Time Management

Struggling with Time Management? Look at the Root Cause

This is one of the top most issues in the mind of nowadays professionals. TimeWhen they come to me they want a solution for it. To be honest I don’t have an answer for it and I get lost when I think about it. So why am I talking about it today?

My experience says sometimes we “hide” under the time question only to avoid addressing some other underlying issues.

I sometimes ask: What would you achieve when you have better time-management?

A typical answer: “I will be able to do everything I want to do and will be able to spend time with my family and for myself and do exercise …” and the list goes on. Notice the answer, it is same as “I will be able to buy anything I want if I can do better money management”. It doesn’t work that way!

Let’s go a little deeper. Though the symptom is the same, it can be caused by different reasons.

Scenario 1: “Activity is Productivity” -I want to do everything

“Doing everything” is only one way of having more fulfillment and not to mention it doesn’t always work either.

Questions for you: 1. What are most important to you? Why? What do those give you in the end (1 year, 10 years)?
2. What tasks can you let go of without compromising your big picture?
3. What tasks can you delegate, get help or get paid service for?

This article Accomplish More by Doing Less has few more ideas. If you can’t find enough for #2 and #3 you may need to pay attention to your underlying assumptions or limiting beliefs. Some common ones are: “I am in charge means I do things myself, otherwise I loose authority, control, and respect.”,  “No one can do as well as I do”. Find yours!

Scenario 2: “I Never say No” – I get requests to do things; I see the value, I say yes.

I have seen two main categories in this:

a. “No” hurts -I know I am already busy, but if I say “No” I will hurt this person. (For damage control) May be I will make time by being more efficient, by cancelling the coffee with my friend or skipping my exercise.

Questions for you : What is the underlying assumption when you say “saying no will hurt someone”? Common ones: The requester has no other option”, “He/she is not capable enough to hear a ‘no'”, “Saying no is rude”, “If I say no, I will no longer be needed”. When you always say yes, how strong are they? What would be a polite way to say no to the current request so you don’t over commit? Read Katherine’s Time Management Dilemma for some idea.

b. Not enough data about my availability – I don’t exactly know whether I am totally busy or not. May be I will have time in one of the weekends. Why say “no” when I  want to do this.

Most likely you don’t use a calendar for time allocation and you don’t necessarily account for personal or social time. You could be over committing and under delivering.

Questions for you: How do you see time? Think about a metaphor, for example: Is this a free flowing stream? Is this a space bounded by walls? What is the cost you are paying now by over committing and under delivering? What does your “Yes” mean – “Sure (would be nice to do it)” OR “I am committing to this” (and keep your word)?

To get an idea for how to say a strong yes, read this post: Why Do I Do It? 3 Steps to Clarify Your Commitments.

Where are other Scenarios?

If you are wondering why I am not talking about to-do list and plans yet, here is why. The internet is full of those advises already:  Make a plan, do brain intensive work in the morning, manage distractions. I mentioned some in these articles:

Are you suffering from “Not Enough Time”?
Feeling overwhelmed? You might be overloading your PFC
Work-life balance in my own backyard
Also I like this one in Success Accomplish More by Doing Less

Bottom Line

If you are wishing to solve the time management issue without making a fundamental change in your own behavior, you may get disappointed soon. That is part of the learning though. Try the easy way first. If you are in that disappointed state already, good for you! Start digging deeper, you will discover something bigger and better for sure!