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Manage time and cognitive resources

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When it comes down to it, time management does nothing for you without cognitive management. That is, managing your ability to focus, reason and retain information. Without it, there is a limit to what you can accomplish regardless of how much time you budget for yourself.

Learn how to budget your cognitive resources with these tips from Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan.

•  Avoid splitting your focus. Imagine a glass of water. Now pour the water from the glass into two separate cups. What are you left with? Two half-full glasses. That’s a lot like your focus. When you split it between two tasks, there’s less available for each.

•  Consider that different tasks require different amounts of focus. Some tasks take up a lot of time but require very little focus, while other tasks take up very little time but require a great deal of focus. Obviously, not all tasks need a full glass of focus.

Assess what is required for the task and adjust accordingly.

•  Remember tasks aren’t the only things that require focus. Every time you think about some­­thing or someone, or even ponder what you will have for dinner, you are pouring out focus.

Focus is not only tied to the phy­­sical, recognize that your thoughts take up a lot of your focusing power.

— Adapted from “The Mistake Busy People Make,” Sendhil Mullainathan, Time.

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