You are sitting at your desk looking at the pile of emergencies that need your attention immediately: All the “to do lists” from the last few weeks that you pushed off and still have not done.The 43 unopened emails in your inbox. The flashing lights on your three phones, indicating that there are messages waiting for your attention.
“Enough is enough,” you find yourself screaming in your head, “I have to get some time management coaching.” So you sign up for the next time management class in your area, given by a great time management expert who promises to change your life forever. Problem solved? Let’s see what happens.
The class is great. You have three full pages of notes on how to get organized. You come back to your office only to find that while you were at the class, you got many more urgent emails and tasks. You jump to do them, putting your time management notes on your “things to do” pile. A few weeks later that pile topples onto the floor and, as you’re picking things up, you find the notes from the class. You smile to yourself thinking, “Where do people find the time for time management?”
Sound familiar? You are not alone. Most people today find themselves in an uphill battle struggling to keep up with a never-ending stream of urgent and important things to do. Let me share with you a very simple perspective that may change the way you look at time management. Very simply, it is this: time management is a waste of time. You cannot manage time, you can only manage your priorities, stay focused on getting them done, delegate the rest or ignore them.
The challenge that most people face is that they work so many hours every week that work becomes their identity. They keep taking on more and more responsibility in order to become successful. The irony is that, like most people, when you sit down and think, “What does success mean to me?” you generally get answers that are not work related at all.
Think about it. Your first answer is probably something like, “I want to have money and a prestigious job.” But, once you get past that initial answer, keep digging, and ask yourself, “Why is that important to me?” Very quickly you’ll get to the real answers, which include family, hobbies, spirituality, charity, etc. The simple act of writing your answers to these questions will show you what’s really important to you in life.
Because of that, the real definition of time management is priority management. When you are clear on what’s important to you in all areas of your life, you can then make a list of the goals you want to accomplish during the month, week or day. Then it’s easier to stay focused on getting them done.
A lot of people bought in to the belief that they “don’t have enough time,” and they use it as an excuse why they are not doing what they really want or should be doing. But in reality there is no such a thing as, “I don’t have time,” because you will notice that even in situations where you are so busy and you don’t have a minute to breath, you will find the time to go to the hospital with a loved one, or the time to listen to politics or a good joke. So in essence when you say, “I don’t have time,” what you are really saying is, “What I am doing now is more important than what I should do or what I want to do.” And that is okay, as long as you realize that it is a choice that you are constantly making.
When you tell your child, “I don’t have time for you now,” what you are really saying is, “I have other things to do now that I consider more important than talking to you.” The same applies when you say, “I would really like to do… but I can’t because I don’t have time.” What you are really saying is, “I don’t feel that the things that I want to do are important.” Why? Either you are afraid that they will not work out, or you don’t know how to do them. Either way, it’s not an issue of time.
Here is your new belief, “You choose what you want to do at any point in time, based on your comfort level and your decision as to what is important”.