Entrepreneurs

To Manage Your Time Better, Think Of It Like A Balloon

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“How do you have the time?” people ask me.

I’m the editor in chief of Entrepreneur, and I also make two podcasts, have a forthcoming book, produce a newsletterspeak, and do more — which means I’m packing a lot into every day.

So how do I have the time? The answer is simple: I don’t. But while time is a finite resource, it is also more flexible than you think. That’s why I think of it like a balloon.

To appreciate why, let’s start with another time-management concept: Are you familiar with Parkinson’s Law? It’s an adage that states: “Work expands to fit the time available.”

If your deadline is in a month, a project will take you a month. If your deadline is in a week, the same project will take a week. We’ve all done it. Parkinson’s Law!

How does this happen? The answer has less to do with the work, and more to do with literally everything else. We tolerate inefficiencies when we’re not under pressure, and we create efficiencies when we’re forced to. We check Twitter too often when we’re relaxed, and we forget Twitter exists when we’re busy.

We are, in effect, making time for one thing by changing everything else.

Time is created under pressure.

And this is why I think time is like a balloon.

Consider the limp balloon: It has great potential to expand, but it does not expand preemptively. The balloon does not grow as a way to make room for air. How would that even work!?

Instead, a balloon grows when air is blown in. Obviously.

Now consider our time: We often think of how busy we are, and then we say, “I don’t have the time for something new.” But what would it mean to “have the time”? Would it mean that you literally created an empty space in your schedule, like a balloon making room for air? If so, that will never happy. You will never have the time — because your time will always be filled with the things you’re already doing. (See: Parkinson’s Law.)

So what do you do instead? Much like a balloon, you create pressure.

Add something to your schedule, and then watch what happens to everything else on you do. At first, you will try to keep everything the same. Then you will feel stressed. Then, if you are like me, you will start to imagine yourself like a wooden boat where the planks are cracking. You will realize that this is unsustainable.

Then you will make hard choices. You will eliminate the activities that are enjoyable but ultimately unrewarding, and that take up more time than you realized. (Goodbye, reading random Internet articles!) You will reconsider how you execute valuable tasks — changing your processes, cutting out inefficiencies, weakening your grip on perfectionism. You might even start outsourcing some things.

By fitting something new into your finite time, you forced everything else to adapt. As a result, your balloon expanded — not because you had free space, but because of the pressure you added to an already-full load.

That’s more or less how I’m producing the new newsletter.

And it’s how you can do more too.

This post is adapted from Feifer’s newsletter, Build For Tomorrow, which helps you become more adaptable. Subscribe here.

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