Time Management

Time Management Isn’t What You Think

The Two Critical Elements To Managing Your Time

If you are like most people, there is far more on your “to do list” than there ever seems to be the time to get it done and as a result, you second guess your abilities around time management.

People complain about how busy they are and about everything on their list. They look at how they can more effectively manage their time, but despite time tracking apps, hints, and tips being available, only 17% of people actually track their time (maybe they don’t have the time to even do that). Mankind’s challenge with “time” seems to be endless and ongoing.

So why is this?

Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law, identified in 1955 by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, is the adage that work will expand to fill the time allotted for its completion and further to generalize on this, the demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.

Here are a couple of examples you will have noticed that demonstrate its impact:

  • Have you noticed when you are good at something, suddenly everyone wants to give you more of it. Let’s say you promptly answer your phone when people call. Next thing you know, everyone is calling you. If you ask them why they are calling you and not the person they should be calling, they will provide you with an answer like, “I call you because I know you will answer”. The shear fact that you answer, simply means you will get more calls.
  • Have you noticed that no matter how long you have to get something completed, you will always seem to get it done, just under the wire. You have a deadline or due date on a project, and no matter how much time there is, you will procrastinate until the point when you no you can procrastinate no longer and then get it done. This happens over and over again, no matter how many times you promise yourself you won’t let it happen again.

These are a couple of examples of Parkinson’s Law for individuals, but we can also see it at play in organizations. Have you ever noticed, that even when you add other resources, there never seems to be enough. It doesn’t matter how many employees you hire, it will never fell like there is enough and always more work that could be done, if you added more.

So how does this all come back to time management?

The fallacy about time management is that many times people think there is a solution to being able to get EVERYTHING on their “to do” list complete. They believe that somehow if they organize the tasks better or just put in a little more time, that there will come a point when they conquer their list. In some cases, they even beat themselves up because they are unable to figure it out.

The truth is time management is not about being able to get everything done. It is about two things. The first is in being able to identify the things that are really important and the second is in being okay to let the things that aren’t, go or fall off the list.

Here are a couple of things you might consider if you find you have an out of control “to do” list:

  • Is everything on your list important? On everyone’s list there are critical things, but there are also things that would be nice to have or that you feel are important to get done. If something has been on your list for a long time and has never reached the top of the list, then likely it isn’t all that important, so maybe you could consider letting it go. If it were all that important, wouldn’t it have already been done.
  • If you could spend your time doing anything, would it be the items on your list? It is easy to get caught putting in time on things that really don’t matter to anyone, because we are unclear about the things we need to make important. Maybe its time to get clear on what really is important to you.
  • Do you do the things that are important first, or do you let the little stuff eat up time? Almost everyone is good under a deadline, because it forces us to get focused on what is really important in what we are doing. Get into the habit of tackling the most important things first and limit the amount of time you have to get something done, and you will find your perform better.

Remember time management isn’t about doing everything, it is about recognizing your time is precious. You only want to spend that precious commodity in the areas that bring you, the best results in getting to where you want to go. Let go of the everything and make the important, really important and you will find how good you are at managing your time.

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