Time management techniques are essential tools; they tell you how to make your schedule, what activities to do to organize your time, etc. The problem is that they are only as good as the person using them. (That would be you!)
Stephen Covey said it best: “Time management is a misnomer... the real challenge is to manage ourselves.”
Time management techniques assume that you can manage yourself well in order for them to work. Take a gut check for a moment... how well do you manage yourself?
Here are three examples to see if you relate:
1.) You have a new idea you want to send out in an email to your clients, and you block out from 4 to 5 p.m. this afternoon to do it. Excellent time management technique. When 4 p.m. rolls around, you think to yourself, "What will my clients think of this email, what if they don’t respond? What if they think it’s a stupid idea? Do I really know enough to write about this idea, maybe I better go find out more on the internet, etc." The way you manage yourself, not what you have written in your schedule, that will determine whether you procrastinate in that moment or not.
2.) You schedule 30 minute blocks of time to check your email. The first time you check your email you get an email from your boss asking to check in with you about progress on your high visibility project for him. What’s your reaction? Do you go into a panic, wondering whether you have done “enough” or worried what your boss will think of you? Do you lose 10 to 15 minutes obsessing about it? If so, you’ve now thrown off your 30 minutes to answer emails.
3.) You had an awkward interaction with a client this morning. You have date night with your spouse tonight, but the whole time you end up talking through this difficult interaction -- worrying what the client will think, whether they will still do business with you, etc. You scheduled the time with your spouse but you are not present it. Nor did you schedule in the 20 minutes you will probably stress about it before you fall asleep.
The idea is that time management is a two part process: how you schedule your time outside of you, and how you manage yourself inside of you. One without the other will not give you focus, productivity, and the balance you want.
Instead of focusing on “managing your time,” focus on cleaning up the time you waste that is not accounted for by your time management systems.
1.) Pay more attention to the thoughts you say to yourself in response to interactions with others. Be rigorous with yourself to make your thoughts constructive, so they help you take action that will move you forward towards your goals, rather than keep you stuck going over what has already happened or what might happen in the future.