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Managing your time throughout the day is key to getting everything accomplished, but it’s easier said than done. Try the POSEC method, which mirrors Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs to give you a daily outline that leaves room for fulfillment—which, in turn, will keep you motivated. 

What is the POSEC method?

First of all, the conventional wisdom of the internet claims that this method was invented by a man named Steven Lam—but from what I can tell, there are no books or links to back that claim up. What there are links to are blog posts and first-person accounts of how well the method has worked for some people, regardless of who made it up. 

POSEC stands for prioritize, organize, streamline, economize, and contribute. It’s not an ordered list of what you should do, but a method by which you should examine what you need to do, and it relies on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a guidepost. The hierarchy of needs is that pyramid-shaped chart that outlines how you need your physiological needs (air, water, food, etc.) met before you can reach real fulfillment, which has all sorts of applications, including measuring your job satisfaction. With POSEC, you have the same understanding: The concrete things need to be taken care of, but your goal should always be fulfillment, too. It’s the same thinking that guides work-structuring methods like Pomodoro, which requires you to take timed breaks between focus sessions, so you can relax and stay motivated. 

How to use the POSEC method of time management


The first POSEC principle is prioritization. Write down everything you need to do, like finish a big work project, study for a test, clean the house, or manage your kids’ after-school activities. Don’t forget tasks like calling your mom, making time for coffee with a friend, or watching your favorite show, either. Then, break all of your responsibilities down into smaller chunks and eliminate anything that strikes you as really unnecessary, like responding to old emails that aren’t related to the work project or deep-cleaning the coffee machine if you have bigger, more pressing cleaning needs. If you need to finish a work project, what little steps will it entail? Prioritize everything that needs to get done, ideally using a system like the Eisenhower matrix, which lets you sort your duties by urgency and importance.


That leads you into the second part of POSEC, which is organizing. Once you’ve written down all your priorities and sorted them into some kind of order, the day’s tasks start to become obvious. From there, make a to-do list, like a 1-3-5 list that gives you space for one major task, three medium-sized ones, and five littler ones. 


When you move on to streamlining, you’ll re-engage with the non-essential tasks you originally eliminated for being unnecessary. Reconsider them. Can some be delegated to a coworker, family member, or hired professional? Can some be automated? Or should some stay eliminated completely? Then, consider the other tasks you didn’t eliminate. Can any of them be streamlined, either through delegation, automation, or combining them with something else? 


Next, economize by creating a schedule around everything that’s left on the list. Use timeboxing here, dedicating time in your day to each responsibility, from big to small, and the to-dos that bring you joy, like listening to a podcast or editing a photo for Instagram. The goal is to create space in the day for everything from the mundane, necessary evils to the enjoyable things that give you some meaning.


That leads you to the fifth step, contributing. Not only should you include the activities that bring you a little dopamine, but you should incorporate tasks that bring some value to the people around you. Volunteer, buy Girl Scout cookies, help a friend with their move, or respond to that ridiculous chain email from your grandpa. Giving your time to others is an important way to stay engaged with your community and give yourself something else in life beyond your most concrete responsibilities, which can wear you down and lead to burnout if you don’t supplement them with other things. 

With POSEC, you prioritize your own goals and responsibilities at the bottom of the pyramid, but keep moving toward the top, where you can do as you please and even enhance the day of someone else. Leaving space for personal pursuits and general goodness helps you stay motivated to get the work at the bottom of the pyramid done. 

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