productivity,  Stress Management,  Time Management,  Work-life integration,  WorkLife balance

Struggling with Time Management? Look into the Root Causes

Time management is one of the topmost challenges for professionals. When they come to me, they want a solution to it. To be honest, I don’t have a perfect answer to it.

We “hide” under the time question only to avoid addressing some other underlying issues.

I 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 the 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, the root cause could be different.

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 is most important to you? Why? What do those give you at the end (1 year, ten 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 a 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 lose 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) Maybe I will make time by being more efficient, by canceling 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 ideas.

b. Not enough data about my availability – I don’t exactly know whether I am entirely busy or not. Maybe I will have time on 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 the to-do list and plans yet, here is why. The internet is full of that advice 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 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!


Are you a leader in the High-tech? Are you a High Performing individual? Ready to take your career to the next level? Want to get in touch with your passion? I am an executive coach with a background in technology. Send me a note to claim your 30-min phone session free of charge. – Sharmin  


Feature Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay