We all feel so overwhelmed when it comes to managing time and staying focused, so I want to offer you a new way of looking at your challenges. Stephen Covey said it best when he said “Time management is a misnomer, the real challenge is to manage ourselves.”
Time management tools that help you schedule your time and organize your stuff are very helpful; however in coaching hundreds of people, I’ve found that if you still aren’t reaching your income goals and work objectives each year, or if you’re still carrying the stress of undone work home with you, then you may be making mistakes in the way you manage yourself.
For example, you can schedule block of time into your calendar to work on an important report – that’s a great time management technique.
However, whether or not you actually sit down and write that report then has little to do with what you write into your schedule, it has everything to do abilities such as: Can you prevent the distraction of urgent requests, break a big task into smaller parts, get started on something even if you don’t feel like it, or believe that what you have to say is worthwhile and not spin your wheels worrying how others will judge your work?
You will get the best bang for your buck if you focus more on building the skills to manage yourself, rather than hoping that time management strategies will help you through the overwhelm
Here are just three of the time management mistakes you might make if you haven’t been focusing on managing yourself:
1. You say Yes when really you want to say No
If you are doing this, you are agreeing to requests for the wrong reasons! Wrong reasons are because you don’t want to feel guilty, don’t want the person to disapprove of you, or don’t know how to say no and still feel like a good person. The Right Reason to accept a request or invite is because it aligns with your goals (you could learn something, meet people you’d enjoy or do business with, or support a meaningful relationship) A good way to say “no” is to try to find something to Yes to in the request, such as “I wouldn’t have the bandwith to write something for you, but I’d be happy to review something you write”, or “I can’t make it this year but I hope I’ll be able to join you next year”. If you know it’s a No, try to avoid hedging with a non-answer like ‘let me think about it’, otherwise you are giving yourself yet another ‘to do’ list item.
The next time someone asks you to do something that your gut tells you not do, think of making a choice between the request they are making vs. doing things that will help you advance towards the success you crave and fulfilling the contribution you are here to make. The more you manage yourself by knowing what is important to your life, the more you can be fully available to those activities and those people who are most important, and the less you will be preoccupied, resentful, or exhausted because you didn’t manage your own response well!
2. You allow yourself to be distracted by electronic messages
We ALL face the time suck of checking and responding to electronic messages. But YOU are in control of where you put your attention, and its a huge mistake to not take proactive measures to manage your bombardment. Unless you are scheduling in time to respond to messages, you probably never account for the time you spend doing so, that’s why these time leaks add up to that end of day frustration of uncompleted work. Don’t let the false sense of being needed or being involved deflect your attention from the rewards of true accomplishment or true connection.
Take charge! Try to organize your sources of messages into one stream (e.g., some people have their voicemails transcribed and fed into emails), or use a clearinghouse for your social media (e.g., I use Hootsuite where I can manage my posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn from one interface). Manage expectations with clients, bosses, family members better up front, to know whether an immediate response is expected or whether a thoughtful response carried out at your convenience is okay. Carve out undistracted times and let people know by email and voice autoresponders when you will again be available for interaction. My clients get their best ideas and vision for the next level of their business from the times they schedule in to take a step back and ‘think’.
3. You don’t trust yourself enough
Self trust leads you to be very productive. When you trust yourself, you can make decisions about your priorities, know they are the right ones, and stay focused on those activities. When you don’t trust yourself, you can’t settle on a well-reasoned decision about your priorities, and you spread yourself thin trying to be ‘all things to all people’.
When you trust yourself you don’t have to spend time worrying about what other people will think, and you don’t have to waste time living in fear of judgment if mistakes happen. You don’t have to put inordinate energy into trying to control the process because you expect to ‘fail fast’, learn from the process, and let your clients and stakeholders give you input that will help you come up with the best deliverables. You don’t have to waste time on lack of clarity, you can ask questions without fear looking stupid.
When you trust yourself, you know that you will complete the numerous tasks that you have piling up. When you don’t trust yourself, you waste precious mental RAM being frenetic, worrying about how you will get it all done, and what the consequences are of not doing so.
These were just a few of the ideas I want to share with you about how you can manage yourself to manage your time. What are some of your best time management strategies?
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