I know Karthik Lakshminarayan for many years now. I met him personally at my book launch in Bangalore. I have always been impressed to see how he manages a full-time job, family, kid and still devotes a huge chunk of time to his passion – reading and writing. After reading his recent book, Carthick’s Unfairy Tales, I asked him to share a few tips on how he manages to do it all. (Read my review of Carthick’s Unfairy tales.)
Here, he shares his secrets with us:
Today I am writing a post on a funny topic – time management- something on which I have always found myself inadequate. But I guess reading 100 books, writing one as well as a few blog posts within a year and being active on social media while holding on to a challenging job and family is something. No matter that I just managed to hang on to job without getting kicked out. No matter that I just managed to keep my wife, kid and dad from disowning me. No matter the 100 books included lot of smaller books and did not have some of the larger ones, more difficult ones and vernacular ones that I so wanted to read. No matter I am never regular on my blog and don’t figure in those blog awards lists. What matters is I still did all those things though not being really on top of my game in any of these things. And this makes people think I am well qualified to share useful insights on time management and so here I am.
I see myself more as one of the seekers of the holy grail of optimal time use. I would like share a piece of wisdom or two I have picked up along the path with my fellow travelers – 6 to be precise. I have been contemplating on this topic for years, read various books such as ‘Eat that frog’ by Brian Tracy, ‘Being a productivity Ninja’ by Graham Allcott, Harvard Business Review’s book on productivity and others. Have tried lot of stuff and know many of the things that don’t work. For instance, complicated stuff like maintenance of time sheets, micro planning etc.
So, let me list 7 key things I currently try to do in my quest to manage time best:
- Classify time sinks – Most things that take up our time can be put under 4 buckets – primary income source, core passion, relaxation and essential relationships. Anything which does not fall under one of the four heads does not deserve my time and needs to be mercilessly eliminated. Actually, not much can be eliminated – most things end up falling in one of the 4 buckets. Reading newspaper and watching TV for instance are two of the activities that I felt did not fit anywhere in my scheme of things. Some of my social media activity also I feel falls here. But I am still struggling to segregate the ‘good’ social media activity and the ‘bad’ social medial activity.
- Balance passion versus relationships – Usually we see passion as using the best of our potential to benefit humanity at large in a vague distant way in long term while relationships are a way of benefiting lesser number of people closer to us in distinct tangible way in near term not necessarily using our best skills. One needs both but it is a decision how much of each. Say I believe my writing will delight millions of people not only today but in generations to come. But I can never be sure of that. I may actually end up in obscurity being of no use to anyone and the hour writing could have been better spent with my wife and kid. That would have at least been sure to bring them happiness to them for that one hour. However, that may seem tiny and insignificant as against the potential of what you could achieve with your writing. In practical terms, this means not calling some of the relatives and some of the not so close friends, avoiding socializing with neighbors, avoiding functions etc. on the relationship side and letting go of secondary passions such as programming, watching movies, playing computer games, collecting coins etc. on the passion side in a balancing act.
- Satisfice rather than maximize income – Often the focus shifts towards maximizing income as if that is the sole purpose in life. So, I try consciously to avoid things that consume time and mental energy but bring marginal additional income or savings. Say all the effort required for that higher rating or getting an early promotion at work. Or side activities such as some blogger and reviewer activities which give much lesser hourly returns compared to my job. I also avoid activities such as analyzing price of sundry items like groceries and vegetables, driving by myself rather than taking cab or public transport etc. where either savings arising out the effort or cost of hiring as a service from outside instead of doing it myself is less than my hourly earnings from my primary source of income.
- Recognize physical and mental limits – I realize even where there is time available, there is constraint of physical limits and even more stringent constraint of mental energy. I have often tried unrealistic targets of working 14-15 hours a day. Even if physical health allows mental energy is going to drain out and the extra 3-4 hours of work is going to be waste. So other than adequate sleep and proper meals, relaxation activities may be required to recharge the brain.
- Have reasonable expectations – Given the constraints enforced by mental energy, time, income, I set expectations on what I will do in my area of passion, that are reasonable. I even further prioritize within the passion itself. For instance, if I feel I have potential in certain type of writing, I try to focus more on that type of writing to the exclusion of others. I make conscious decision to sacrifice some of the activities related to development of writing skills and marketing of my work to work within available constraints and try not to regret such choices.
- Combine activities – I try to use my relaxation time to combine with passion or relationship to avoid spending time exclusively for it. For instance, I watch movies only with my wife, travel for recreation, dining for recreation as well only with wife, child and father. I read books which is an activity related to my passion of writing rather than any others such as computer games, movies, TV etc. whose contribution towards improvement of writing skills would be comparatively lesser. I try to listen to audio books during walks and read during commutes and meal times. Ideal combine would be if passion is the income generating activity. But that may not be possible for all.
- Prevent emotions from frittering mental energy – I find when I get angry or brood, lot of mental energy gets wasted and that lowers the threshold on mental energy available. So mental energy becomes a greater constraint than time requiring relaxing activities to regain mental energy which consumes time. So, I consciously am trying to keep away from negative emotions such as anger, fear, envy, hatred, anxiety etc.
Apart from these seven points, writers should also be flexible with the use of space, time and medium. I don’t keep a specific time, place or medium for my reading and writing. I can read from Kindle, Mobile, audio books and paperbacks. I can read anytime, anywhere – standing, sitting or sleeping. For writing, I at least am not fussy about the time or place within the home. But still not comfortable with writing in office and on the commute and on the mobile phone. But trying to get there. I need to if I have to save every precious hour and use for my passion.
So that’s my thoughts on how time can be saved. As I said it is a journey and I still have a long way to go. And I don’t even know if there is a defined end to this journey as such. I do hope people find at least something useful in what I have said.
More about T F Carthick
T F Carthick is a Bangalore-based writer and blogger who has been blogging since 2008. He is an avid reader of Children’s Fiction, Science-fiction and Fantasy. Enid Blyton, J K Rowling, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams are some of his favorite authors. His paranormal thriller ‘Bellary’ was one of the three stories in the book Sirens Spell Danger, published in 2013. Six of his stories have featured in multi-author anthologies and literary magazines. He has written over 50 short stories, many of which can be read for free on his blog www.karthikl.com.
He is an Engineer and MBA from India’s premier institutes IIT, Madras and IIM, Ahmedabad and currently works as an Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Consultant at one of the world’s leading Consulting Firms.
His Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/threerealmsofthemind/
His Twitter Handle – @TF_Carthick