Stop Making These Mistakes When it Comes to Time 

Jenna Kutcher 

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January 11, 2023


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For me, whenever I learn the science behind something, I automatically buy into it at a deeper level. It feels more solid and not so wishy-washy. One thing I’ve been super invested in over the last year is learning how to better manage and utilize my time. There are tons of hacks on the internet for productivity and time management, but I need to hear the science behind any method before I let it into my life. 

Thankfully, my friend Marie Forleo shares the science of time in her program, Time Genius (and I’ve completed the program three-times over!) I pick up something new every time I dive into this program, and I wanted to share some super pertinent learnings around the topic of time and priorities with you. In this episode, we’re going to talk about 3 science-backed truths to help you prioritize the RIGHT things so you can accomplish your big goals and get back to your life. 

Build self control and willpower

Dr. Roy Baumeister, a social scientist, looked at dozens of personality traits and saw that there was ONE beyond intelligence that would predict how well a student did in college: It was SELF control. Not confidence, not capability, but self control.  

Self control correlates MOST with success. This means we’re talking about the ability to resist temptation and have a more long term vision you’re working towards, overriding unwanted thoughts, feelings, or impulses. We can see through temporary emotions and urges to incorporate a long-term perspective into short-term behavior.

But there’s something super important to note: Self control is a limited resource capable of being depleted. Willpower is MENTAL energy and you only get a certain amount of it each day. Some activities burn more energy than others and resisting temptation burns through a TON of our cognitive fuel each day. Every time you resist temptation, your will power goes down, your self control goes down. 

The people with the best self-control spend less time resisting temptation. How? By planning not to be exposed to temptation in the first place. In the space below, spend 5-10 minutes brainstorming all the ways you’re tempted to get distracted, unfocused, or off track during the day and how you can eliminate being exposed to those temptations in the first place. 

Remember the 80/20 rule — the majority of your distractions or interruptions likely come from a minority of sources. 

Remove decision fatigue

Decision fatigue is a phenomenon that refers to the negative impact that making too many decisions can have on our ability to make good choices. As we go through the day, we are constantly faced with a variety of decisions, both big and small. Each decision we make requires some level of mental effort, and over time, this can lead to a decline in our ability to make good decisions.

Here’s how to start combatting this: Choose ONE primary project vs. juggling ten projects at once. Deciding which to start with depletes your cognitive tank, whether or not you should work out, or meditate, or what you should eat or wear. Every decision drains a little bit of your cognitive fuel. 

Want to know what else depletes your willpower? Making decisions! The more decisions you make, the more your willpower goes down. Your goal is to eliminate as many trivial decisions from your life as possible. Preserve that cognitive fuel for what matters most!

There are a few ways to avoid decision fatigue:

  1. Simplify your environment: Reduce the number of decisions you need to make by simplifying your environment. For example, you might try to create a routine for yourself, or minimize the number of options you have to choose from.
  2. Prioritize your decisions: Try to make the most important decisions when you are feeling the most alert and energized.
  3. Take breaks: Give your brain a chance to rest and recharge by taking breaks throughout the day.
  4. Get enough sleep: Make sure you are well-rested, as decision fatigue is more likely to occur when you are tired.
  5. Practice mindfulness: Try to be more mindful of the decisions you are making, and try to avoid making impulsive decisions when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Just 4 Hours

Test this out – you don’t have to accept it but it IS mind blowing. Decades of scientific research and prolific creators throughout history have all come to about the same conclusion. If your work involves cognitively demanding tasks (thinking, generating, creating), the amount of time you should spend on THAT type of work is just four hours a day. 

Marie talks about the work of the late Swedish psychologist Anders Ericsson. Anders Ericsson is a Swedish psychologist and researcher who is known for his work on the science of expertise and the concept of deliberate practice. He has written extensively on the subject of how individuals can achieve high levels of performance in their chosen fields through focused, goal-oriented practice. 

Rather than expecting to be prolifically focused, fence off 4 hours of uninterrupted work time each day. Once you’re done with those four, everything else is gravy. Marie calls this her Core 4. This helps release that feeling like you’re never working hard enough and helps you not beat yourself up for NOT working more. 

Maybe you’re wondering what to do with those other hours. The goal here is to focus on the cognitively demanding work in that 4 hour chunk and then use the rest of the time to do things like research, emails, meetings, etc. 

Want More Science-Backed Time Tips?

Step into Time Genius at marieandjenna.com and start a fresh journey with not only your productivity and your efficiency, but your outlook on how you’re spending, and building, a beautiful life-well-lived.

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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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