Maximizing Time: Capitalizing on Time Management Strategies

August 02, 2023
  • Private Banking
BBH Senior Wealth Planner Ross Bruch provides three time management strategies in order to maximize your time affluence.

In a prior article, we discussed the value of “time affluence” – a term that refers to the idea that time, like money, can be saved, spent, and wasted – as well as its connection to one’s overall well-being.

Time affluence affects our physical, mental, and financial health. In order to maximize these connections, we must find ways to increase our productivity while allowing ourselves meaningful free time and work/life balance. Here, we explore three time management strategies to help you make the most of your time.

Don’t Overschedule Future You

Imagine the following scenario: A friend asks you to lunch a month in the future. You know the suggested day is going to be busy for you – you have a doctor’s appointment in the morning and a charity fundraiser in the afternoon – but you believe you can fit it in, so you agree. Then, the day of the lunch arrives, and you wonder why you thought you could do all of that in a single day. The answer is in the way our brains work and how it thinks about our present and future selves.

In 2008, UCLA researchers performed a study on why some people aren't good at saving for retirement. They scanned study participants’ brains while asking them to what degree various character traits applied to their current or future self and a current or future other. As the researchers expected, the scans showed that the participants’ brains were most active when thinking about their current selves and least active when thinking about others. But more importantly, the study found that when participants thought about themselves in the future, their brain activity looked remarkably similar to when they were thinking about others – that is, much lower. In other words, we think about our future selves the same way we think about other people – with much less concern than how we think about our present lives.

Thinking about our future self as a different person can lead to unwelcome consequences, such as overcommitting our future time or failing to plan ahead. Another 2008 study involved groups of undergraduate students who were asked to tutor struggling classmates during midterms.

The first group of students was asked how much time they could commit to tutoring during the current midterm period. The second group was asked how much time they could commit during the next midterm period. The third group was asked how much time they expected others could volunteer during the current midterm period.

There was a significant difference in generosity between students asked about the present and future. The first group of students said they could commit just 27 minutes of present time on average, while the second group asked to commit during the following midterm period responded with an average of 85 minutes. Even more compelling is the fact that the study found no statistically significant difference between the number of minutes students committed for their future selves and time committed for someone else entirely.

This tendency to overestimate our future availability disrupts our time affluence as well as our productivity. What can we do to minimize how much responsibility we give to our future selves? It may seem overly simple, but one of the best tactics is to remind your present self that:

  • Your future self is still you.
  • You are likely to be just as busy in the future as you are now.
  • You’ll still be just as productive (or unproductive) as you are in the present.

In fact, in the same tutoring study discussed above, there was a fourth group of participants that were asked to commit time tutoring during the next midterm period – but they were also reminded that during the next midterms, they would likely feel the same time crunch that they were experiencing during the current midterm period. Participants in this fourth group committed to significantly fewer minutes of tutoring than those who didn’t receive the reminder (45 minutes on average vs. 85 minutes).

Reorganize Your Priorities

In today’s fast-paced world, effective task and project management are key to maximizing your time. Many of us resort to to-do lists to help keep us organized, on track, and focused on the task at hand. However, when these lists become too large and overwhelming, it can be tempting to complete the easiest tasks first for a small win and a sense of progress – but then the more complex and important tasks may be left incomplete.

One method to avoid this misstep is by using the Eisenhower Matrix. Named after U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, this is a simple but effective decision-making framework that categorizes tasks into four quadrants based on their urgency and importance. Let's explore each quadrant in detail:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important – Do First: Tasks falling into this quadrant require immediate attention and have a significant impact on your goals and outcomes. These are the critical tasks that demand your immediate focus and should be completed as soon as possible.
  • Quadrant 2: Important, but Not Urgent – Schedule: Quadrant 2 tasks are important for long-term success and contribute significantly to your goals. Although they may not have an immediate deadline, they should be planned and scheduled for completion. Proactively scheduling time for these tasks can prevent them from becoming urgent later on.
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent, but Not Important – Delegate: Tasks in this quadrant may appear urgent, but they don't contribute directly to your goals or have long-term significance. These tasks can be delegated to others who are better suited to handle them, freeing up your time and energy for more important responsibilities.
  • Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important – Eliminate: Quadrant 4 consists of tasks that neither contribute to your goals nor require immediate attention. These tasks are often distracting and can drain your productivity. Eliminating or minimizing these nonessential activities is crucial to focus on what truly matters.

The Eisenhower Matrix


Do First



These tasks:
  • Require immediate attention and focus
  • Impact your goals and outcomes
  • Should be completed ASAP
These tasks:
  • Are important for your long-term success and goals
  • Have no immediate deadline
  • Can be scheduled for future completion





These tasks:
  • Have a deadline
  • Don’t contribute directly to your goals or have long-term significance
  • Can be delegated to others
These tasks:
  • Are nonessential
  • Can be distracting and drain productivity
  • Should be eliminated or minimized

With the Eisenhower Matrix, you can make informed, strategic decisions about your to-do list and prioritizing tasks that allow you to concentrate your time and energy on what matters most.

Find the Right Time for the Right Task

In his book “When,” researcher and best-selling author Daniel Pink writes that behavioral scientists have found most people generally follow the same daily pattern: Their positivity levels peak in the morning, plummet in the afternoon, and then rebound in the evening. To maximize efficiency, you can use this emotional cycle to guide what type of work you should be doing and when.

Pink’s research demonstrates that vigilance, or the cognitive ability to be hyper-focused and to keep distractions to a minimum, spikes in the morning and directly after short breaks – meaning these are the best times to make difficult decisions or complete tasks that require your full attention.

In addition, the best time to schedule busywork tasks that require less thought is in the afternoon trough, when energy and mood are both low. Finally, Pink found that it’s best to save more creative tasks for the late afternoon or early evening – a time when most of us have an elevated mood but, more importantly, less vigilance, thereby allowing greater amounts of unrestrained or free thinking.

However, Pink also points out that about 25% of people don’t follow the same daily pattern. These people are either “owls,” who often reach peak analytical performance late in the evening (9:00 p.m.) and rebound in the morning, or “larks,” who tend to experience the peak, trough, and rebound a few hours earlier than normal.

It’s important to understand your internal clock and schedule your day around the time you’ll be most effective at various tasks – you’ll often find you can complete tasks faster and more easily, thus saving time and energy for other parts of your day.


Overall, developing a strategic approach to thinking about your time – how much you have and how you use it – can lead to increased productivity, a calmer mental state, and most importantly, more time to stay focused on what you actually want to be doing.

If you would like to learn more about maximizing your time affluence, please reach out to our Values-Based Wealth Planning team. 

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