Time Management: It's NOT About Time

I'm often facilitating a group class or meeting with a coaching client when the beautiful topic of "Time Management" comes up. It came up just last week: A group had the same set of questions and wanted answers.
10/10/2016 03:37 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2017

I'm often facilitating a group class or meeting with a coaching client when the beautiful topic of "Time Management" comes up. It came up just last week: A group had the same set of questions and wanted answers.

"What do I do if I'm constantly interrupted?"

"How can I handle my work if I don't have time to take a lunch break?"

"My boss keeps making me work more, and I can't say no. There is way too much on my plate."

"I am surrounded by people that are constantly complaining and waste my time with their banter."

Don't get me wrong - these are very valid concerns, and each one of us has likely been in one of these situations before. But where we do go wrong is when we think it's all about TIME. That magic component to life: If we just had more of it, we would get everything done, and more!

WRONG. The problem about time management is that it's not about time at all.

Time cannot and will not be managed, and you will never get more of it. The problem is rooted in the choices you are making with others and your own choices. You choose how to use it every moment of every day, whether you believe you do or not.

At this point, you might want to stop reading and tell me I'm full of crap, and I understand. It really does suck to realize that all of your "time" problems could be related to things you might have some control over. I've been there, and I feel your pain.

If you are still reading, I'd like to share 3 valuable concepts that can help you delve a bit deeper into your "time" problem. Explore these, consider your current struggles, and see what you call pull from them:

SMART CHOICES

We feel that we have a lot less control over our circumstances than we actually do. We might not have control over a particular event, but we DO have control over how we choose to react to that event. How we choose to respond to others and to our work also determine our ultimate outcomes. We CAN choose responses that are different from how we were conditioned, even if it feels unnatural or difficult. Next time: choose to walk away from that complaining coworker, choose your lunch break instead of your work, choose to focus on you work instead of the 'ping' of someone's red-flagged email, and choose to stand up for yourself and say "NO" when you are asked to do more than you are able.

GET REAL

Get really honest with yourself, your work situation, and your surroundings. Dig down deep to explore your strengths and accept your weaknesses. Get gritty with the reality of your job, workplace and team. Look around at your office and figure out if the set up or schedule works at all for what you are trying to achieve. If you are a person that needs quiet to concentrate but are surrounded by chaos, what can you do to alter your environment, schedule or set-up to give you some quiet? You instead might be fast paced and social, but easily distractible, like me. How can you remove yourself from distractions or force focus? Be brutally honest about your work and environment, and set yourself up for success when possible.

SET EXPECTATIONS

How are you teaching others how to treat you? If you answer those work emails at 11pm, your coworkers and boss will quickly learn that you will make yourself available in the middle of the night. Examine whose expectations you are trying to meet in each situation. Is there a chance you spending too much time on some things because you have set the expectations too high on your own perfection? Not sure of what's expected of you in a situation or project? ASK for clear expectations - it is normal to manage up to your supervisor in that way.

We are all guilty of using and abusing some of the above concepts, and it's ok. We are human, and expecting perfection of ourselves if ridiculous.

The key, however, is to consciously stop and recognize when our choices, self-awareness, and expectations are working either for or against us.

And if you realize you've been working against yourself in one arena, start to push back and start creating positive momentum with little steps, and you'll be amazed how far that little movement will take you.