Let’s get this out on the table and in the open right away. It is impossible to manage time. You simply cannot do it. You cannot make more time, you cannot spend more time than you have or borrow time, and you cannot save time for a rainy day (or retirement). There is no way to speed up time or slow it down – at least not in this realm with what we know today – maybe someday, but not today. So stop telling yourself and others that you need to be a better time manager or that you are bad at time management.
When your brain hears you say you are going to improve your time management skills it says nope, no way, not possible! When our brain believes something isn’t possible it does not support us in moving into action. So stop trying to manage time. And stop saying that you are going to.
What you can manage is how you use your time – the 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year – that we all have. Which is, by the way, the same amount of time that Mother Theresa had in a year and that Warren Buffet has in a year.
Shift your paradigm from time management to self-management. You may think I’m quibbling with semantics but your brain doesn’t. We are under our control. Time is not. Our brains know it is easier to change things that are under our control like ourselves than it is to change things outside our control like time. When you say you need to better manage how you use your time your brain will be much more cooperative.
I know you may still think I’m splitting hairs. Changing your words is easy though and there is no downside. You don’t even have to give up dessert or that second glass of wine. So humor me and try it.
Get very clear on your goal or the outcome you desire. The point in better managing how you use your time is to accomplish something. If this is not the case, then why bother? What difference does it make if you get all kinds of things accomplished very efficiently and effectively if it does not move you closer to a goal or desired outcome? Before you invest in some high-tech self-management system masquerading as a time management system, be very clear on what you want to accomplish and why you want to do it. Clarity on the “what” and “why” also makes your brain happy and more cooperative.
Do what matters most.
Now that you are clear on what you are actually doing – managing how you use your time – and the result you want from improving how you use your time, you must identify and do those things that matter most in moving you
towards your goal. What is the single most important thing you must accomplish in the next 3, 6 or 12 months to achieve your goal? What are one to three specific action steps you can take to move you closer? Goals and projects are not action steps and do not belong on your To-do list. Preparing for a presentation is a project. Developing an outline, preparing PowerPoint slides, and doing three practice runs are activities. You don’t need to spend hours or days mapping out every action you need to take. As long as you always know the next two or three steps you need to take you can keep moving forward.
If this is a topic you want to delve into more deeply here are two books I highly recommend:
- What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values by Hyrum W. Smith
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen