If you’re anything like me, then you’re probably someone who often gets sucked into reading a lot of blog posts that talk about all sorts of weird time management techniques and productivity trends. Every time a new headline catches my eye, I start fantasizing about how it might finally solve all my time management problems and how I’ll mysteriously find myself with hours and hours of extra time every day to just relax.
I’ve read enough tips and tricks and habits and strategies now to understand that all this time management stuff sounds pretty great at first, but so much of it is just fluff. No matter how good any tip or technique sounds, it’s more than likely not going to skyrocket your productivity and give you hours of your days back at all.
The following five things are what I believe are the real problems when it comes to managing our time most effectively. Most of us know on some level that these five points are true, but we’re likely to avoid them. They’re also just not very nice to talk about. And besides, fluffy tips and tricks get more blog shares anyway.
Regardless, they’re important to know, because once you’re aware of them, you can work to solve them. Get familiar with them and think carefully about how they apply to your own life, habits, and mindset so you can develop your plan of action.
1. Most people don’t care about your time, so long as they get whatever it is they need from you.
Everyone else has their own agendas, and if they need something from you, they will happily barge in on you and your busy schedule if it means they’ll benefit from it. You have to start saying “no” to a lot more people a lot more often, because nobody else is going to free up more time for you.
While some people may be better at respecting your time, others may ignore or forget about your refusal to fulfill their request. Some may even give you a hard time about it. The lesson here is simple: be aware of the fact that people will always try to steal more of your time away from you.
2. Staying “busy” is a good way to trick yourself into thinking you’re being productive when in fact you’re not.
Busy work does not equal real work. Sure, that boring paperwork needed to be completed and those errands weren’t going to run themselves, but those usually aren’t the types of things that directly serve the purpose of what you’re truly trying to accomplish.
If you run a business, answering emails may be keeping you too busy to realize that you really need to focus on product creation. If you’re trying to get into shape, dilly-dallying for too long between weight lifting sets might make you think that you spent a lot more time lifting than you actually did.
It’s far too easy to stay in maintenance mode by simply remaining busy, struggling to make any meaningful progress. Don’t fall into this trap.
3. No human on this planet is talented or productive enough to get absolutely everything done all by themselves without delegating a single task to anyone else.
A lot of busy work can be outsourced or delegated to others, but too many people want to do everything themselves — if not to be able to say, “I did it,” then to certainly ensure that everything will be done their way and their way only. The truth is, other talented people and professionals can get busy work done for us often faster and better than we’d like to admit.
You can’t and shouldn’t do everything yourself all the time — even if you really like doing it, and even if you believe you can’t afford to hire someone else to do it. Try outsourcing or delegating for a short period anyway to see how it goes. Proper time management means focusing on the most important stuff that only you can do while delegating as much of the rest as you can.
4. You have a lot more time than you think you do. You’re just distracted.
If busy work is one of the big productivity killers, then distraction is right up there with it too. You’re distracted far more than you even know. Just think about all the time you spend each day browsing the internet, staring at your phone, watching TV, and sitting on the couch in the evening convincing yourself you’re too tired to do anything else for the day.
We all do it. We all waste countless hours every day falling victim to cheap forms of stimulation and our own fatigue. The solution? Remove those distractions and learn to better manage your energy.
5. Time management isn’t really about managing time at all; it’s about managing yourself.
This last point is an important one because it reveals the real myth about time management. You can’t really manage time because you have no control over time. You do, however, have control over what you choose to think and do.
So instead of using the term “time management,” it should more accurately be called “self management.” Ask yourself what things you’re doing that aren’t adding any value to you, determine what actions or habits have already gotten you good results, and build an action plan based on these sorts of things. The more awareness and self-disciplined habits you can develop, the better off you’ll be.
I hope these ideas served you well. Remember: only you can decide what to do during the 24 hours you have each and every day.