“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
– H. Jackson Brown
If we all get the same amount of time, why is it that some people seem to be incredibly effective and get tons of stuff done, while other people struggle to get anything done and most of us kind of fall somewhere in the middle?
I remember watching my Mom as she managed 4 kids, a full-time job, and at one point going to school at night for her Bachelor’s to get her CPA degree, and just being dumbfounded at how she pulled it off. How did she do that? How did she manage her time so well?
Even with a beautiful model of time management efficiency, I’ve struggled my whole life with time management. Just observing her wasn’t enough to give me the skills I needed. Because she didn’t actually teach me HOW to do it.
I guess I must have forgotten everything I learned in my time management class at school… Oh, wait…
We weren’t taught time management in school – we were just expected to get our homework in on time, right? And if we didn’t, no matter the reason, we were punished for it and often shamed and embarrassed for it as well.
But even when we are taught time management by our parents, we’re taught what worked for them, which may or may not work for us.
Because we’re all different, and our relationship with time is unique. So, you need to design a time management system (affiliate link) that works organically the way your mind and biorhythms work.
The Truth About Time Management
When I teach time management in a live class, I always ask:
What Are Your Time Management Challenges?
Without fail, I get the following Top 5 answers:
- Procrastination (Usually a symptom of something deeper going on)
- Overwhelm (To much to do!)
- Difficulty prioritizing (knowing what to do when)
- Interruptions (lack of boundaries)
Pretty much every answer fits into one of the top 5. And here’s what I tell them:
The truth is, you cannot manage time, because time just is.
BUT, you can manage how YOU use time.
Time Management is a SYSTEM
You can buy time management systems and products – physical calendars, virtual tools that work on your tablet or phone. You can take classes and courses. You can read books.
What I have found is that these systems will only work for you,
if you make them yours.
Because these systems were invented by someone who developed their own personal time management system and said, “Well if it works for me, it’ll work for anyone.”
Except that’s simply not true when it comes to time management, because we all work differently. Our biorhythms are different. The way we think about things is different.
So thinking that there is a one-size fits all system for time management is a recipe for failure. The biggest mistake I see people make in creating their time management systems is that they try to impose somebody else’s system on themselves. They don’t do the work to discover what’s actually going to work in their unique mindset and circumstances.
The best time management systems are ones that are organically generated, that work with your natural tendencies and existing habits.
If you design a time management system based on how you “should” work, or what’s “supposed to” work, without examining your personal relationship to time, you will be doomed to failure. And what’s worse, you may then decide it’s your fault – that you’re hopeless and just no good with time.
But you’re not broken, nor are you a failure, you just haven’t yet designed a system that works the way you work.
Time Management is a SKILL.
To actually address and solve your individual challenges with time management is going to take time, effort, very possibly several weeks or months of real implementation and practice, just like any other skill. You have to design a system and hone it and polish it.
You also have to develop your skills in
- Decision making,
- Estimating how long things take,
- Effective planning,
- The ability to recover from mistakes, and
- The emotional intelligence skills of persistence, discipline, resilience and determination.
It’s not about doing more stuff.
It’s about doing the right stuff at the right time… for YOU.
Learn the skills and create the structures that you need to function optimally. The details will be different for every person because we’re each unique and different. That’s a good thing! Embrace your difference, and create a system that works for you!
Time Management is a HABIT.
I’ve seen it over and over in myself and with clients. We think that we should be able to just change everything and have it work. And when that fails, we blame/shame ourselves and often give up.
But it takes time, attention and commitment to build a new habit. You don’t just decide to do things differently and voila you’re perfect. You must decide over and over and over again, each day to use your new system. If you commit to taking the time, keeping your attention on your new system and implement it, one day you’ll realize that you just did it, without thinking about it. That’s when you know you’ve created your new habit.
You may still need to tweak things from time to time. You may still need to make sure you maintain the habit when times are stressful. If you create the habit now, it will be much easier to return to it if overwhelm makes you slip back into old habits.
If you got value from this blog post – or you hated it and disagree with everything I said – please let me know in the comments!