How many times have you said to yourself, “I wish I had more time”? All the time, right? 

If I had a penny for every time I said it, I’d be a millionaire many times over today. Just in the past week itself, I’ve heard family and friends say “I don’t have time” or “I wish I had more time” on more than a dozen occasions.

But here’s the thing, time can be elastic; it is essentially a function of our behavior towards it. 

Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling motivational book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was right when he said that time management is really a misnomer.

Here’s my cheat sheet of three ways I hacked my own behavior to buy more time in a day over the past few weeks when I seemed to be working 25/7. 

What do ‘buying time’ or ‘making time’ really mean? They’re as vague as “I want to become a better person”. They are all good intentions–we all have good intentions, from Homer’s epic hero Odysseus to America’s Kim Kardashian. 

But good intentions are never enough. So, as a first hack, I pushed myself to convert my philosophical goal into an actionable one. 

I started dividing my day into four clear parts. With some amount of tricking my mind, it worked wonders. Now instead of one day, I have four mini-days in one. I moved from planning a day to planning four mini-days and what I would do in each mini-day. 

But if only it were this easy. Sometimes you need some positive reinforcement. Or a reward like a piece of chocolate cake or a pizza after a tough endeavor. Sometimes you need negative reinforcement or the penalty of not being able to have a treat.

Now I would kill myself of sugar-dose if I treated myself to chocolate cake at the end of a job well done every mini-day. I went with something more subtle. At the end of each mini day, I rewarded myself with breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner. Don’t go, meh! I am writing this in my first mini-day and all I can think of is finishing this in 10 mins and grabbing breakfast (or not).

Of course, nothing works better than the pressure of accountability hanging over your head. We all can all relate to working with parents, teachers or bosses watching over our shoulders. Or remember the time you wanted to sign up for a gym membership and coaxed two friends into coming along because you didn’t want to do it alone. 

We all function better with accountability or commitment devices; in other words, someone we are answerable to and who can nudge us to stick to our plan.

This was quite simple for me. I looked among my well-wishers to find the most sadistic person–someone who will derive pleasure from humiliating me for under-achievement. All mothers love that (in a good way, of course).

So, I very hesitatingly appointed my mother as my accountability device. She loves this role of calling me at least twice a day to nudge me and unabashedly humiliate me if I fail to meet my goals two consecutive days. Disclaimer, we love each other. 

These are my three hacks to alter our own behaviors to achieve a goal: Make it actionable, build rewards and reinforcements, and create an accountability mechanism. 

I am now good to go for my breakfast, having completed my first mini day. What about you?

Samta Arora is the Director of Learning Impact at Harappa Education. A nerd at heart, she spends at least one mini-day per day consuming information and reading. 

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