Time Management is a contradiction in itself! It is also a myth! Two dangerous statements I often make during training sessions and if nothing else, they provide a lively discussion.
Time Management is a contradiction
To qualify my claims – firstly, we cannot manage time; we can only manage what we do with the time that is available to us. In our world that is 24 hours in the day, 365 days in a year with an extra day every fours years.
[As an aside, what did you do with your extra free day this year? Were you efficient? Were you effective? Do you even remember?]
Time Management is a Myth
Secondly, to dispel the myth, managing our time is akin (in my book) to managing stress. Stress is a real reaction to a perceived future. Stress comes from making things more important than they are. Putting energy into managing our feelings about a particular situation is a far more pro-active approach.
- Managing time is impossible! Time is not real and we cannot manage what is not real, or what we have not experienced yet.
- We can only manage this very moment, the NOW – we can only manage the way we behave and conduct ourselves in any given moment.
So we can self manage right?
Right! We can manage ourselves, whether it is stress related, or time related. In fact, they are often combined.
Let’s look at the 4 generations of Time Management. This generational view has been inspired by the lessons I have taken from Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
# 1. To Do Lists
A list of things to do – not prioritized, unless ordering is applied. Things get crossed off as they are accomplished. Very often, things get added at the end and the list becomes never-ending.
# 2. Calendars and Appointment Books
So we move our To Do List into a calendar or diary. Now we have things to do on specific days. Have a look at yours now, and does it represent a well managed mind?
# 3. Setting Goals
This is #1 and #2 combined with the setting of goals, specific long, intermediate and short-term targets which time and energy are directed in harmony with values.
- This generation involves daily planning and prioritizing tasks for the day. This can often leave little time for relationship building and spontaneous moments on a daily basis.
- As a consequence, people get tired and bored of daily planners and time management programs. They can feel restrictive, ‘over-scheduled’, limiting.
# 4. Prioritising your week
The fourth generation of time management recognizes that the challenge is not to “manage” time but to manage ourselves. As Covey states “satisfaction is a function of expectation as well as realization.” So rather than focus on things and time, this generation of time management focuses on preserving and enhancing relationships and accomplishing results, and thereby maintaining balance.
- The concept focuses on weekly planning, as many of us already do already in our heads anyway. The big BUT here is that this generation of time management not only helps us prioritise our activities (which alone will only serve to organize crises and busywork.) So, rather than just prioritising what is on our schedule, let us schedule our priorities.
- This is done simply. Back to the making of lists (albeit temporarily). List everything you wish to achieve in each area of your life for the next week, both personal and professional. Some will already need to happen on a certain a day and time, but firstly get them on paper.
Now label them loosely into the 7 days of the following week, and then take each day, and schedule in times for these activities. Then come back and fill in other necessary business. Ensure you leave some space, especially between back to back meetings (rather never create back-to-back meetings – they follow a rule called Murphy’s Law).
So now your schedule for next week has all of the things you want to achieve – including building your professional and personal relationships, well on your way to results and success! You now have a schedule of priorities, rather than just things to do.