The Time Management Myth

Throughout the course of my professional career I have repeatedly heard the term “time management” prescribed as a remedy to help cure a number of different ails ranging from lack of activity to lacking knowledge on a certain subject. “If you had better time management you could….” I would hear managers and colleagues say as to indicate that “time management” was the root cause of many of their issues. Now, this may or may not have resonated with them, only they could speak to that, but to me this concept made complete sense. As someone who is constantly focused on personal growth and progression the promise of a more productive block of “time” has always been of interest to me and one that I have worked towards for years. Thinking back, I first became interested in the concept of “time management” when I stepped foot on my first college campus. I remember thinking to myself “I wonder if they have a time management course that I could take? If I could figure out how to manage my time effectively I will be able to get all of my homework done, go to the gym and not have to worry!” To my despair I was unable to find my coveted “time management” course and was forced to learn on my own which included a paper calendar, notebook, literature and online research. The tools later became “Outlook”,”Task List/Reminders” and, later I was introduced to other tools and concepts, one that included the phenomenal concept of “The Perfect Calendar”. This is essentially taking time to create what your perfect day would look like, if, that is, you could magically create a “perfectly productive” day. When I heard this concept I have to admit, I was excited. I remember thinking to myself — this is it! I found it! Finally something that can answer the “time management” question!

I was wrong.

While I the “perfect calendar” is an awesome concept, after working with hundreds of business owners as well as running a successful business myself, I have yet to find more than a handful of people, regardless of level of success, who can stick to a “perfect calendar” for any length of time. Business and life are fluid and ever changing making such a strict template nearly impossible. This, in turn, places this into the “tools” or “concept” category. Now these tools are all wonderful and I use them on a daily basis but are they really the holy grail of “time management” or is this a never ending search? Then, one day not long ago while in a routine meeting, an invited guest was asked to say a few words. This gentleman spoke briefly about strategies to attain sales goals, how to recruit more effectively and so on. As he was wrapping up he shared a few sentences regarding a concept that had recently impacted his thinking and I will now share with you — there is no such thing as time management.

“There is no such thing as “time management.” You cannot manage time, all you can do is manage yourself!”

You heard that right….time management is a myth!

With that he thanked us for allowing him the courtesy of our audience and turned it over to the next presenter but his words continued to burn into my mind. “WHAT!? No such thing as time management?? How did I not think of this before!?” You see, “TIME” by definition is — “The measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues”. (Definition provided by Merriam — Webster Dictionaries 2015). Not you, not I, nor anyone or anything in the universe (less gravity) can even affect time so why are we so caught up on trying to manage it?

I believe we have become so focused on trying to meddle with outside forces and have neglected the undeniable fact that we cannot do anything to even remotely affect, much less “manage”, time and our person and our actions are the only thing/s that we can truly control.

While I believe that tools such as calendars, task lists, etc. are vitally important to the completion of tasks, they are just that — tools. They will only aid us is PERSONAL management, ie. the management of OUR actions as we cannot manage time, we can only manage ourselves.

Rather than focusing on attempting to manage our time more effectively we should, rather, focus on managing ourselves more effectively.

As we move through life, especially if success is something we value, we all have many things that we must accomplish on a daily basis. Many times, it may seem that there is not enough “time” in the day to accomplish everything on our agenda however we must remember — time is simply something to be measured and avoid the trap of thinking that we can somehow “manage” the unmanageable concept of time and force ourselves to look inward, at ourselves, and ask -

“What can I do to make MYSELF better today?” because, unless we do, nothing will ever change!


Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis