Why Time Management Techniques Often Fail

Why Time Management Techniques Often Fail

Managing time is important.  We want to live fulfilling lives, but to reach all of our goals in our personal and professional lives requires some adjustments to how we use our time.  Many of us turn to time management books and courses in order to find ways to fit more of what we want into our schedules and less of what we don’t want.  Sometimes the tips we learn help a bit, but most often we are no further ahead.

There are two main reasons why time management techniques often fail.  First, we make the mistake of trying to become more efficient with our time instead of becoming more effective.  Second, we fail to believe the truism that less is more, that is, that performing fewer tasks in a day can actually lead to greater effectiveness.

So what can you do to improve effectiveness?

Determine how your time is currently being used.  Once or twice per day, record how you have spent the previous few hours.  Keep a journal and make notes about the specific tasks that have been completed.

Identify your time wasters.  Take a look at your notes.  Which of those activities have really just filled time, but didn’t take you further toward your goals?  The most common time wasters include dealing with valueless email, attending unnecessary meetings, trying to be perfect, dealing with other people’s urgencies, and having unclear goals.

Set your priorities.  Make sure your priorities are aligned with your goals and your vision of your future.  Focus on 3-5 items that will help with your progress, and don’t worry about being perfect.  The last 20% that takes you from great to perfect can be an overwhelming burden on your time.

Schedule the activities to meet your priorities.  If something is truly a priority, you will be most effective if you allocate time in a week to address those priorities.  It’s important to actually set aside these times in your calendar.  Otherwise, you will become overwhelmed with the urgencies of the moment, and ultimately become less effective.

Stay disciplined.  To reach your goals, you need to get the right things done.  Address your fears.  Deal with your perfectionist tendencies.  Don’t wait until the deadline is upon you.  Use to-do lists if it makes it easier for you.  Whatever your issue, if you have identified your ideal future, set goals to achieve it, created your priorities, and set your schedule, then it’s time now to get those things done.

Celebrate. Review your progress each week. It’s a confidence builder and a learning experience to write down what you’ve achieved daily and/or weekly. Give yourself a high five and a well-earned reward, even if it’s just an extra 20 minutes soaking in a tub, or reading a favourite book, or both. Remember, the goal is Progress, Not Perfection.

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