Mottainai – Japanese philosophy for time management
Mottainai (勿体無い) is a famous Japanese phrase. Generally, it is used by environmentalists to indicate that something is not used to its full potential, something which can be reused but is thrown away instead. Mottainai can be translated as “What a waste”.
But nowadays it indicates that we should not waste anything and regret it later. This got me thinking about how time management is also very much relatable with this term. We, knowingly or unknowingly, often waste our time doing things which are unnecessary or sometimes not doing anything altogether and then later regret about what we could have achieved in the time that we just wasted.
I have read, studied, and analyzed articles on many successful people and all of them have focused heavily on how they tried hard and learned to manage their time as early as possible in their life. They understand the value of time and how to use it as efficiently as possible in their day. We all have got equal 24 hours in a day and now it’s up to us to decide how to use it effectively.
Mottainai, pronounced as moat-tie-nigh has varied meaning and is used on several occasions, but the reason I am talking about “Mottainai for time” is that time-management is often overlooked especially in teen years where we are distracted with many things. As a teen, I used to wait till the last date for project submission, wasting many days doing nothing, resulting in a highly stressed situation on the last day. Then eventually I had to search for “how to deal with stress” on the internet.
I had a hard time learning that time management can actually make my life easier.
Those people who don’t learn time management at an early age can turn themselves into procrastinators for their whole life. The mindset of waiting until the last minute could cause imaginable problems. Before we jump to ways you can manage the time I would like to list down why time management is beneficial in our life:
- Your decision-making skills will improve drastically if you learn to manage time and decide what needs to be done and when.
- You will get an ample amount of time to do what you like.
- You will outperform yourself in all the fields since you would complete all the task before time
- On contrary to what to think, you will get more time to relax and unwind your mind.
- The most common, but the most important one, there will be no stress!
Now, let’s look into methods to manage your time effectively in your day so you wouldn’t have to say Mottainai at the end of your day. I know there are many articles and methods by highly educated and successful people about time management on the internet who can provide you much better tips than me so here I am focusing my methods on a really small time frame i.e. one day.
Things that you can do in a single day to manage time efficiently, can be helpful, and can give you an instant feeling of the satisfaction that you have used your day to its fullest.
Repeating the same everyday for a week, and then months until it incorporates in your routine and our brain is wired to do it without actually putting in any efforts.
- Spare 10 minutes to plan your next day before sleeping
This is by far the most effective method I have ever used. Before going to bed almost everyone has the habit of using our cell phones. Use it wisely then surfing aimlessly on social media websites. Open a simple note-pad on your phone, start typing all the tasks that come to your mind which needs to be done by tomorrow or in the next few days.
Next, against every task, write an approximate time that you will need to complete it. Be very lenient and give 30 minutes extra to each task in the pilot period. If the task takes more than 1 day than write 2 days in front of it but make sure you give specific time duration to complete the task.
Wake up the next day, after your daily chores, open up the notepad. Pick the task from the list and start completing it one by one. Once you complete the task delete it from the notepad. Deleting the completed task will push “feel-good chemicals” in your brain that you have achieved something good. Check your list at the end of the day and make sure only those tasks are left which requires more than 1 day.
This small exercise, each day, subconsciously reminds your brain about pending tasks and you will be more task-oriented on the next day and you will not be wasting any time thinking about what should you do and you won’t have to say mottainai at end of the day.
- Don’t get distracted
After making the list of tasks, once you decide to take a certain task try not to do anything else with it. Completely focus on the task you are doing and you will surely complete it before your duration.
Those few extra minutes that we kept as buffer in above point is for the uncertain situation that may arise while you are doing your task, but if no such situation arises and you are completely focused on your task, it will be completed before time.
Please keep your phone aside while doing those tasks. No WhatsApp, no Instagram or Quora during those specific minutes allotted to that task. This habit will not only help you manage your time but also really improve your concentration which will significantly improve the quality of your work. Never do multi-tasking, it is of no use.
I know it works because the articles I write with distractions takes much longer and frequently breaks my concentration resulting in low quality work which takes more time.
- It’s okay to say “NO” to people
We already talked about the distraction that we can avoid, but there are a few distractions that you really can’t avoid. I am talking about boss, spouse, family, friends, or colleagues who want you to do something urgently. Out of all those tasks, 80% can be avoided if you simply say no. Just say, I can’t say right now – Let me see what I can do, I will get back to you.
This simple line will buy enough time to analyze the task and see if it can fit in your schedule or is it worth your time.
Note: Sometimes doing favors helps you in the long run. Analyze the person, his task, and take decisions wisely.
- Don’t be “Mr. I will do it all”
This is probably the hardest thing to learn for me. A lot of times I had failed my project deadlines because I wanted to do it all by myself. I couldn’t trust others on the work that had to be completed. After realizing my mistake, I forced myself to share/outsource the work and reduce my workload and use my time to complete tasks that can only be done by me.
No matter what profession you are working in, you should always use your team or subordinates to their maximum potential (The concept of Mottainai again).
- Doing the right thing at the right time
In general, this is true for our whole life. But in a single day also, doing things at the right time is very important. It affects your productivity as well as the quality of the work.
Try to analyze your best time in a day, I like writing in the first half of my day because I am fresh and it’s not very busy.
Hence, analyze each of your pending tasks and try to find a good time for doing the important tasks. The sweet spot in your schedule for the important task will give amazing results and will free up a lot of your time.
Spending a little time learning about time-management and following simple techniques like above will have huge benefits in a single day – and throughout your life.