One of the principles which I have always emphasized when talking about time management is that we should work with our minds rather than against them.
Unfortunately it’s not always obvious how to do that. But I think over the years I have come to see that one of the most effective ways of working with our minds is to work little and often. It doesn’t matter what method of time management you use, or even if you don’t use any method at all, this is essential to progressing almost any subject.
I’ve written plenty in the past about little and often and I don’t intend to repeat it here. It’s perhaps easiest to understand by looking at its opposite which is “doing it all in one big session at the last moment”. Remember that both “little” and “often” are relative terms. For a concert pianist “little” may be four hours and “often” is probably daily. For someone writing a blog post “little” may be ten minutes and “often” every hour or so.
One of the many advantages of working little and often is that when you return to the task or project you will find each time that your mind has moved on. New things have come. You have more understanding, more light, on the project. You begin to see your way through what seemed to be insoluble problems. Little and often works on the physical as well as the mental plane. Athletes and trainers use the principle all the time. The house you are building grows steadily bit by bit. The plants in your garden respond to your repeated care.
Little and often is therefore a way both of keeping a subject alive and also of expanding your grasp and understanding of that subject.
More and more I’m realising that this is the key to managing time. And therefore at all costs we have to avoid working in such a way that the principle of little and often is impeded.
What sort of things are not conducive to little and often?
- Long lists of things to do
- Building up resistance
- Depending on willpower
Let’s look at the first one. The problem with long lists from a little and often point of view is that they were written in the past about the future. They are neither written in nor about the present.
We should be thinking about what we are doing now, rather than about what we may do in the future.
Even our goals and plans should be directed at guiding what we do in the present rather than being rigid constraints on our actions way into the future.