I hope you enjoyed my recent six-part series on Time. However, the path to success in your studies – and beyond – goes further than effective time management.
Life is unpredictable. Whether or not you plan into the future, you still want to exercise control over that future. However, an unexpected event can dramatically alter the course of your life, whether you like it or not. A change in popular trends, a personal tragedy, an oversight with timely consequences…anything can reshape what’s going on and thrust you in a different place to where you’d expected. And where you’d calculated. And which you saw with total certainty until now.
So what’s the point in being so rigid? Yes, planning is necessary for success…
But so is accepting change.
You may even change yourself. Scott Young mentions on his site that he’s stopped setting long-term goals, because everyone changes so much so quickly. If you read what he says, you’ll understand why one of the craziest job interview questions is, “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”
Manage time effectively by initially narrowing your scope, not widening it. Long-term goals are one thing, but they should be based on general ideas. To achieve those goals, you need to see in smaller chunks of time.
University is definitely a time of massive change to you. Even a long-term childhood passion can fade away, in place of an even bigger passion. If you don’t have a passion, it may start developing while you’re an undergraduate. It’s all to play for.
The best way to focus on the need for change is to review on a regular basis. Review your short-term plans, long-term goals (if you have any right now), and all your personal passions. Without noticing, you may find that what you held dear last year now leaves you cold.
Once you accept change with open arms, the next thing to do is to *take action*.
You could have the best idea in the world since the dawn of time. But if you don’t take action to process that idea until it becomes reality, you might as well have not come up with the idea in the first place.
Ideas are funny things. When you accept change and take action, you still need to go further. Harvard Business posted an interesting piece a few days back, about structuring experiments for success. One striking piece of advice is:
“Executives and university administrators should stop trying to predict the success of very early ideas, instead they need to be sure they have enough of them and that their pool of ideas is diverse.”
The suggestion shouldn’t be limited to executives and administrators; I think it’s sound advice, whoever you are.
It’s like when I write. If I only had a single idea, I wouldn’t last long before running out of steam. I have a wide range of post ideas on the go at all times. I write all sorts of notes and even full drafts of posts that, in the end, don’t go anywhere. I’ll keep them for when it makes sense to bring them out again, but that’s why ideas are so great. The more you feel for ideas, map out your thoughts and write about all your little lightbulb moments, the better. Be aware of your ideas at all times to give yourself the best chance of developing.
So far, so positive. Yet even with a huge list of amazing ideas, you still can’t control everything about your future. Luckily, you are the very person who can drive it.
That’s the next step. You’re willing to change, you want to take action, you have ideas. Now drive!
The poet, Philip Larkin, wrote these words:
“And once you have walked the length of your mind, what
You command is clear as a lading-list.
Anything else must not, for you, be thought
[From Continuing to Live (1954)]
There is so much calling out for your attention, but it’s up to you to filter until you’re left with what you need to succeed. This is where the big picture really comes into play. Your life doesn’t roll down a single track and you’re bound to have loads of responsibilities, interests, mates, and so on that you want to make a big part of your existence.
Armed with the want to change, a readiness for action, ideas and drive, your priorities should be crystal clear. With such clarity, you’ll have more time to enjoy.
So if you ever find yourself at a loss, without a structure, lacking a goal, or lacking control, it’s time to let go of some of the junk cluttering your life. It may have seemed important a while back, but when you focus on too many things to cope, you might as well not focus on anything at all.