Moving from time management to self-management is crucial to becoming more productive, especially since time is our most precious resource. It’s fixed, doesn’t discriminate–available equally to all–isn’t influenced by anyone, yet most people complain about it. Either they “don’t have enough,” so they “run out,” or they are “too busy” to do what they need to do in the available time.
Why do people complain about time? Author Dan Ariely (Honest Truth About Dishonesty, Loc 2079) tells us people lie to themselves. We have a “… deeply ingrained propensity to lie to ourselves and to others.” Besides, “… We are pretty skilled at pulling the wool over our eyes.” Instead of accepting that time is not an issue, but our lack of planning and prioritization is, we blame time. And according to Ariely, we feel good about ourselves, and we tell ourselves why “our actions are acceptable, and sometimes even admirable.”
Time Management to Self-Management
What can we do to overcome deceiving ourselves? First, we must accept that life is full of exciting and enticing distractions. Store owners in malls know how easy it is to distract us. They use “sales,” “free” items’ indirect costs, and other gimmicks to get our attention. Meanwhile, mobile devices meant to help us manage our lives more effectively, control many folks, as social media’s addiction rises. To be sure, these distractions contribute to spending time on unimportant matters.
Second, we must reject the notion of “time management.” The idea of “time management” has been around for many years. Sadly, that term creates a false impression that helps us deflect our ineffectiveness. We must accept that nobody can manage time because time is fixed and uncontrollable. We can control only ourselves and what we do in the available time. And we must own our actions and inactions.
Reference to “time management” is more appropriately self-management. Thus, we must apply the same skills to manage us as we use to manage others: goal setting, planning, delegating, organizing, directing, and controlling. When we accept that we will never have more than 24 hours daily, we will not have an issue with time.
Let’s look at some practical things we can do to work effectively in the available time.
Ten Self Management Ideas
- Develop a plan-do-control cycle approach to doing tasks. Start with a goal, work out the steps to do the goal, identify control points to check how you are doing, and adjust as needed.
- Learn to work for either time or task. Sometimes, you want to work on a project until you finish; for instance, tomorrow’s homework. That’s working for “task.” However, when you go on Facebook, Twitter, other social media, and emails, set a time, and stop when the time expires. That’s working for time.
- Work with priorities.
- Know when you are most productive and do your top priorities then. Most people’s peak productivity is about two hours after they awake.
- Don’t multitask. Consistently, research shows multitasking is a sub-optimal approach.
- Get enough sleep and exercise. The amounts each of us need is highly subjective, so find what works for you. Reality is you need to rest and recharge daily. In addition to seven to eight hours sleep every day, for years, I take a 15-minutes nap about noon daily. I don’t sleep; I merely close my eyes and focus on breathing deeply.
- Unbalance your life. Set boundaries for your private life and enforce them. Give 100% to each area of life at appropriate times. Your family is more important than your work, but when at work, give 100%. At home, turn off your emails and focus on your family. Don’t seek balance, seek to compartmentalize your life and focus 100% on each compartment as needed. Sometimes, you must make choices to do essential projects at work that require a significant time investment. Give 100% to those projects.
- Do a time inventory for a typical day and a typical weekend, showing exactly how you spend available time. Note your time wasters, plug them, set goals for time usage, and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
- Avoid unnecessary meetings; that’s most meetings. Meet only with an agenda, start and end times, and in cell phone free zones.
- Daily, do a brain dump-write everything down that you plan to do sometime; this is your project list from which you transfer items to work on to your day timer.
Self-Management Means Taking Responsibility for Behavior Change
We won’t get more time, so, let’s stop convincing ourselves that the issue with “time management” is we are too busy and need more time. Change your vocabulary from time management to self-management and understand, although we lie to ourselves and blame time, the reality is we must change our behavior and become more useful in available time.