Forget Time Management: This Is Better
7 Steps for Practising Personal and Professional Self-Management
We can’t stop it, slow it down, multiply it, add on to it, stretch it, buy it, hoard it, steal it, fabricate it. We can’t make it more than it is.
We have 24 hours of time every day, 365 days per year, yet it is never enough to do all that we need to do. While in such abundant supply, time is in fact, the scarcest commodity. It is the only resource that cannot be changed by man. At least, not yet…
“Mom, Thursdays is not your hardest day. Everyday is your hardest day.” So proclaimed my younger son, at age five, while on the way home from school one evening. At five, he had evaluated my life, the ceaseless demands, the always having something scheduled, or something “to do,” the constant telling him what to do and what to do next, the check-ins to see if thing #1 was done before moving on to thing #2, and so on.
How accurate he was.
Two years prior, I had learned from a seven-year-old older son to break up the to do list into single and manageable tasks. Hands-on-hips older son was not happy when he announced: “Mom, you can’t tell me like seven things to do, at the same time. Tell me one thing at a time. That way I won’t forget and you won’t get frustrated.”
Today, those wise children are 23 and 19, and over time, I have gradually moved away from having my “hardest day” every day.
I have accepted the fact that time management is impossible. The only thing we can change is the way we operate in, consume or use time.
As a result, I have been refining the art of self management. I still have not mastered it, but I have made progress.
You can too.
Here are some of the things I have learned in the practice of professional and personal self-management.
1. Schedule Your Priorities
This involves strategic decision-making about priorities, and booking your time to accomplish them. Often, prioritization is a long-term strategy.
Such scheduling may seem like a waste of time, but really what you expend in the scheduling and planning, is multiplied in the work accomplished.
Personal nurturing or self-care is no different. Why? Because individually, we must each make ourselves a priority. We are as valuable as our time and we should make sure we get to do what we want to do for ourselves. It means living with purpose. Plus, doing this makes us much more productive at work.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” ~ Steven Covey
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Reconvene
As indicated above, our priorities are often long-term objectives for which we schedule pockets of time over an extended calendar. By nature of this fact, we might need to convene multiple times to accomplish a goal.
This is true for the project, report, academic assignment, and for shorter things, like meetings with others. A second meeting is not really a waste. It is a scheduled advancement of meeting goals and definitely a learning opportunity.
I regularly hold meetings at work. As I begin each meeting, I seek consensus on the norms and goals for the meeting. I also seek agreement that if the goals are not accomplished in the time frame allotted, we will reconvene. 98% of the time we fulfill our goals and do not need to meet again. But if reconvening becomes a necessity, we establish the strategic goals for the next meeting before we break away, and, if possible, we establish the date and time as well.
3. Honor Good Timing for Yourself & Others
Chronobiology is the science of the body’s inner clock, or fundamental rhythms. In understanding a bit of chronobiology, or “good timing,” we can recognize our personal peak productivity periods. The science also identifies and generalizes certain times of the day that might be best for certain activities, such as studying, decision-making, and collaborating, for example.
In strategically scheduling priorities, we need to honor good timing. Recognize your personal peak productivity periods and match these personal periods with your most important and most difficult tasks.
A contentious phone call or a problematic situation, for example, is best handled when we are at our peak. Likewise, studying for an exam, researching, or writing an article or report, warrants maximum attention. Everyone’s peak is not first thing in the morning. Often though, in business, people might be waiting for a call, a conversation, or a response that is urgent to them. If your peak is not first thing in the morning recognize that causing another to wait can aggravate a situation. In that case, schedule a mutually agreeable time to convene to address the issue. This way, the individual has a sense of being a priority. That feeling often lends itself to problem resoulution and postive outcomes.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
The thing about good timing in both personal and professional relationships is that we must be concentious about trying to balance our needs and peaks with those of others.
4. Organize & Plan for Efficiency & Wellness
Recently, I took on a new role at work. Once I surveyed the required responsibilities, the necessary initial learning I needed to do, and the department’s current status, I prioritized organization.
Organization involved focusing on my needs as well as the needs of internal and external stakeholders with whom I would interact. These stakeholders required immediate information, a plan that would respect their needs, ongoing communication, inclusiveness, respect, and trust.
I organized my physical space for prime functionality. Then, I established a three-month, 12-14-hour per day schedule that would allow me to acquire fundamental skills, set up information and communication systems, meet initial compliance deadlines, and get my department and organization to a place where the day to day for all internal stakeholders would not feel rushed and pressured.
“Organization isn’t about perfection. It’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money, and improving the overall quality of your life.” ~ Christina Scalise
I do not recommend or promote such long work days on a regular basis as studies show that productivity drops significantly after a 40–50 hour long work week. My three-month plan was mine alone to ensure that I could get to the point where, long-term, I could healthily manage myself, my work, and all aspects of living.
Organizing our homes, offices, minds, and goals greatly improves levels of happiness and personal and professional relationships. Such action reduces stress and depression, improves productivity, and allows us to focus more on wellbeing: eating well, regularly working out, sleeping, and personal interests, to name a few.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” ~ Paul J. Meyer
5. Outsource, Delegate, & Divide
Some years ago, I began outsourcing personal work such as laundry and grocery shopping. Doing so allowed me to have additional periods in my day for scheduled priorities.
Outsourcing, delegating, and diviing up responsibilities at work yields the same returns as subcontracting for personal services.
Pair the right person with the right job and assign it or hire out for it. Depending on the length of the project or assignment, map out check-in points, to ensure the venture is going well and to help resolve any issues that might come about. This does not mean micromanaging. It means having a pulse on the beat of the project so that any necessary modifications can be implemented in a timely manner to advance the end goal.
“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.” ~ Andrew Carnagie
“You can do anything, but not everything.” ~ David Allen
6. Get Things Started Right Away
The moment you initiate something rather than choose to procrastinate, you establish momentum. Momentum has a way of picking up speed, and it gives a feeling of productivity, which makes every subsequent step easier to achieve.
“Well begun is half done.” ~ Aristotle
Studies also show that procrastination bears a direct correlation with hypertension and cardiovascular disease and reduces the amount of time for and quality of fun.
7. Attend to the Body Language of Others and Be Flexible
When we meet the needs of others we inevitably meet our own. Sometimes, during my meetings, we have to touch on very personal or sensitive issues for families. As much as I want to meet my objectives, a primary concern of mine is how everyone at the table is feeling.
That means I have to be alert for any signs of distress and quickly and appropriately respond to needs. Whether teachers, parents, or other, everyone at a meeting is a person first.
The wonderful outcomes of self management
Practising these seven simple strategies as part of a self-management plan, can yield a nmber of positive outcomes. Scientists report that effective self management leads to:
- Less stress and anxiety
- Fewer illnesses
- Better productivity
- More time with loved ones
- Emotional happiness
- Greater fulfillment
- Improved quality of life
- Greater creativity
- Self-improvement by the day
Originally published as, Forget Time Management: Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That, on 4/30/16. This article has been revised and updated for this publication.
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