Successfully manage time by planning for the long run

Sam sat rocking his sleeping three-year-old son. The room, which earlier was a flurry of video games and exercise, was now scattered with half-built Lego towers and puzzle items. Regardless of the mess, it was the most content material Sam may keep in mind feeling in a long time.

Like most of us, work had been creeping into Sam’s house life even earlier than the pandemic. Now that he was working solely from house, these once-blurred traces had been now utterly erased. Telephone calls, late-night emails, and marathon Zoom conferences grew to become the norm. Sam wasn’t working from house—he was dwelling at work.

As this grew to become clear, he tried to reestablish boundaries, pledging to complete work by 5 p.m., however his mobile phone continued to ring. So, he dedicated to silencing his cellphone, however the urge to verify his cellphone “simply in case” was a relentless temptation.


Lastly, Sam reached his breaking level and determined he needed to take extra drastic measures. Not solely would he go away his house workplace at 5 p.m.; he would additionally set an e-mail bounce-back message explaining he had completed work for the day and would return all requests the subsequent morning.

As an alternative of silencing his work mobile phone, he turned it off. He requested his group to solely name his private mobile phone for pressing objects.

When the clock struck 5 p.m., Sam made himself unavailable for work and out there for every thing else. The distinction was exceptional. He felt much less anxious. He was extra current for his spouse and youngsters. He discovered time to loosen up and recharge. And it wasn’t simply his private life that improved. Sam discovered he started to get pleasure from his work extra. He made higher choices and located options he had in any other case missed. He couldn’t imagine it had taken him this long to make these easy but highly effective modifications.

Investing in the “long tail” of time administration

If you happen to’re like me, you possibly can relate to Sam’s story. Why achieve this many people put up with issues—massive and small—for a lot longer than we have now to?

Possibly as a result of on any given day it normally takes much less time to manage an issue than to unravel it. In Sam’s case, it was simpler to reply in the second to each drawback or request that got here up than to ascertain boundaries and fear about disappointing others by being unavailable.

After we have a look at the equation from a longer-term perspective, nevertheless, our calculation modifications. As soon as we add up the cumulative prices of the time and frustration from at this time, plus tomorrow, plus a whole lot of tomorrows after that, all of the sudden it is smart to put money into fixing the drawback as soon as and for all.

Our time and vitality are the most dear belongings we have now on this life. Taking steps to do what I name “defend the asset” by severing his work from his private life was an absolute cut price for Sam: a couple of minutes’ value of braveness and energy prevented a whole lot of future frustrations.


That is the long tail of time administration. After we make investments our time in actions with a long tail, we proceed to reap the advantages over a long interval.

Typically we get so used to irritations it doesn’t even happen to us to do something about them. Even when we’re bothered by them and we complain about them, we nonetheless don’t actually see them as an issue value fixing. However what we regularly fail to acknowledge is that some duties that appear “not value it” in the second might save us 100 occasions the time and aggravation over the long run.

To interrupt this behavior, ask your self:

  1. What’s an issue that irritates me repeatedly?
  2. What’s the whole value of managing that over a number of months or years?
  3. What’s the subsequent step I can take instantly, in a couple of minutes, to maneuver towards fixing it?

When you begin asking these questions, you’ll begin noticing the small actions you possibly can take now to make your life simpler in the future.

The stunning energy of placing at the root

Solely once we commit to essentially fixing the drawback will we start to make progress.

Henry David Thoreau as soon as wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to at least one who’s placing at the root.” After we’re merely managing an issue, we’re hacking at the branches. To forestall the drawback earlier than it even arises, we should always strike at the root.

If you happen to’ve spent loads of time hacking at the branches, you might have turn out to be good at it. But when that’s all you’re doing, the drawback will hold coming again to hang-out you. It’s merely being managed, by no means solved.

After we actually look, we are able to see examples of this strategy in all places.

  • A physician who treats a coronary heart drawback via years of remedy adopted by extremely invasive surgical procedure as an alternative of encouraging a affected person to eat proper and train.
  • An worker who repeatedly apologizes for finishing a challenge late quite than bettering their processes so the challenge is completed on time.
  • A pupil who’s exhausted from all the time pulling all-nighters earlier than an task is due quite than blocking time to work on assignments each day for per week earlier than they’re due.
  • A guardian who bemoans having to tidy up after their youngsters each day as an alternative of reinforcing a optimistic behavior round tidying up.

What about you? Are there any recurring issues or frustrations in your life or work? Reasonably than merely hacking at the branches, attempt placing at the root.

Whereas the pandemic has perpetually modified how we work and stay, we have now the energy to make use of these modifications to reshape our actuality. As we start to emerge right into a post-pandemic world, we have now a uncommon alternative to rethink not solely how we work, but additionally how we are able to design a life that isn’t consumed by work. Putting at the root of our issues and making long-tail investments in defending the asset will ensure that it’s a life we wish to return to.

From Easy: Make It Simpler to Do What Issues Most, by Greg McKeown. Copyright © 2021 by Greg McKeown. Excerpted by permission of Forex, an imprint of Penguin Random Home LLC. All rights reserved. No a part of this excerpt could also be reproduced or reprinted with out permission in writing from the writer.


Greg McKeown is the writer of the best-selling ebook Essentialism. This essay is tailored from his new ebook, Easy: Make It Straightforward to Do What Issues Most, to be printed April 2021.