situation in the future.
If you are doing the same thing, you won’t get a different result.
Finally, we come to the energy management part.
In this section, I will share my energy management strategies with you.
I prefer to use energy management because when you say time management, you are managing time.
But in energy management, it is more about managing yourself and how to use the available time wisely.
In my opinion, a perfect time scheduling unit is a week, because we usually have weekly routines.
As a student, you have your weekly class table.
As an employee, you have your weekly work schedule.
One month is too long, and I couldn’t recall what I did for last month within 3 seconds.
And according to the scientific discovery, human brains are good at managing 7 different items at one time, in this case, 7 different days.
I have recognized my weekly pattern after moving to Sydney for about one month.
I usually get up at 6:30 am, leave home at 7:00 am, after 1-hour transportation, I will arrive in the company at approximately 8:10 am.
One thing I want to point out is that, it actually takes me one hour to get to the office, but I need to catch a bus, transfer to a train, and there’s some walking time, I only count as 30 minutes because that is the time I have with concentration and I can actually do things.
With a clear mind about the total weekly amount of time within your control, you can start planning what to do during that free time.
I remember when I was doing a unit called Project Management, there’s a concept called “critical path.”
Basically, all the tasks that can affect the final project handover date would be considered as a critical task.
As a project manager, what you need to do is to identify the critical path and manage the critical tasks.
If all the critical tasks are finished on time, the whole project will be completed as scheduled.
If I can identify my life critical path, and focus on completing the critical tasks on a scheduled time, then I will achieve what I want.
I plan my timeline of getting Australia Permanent Residency when I started my master study.
I find out that the most critical task for me is to get an ACS certificate because, without it, I cannot submit EOI.
And to get the certificate, I need either 1-year work experience or finish the Professional year course(which is about 10-11 months).
Then I figured out, to be enrolled in the PY course, I need to submit my 485 visa application.
I need to have several documents for the visa application, the most important one is the university course completion letter, and the earliest date to get it is the day our final semester result is published (2019.07.15).
I got all my other documentation ready before 2019.07.15, such as the OVHC insurance, Australian Police Check, and the 485 online forms.
Then I submitted everything on the 16th of July, enrolled in the PY course starting from 20th of July, and started my job from 22nd of July.
Which means I will have some time advantage compared with my University friends who graduated on the same day as me.
Sadly, the scoring system has changed a lot this year, but that is something out of my control.
For me, if a plan cannot be executed, then it is a failed plan.
I remember when I first started to plan my week, I squeeze in too many tasks to my timetable that I literally cannot finish all of them.
My intention was ambitious, I try to make use of every minute in my plan, but soon I realized that I am not a machine which can do whatever scheduled, I am just an ordinary woman who needs some spare time to relax between tasks.
My short-term plan is a yearly plan with tasks I have selected and decided to do in 1 year.
Based on my free time in the following year, I have come up with the following six things.
The key is to have measurable goals and try to fit your plan in your free time.
Don’t have too many things on your short-term plan. You will become frustrated when you find that some of the goals cannot be achieved.
You should also consider of giving each task a deadline (if they have dependency relationship, for example, My task 2 and 3 relies on task 1, so I set the deadline for task 1 at the end of this year.
But, give yourself some room to breathe and relax, don’t set tight deadline(which means you need to be 100% committed and nothing would interrupt your plan).
Be practical and remember, you are going to have unplanned things coming in your life.
Goals can focus on different areas, for example, career, hobby, knowledge, and health.
Which makes your life less boring : )
In the next three years, the two most important things for me are:
I avoid to plan too much for the long term without enough information. Currently I need more information about the new scoring system to make further decisions.
We started with mindset, which is the most essential part because without a healthy mindset, tools and techniques are useless.
You need to bear in mind that you want to focus on things that you can control, and stop blaming other people, blaming won’t change your life and bring happiness to you.
You also need to remember that actions can change the results, be process-oriented, and truly believe that you can achieve 70 out of 100 for anything that you want to learn.
Then we talked about self-observation and self-awareness, which is about knowing yourself better and get along well with your brain.
If you want to observe how your time is spent, use a time diary, and if you want to find out why you are unsatisfied/satisfied with your current behaviour, use a reflective diary.
Finally, we talked about energy management, which starts with summing up your weekly free time, then you need to identify your life critical path and make sure the critical tasks are going well.
Planning is important, but make sure you are doing practical planning(short-term ones and long-term ones) and never put too much pressure on yourself.
If you are a person who plans more than actually making the move, then don’t worry too much about the planning part, start by analysing your free time for the coming week and do one new thing you always wanted to do in the next week (for example, write a book review).
See how it goes, if you enjoyed it and want to continue doing this, put it on your short-term task list.
If you are a person who does so many different things and sometimes feels aimless and lost, please slow down and start thinking about your critical path, prioritize your goals and only pick 3 new things to do in the following year.
Don’t worry, you can always pick up new things later.
You need to know yourself better and get along with your brain well!
I believe no one is perfect, we all need to be a lifetime learner and there’s always room for improvement.
But don’t force yourself to do things you don’t want to do; just follow your heart and pick one thing that you always want to do.
Then gradually, you will know yourself better, about your strengths and weaknesses, about your future and how you are going to get there.
Hope you enjoyed this article, and please leave your thoughts or comments below.