How to get more done without “Time Management”
Time management doesn’t really exist. If you are truly wanting to get more done with your day, you have to first ask, “How honest am I willing to be with myself.” And by honest, I mean brutally honest. Because time management is really found through self-management with regards to issuemanagement.
The first step to self-management is to realize that your time is only ever invested in three things: thoughts, conversations or actions. When you go about your day, observe how much you think about something vs. talk about something vs. doing something. Often the “thinking about” and “talking about” are distractions to the actual “doing”.
Before you start each day, create a task list and prioritize it. If you move an item from one day to the next, try to hold yourself accountable to getting it done, delegating it or deleting it if appropriate. Realizing that we all have habits or defenses against doing uncomfortable tasks, it’s often a tendency to procrastinate. When you start each day, tackle your hard or uncomfortable tasks first. Once complete, you will immediately feel better and will also free up time that you would have spent thinking or talking about the task.
Once you have gotten in the habit of observing where you invest your time (thinking, talking, doing) and how you use thinking and talking as ways to procrastinate, you are ready for the next step: a one week self-audit. In this exercise, you will train your conscious mind to be truly honest with yourself in where you spend your time. I believe the mind has a way of protecting its self-image and will justify actions and decisions with logic or reasoning that sounds good, but is in fact not true. In this exercise, you will ignore this part of your mind, the ego, and get real about what’s going on. I will warn you, it’s not easy. But it can free you from the habits and thinking that may be holding you and your career back.
The One Week Self-Assessment
The steps for the one week self-assessment are simple. Set a reminder every hour during your core business hours for one week. When the reminder goes off, spend no more than one minute to write down how you spent your time in the previous hour. That’s it. No one needs to see this audit but you, so you have no reason to be anything but honest. If you spend more than a minute each hour, the exercise is pointless. You need to fully commit to the assessment and not ignore the reminder. Also, don’t only write down what you want to tell yourself. As you persist, you will find that you start to write down things that you don’t like or feel good about. Did you take a 90 minute lunch a few days in a row? Did you chat to your colleague about their weekend or dating life for 15 minutes a few times a week? Did you browse the internet or reply to personal emails?
This exercise is not about judging or punishing yourself. It is about taking an honest look at where you invest your time so that you can learn more about your personal procrastination habits and make different choices in the future. If you were able to change your behavior so that you spent 15 minutes more in a day on productive tasks, you will get an “extra” week and a half (62.5 hours over 50 weeks) more to invest in yourself and your career. The difference could mean a promotion or additional compensation; but more than that, it could lead to higher job satisfaction due to you taking control and being as productive as possible. If the week-long audit doesn’t provide you with the insight or patterns you are wanting, keep doing it until it’s clear to you.
I hope after reading this, you can go forth and conquer your time busters to make time for what matters most to you. What other suggestions do you have?