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What is your attitude to ‘Time Management’?

When I ask that question, I am not referring to how you ‘see’ time management as a method, or technique, or as a great big pile of ‘new stuff to learn’. In my book I cover that in a chapter entitled ‘Why NOT Time Management’.

No, what I intend to address here is more about your attitude towards the things that have an effect on how they manage their time or, more specifically, whether you want to (learn to) manage your time.

Another question is “Why is it people don’t think they need to, or even can manage their time?” – rather than “Why they don’t want to?”

The truth is, everyone needs to manage their time better, but many just don’t want to be told that. The suggestion that they need instruction in time management openly implies that they possess an inability to do what in their minds ‘should come naturally’ and they don’t like that. They are happy to be trained in their job, how to cook, or how to drive a car, but to many people time management is seen as an innate skill, even an instinct, and “I won’t / don’t need to be told how to do that!”

Your ability – or inability – to manage your time is affected by a plethora of circumstances, but if we were to identify specific situations where people find time management challenging, we would discover that they all come under one or more of five headings.

  1. Some of them are outside your control and you accept that;
  2. Some are controllable, but you simply won’t try because you think they can’t be controlled;
  3. Some aren’t controllable, but you mistakenly try, anyway, and your failure teaches you to stop trying at all;
  4. Some are within your ability to control them, and you know it, but nevertheless you don’t even try;
  5. But most of all you love the ones you think you can control, and you are controlling them.

The objective of my book is to increase the number you can and do control (bring 2 and 4 under 5); to manage your attitude and response to the ones you can’t (improve your understanding of 1 and 3); and to stop wasting your time trying to control the impossible.

I encourage you to think about that, deeply. I firmly believe what you are about to read applies to everything in your life. There are two reasons for this.

First of all, we don’t live compartmental lives any more, thanks to the smartphone, but we nevertheless still insist on thinking that we do. But the main reason I think it applies across the work/personal divide is because of the choices we make.

We choose our work – we apply for a job, fill out the form, complete silly answers to odd questions, maybe do a presentation, certainly undergo the ordeal of an interview, and then we get it. And then the job changes, things happen we didn’t expect, systems change, people change, laws and practices change, the work gets harder and more prolific, we aren’t retrained and we get fed up with what we used to love.

Everything in our lives – what we do, how we get what we have, how we behave – can have time management principles applied to it if we are to be at our most effective. And as personal time management can be affected by many criteria, it means our whole lives are affected by the same criteria.

What are those criteria, then?

  • Expectation – we have duties but we also make personal commitments which give rise to expectations in others, just as we expect others to do what we require of them.
  • Communication and miscommunication – how and what we communicate affects our ability to perform, just as it affects others’ ability to perform for us.
  • Interruptions (phone people) – the immediacy of the mobile phone has inadvertently enabled people to think it’s okay to interrupt other peoples’ conversations.
  • Priorities – we have priorities, those around us have priorities, and no-one thinks that everything being a priority means that nothing is a priority.
  • New systems, protocols and procedures – when you change a system, the training and changes to the old system have a time impact that is rarely taken into account.
  • Expanding responsibilities – the more you take on, imposed or elective, requires improved ability to manage everything.
  • Lack of practical training – a lot of what people need to know is now just ‘expected’. For example, is your ability use a computer now just assumed?
  • Lack of meaningful support – other peoples’ busy-ness means that they aren’t available to help as much as they used to be.
  • Values misalignment – what you think is important and requires passion, may not be approached in the same way by someone whose interests and focus lie elsewhere.
  • Unexpected responsibilities – surprise, you have a new role (no training, support, extra time or money available, sorry).

The challenge is not that these things shouldn’t happen. It is that they are facts of life. A lot of what we think is an annoying obstacle to our lovely and peaceful existence is, in fact, perfectly normal, and it is our response to it rather than the event itself that causes our stress. We think we can’t manage things, but the truth is, as indicated in the first paragraphs of this section, we choose not to manage things when we could, or we fail to learn how to manage things because we don’t want to or don’t know how to.

Proactivity and Time Management Methods are the answer. Or an effective part of it, anyway.

Go learn.