Mar 5, 2009

Time Management - The Myths & the Facts

The term time management really irks me. You can manage tangible things and processes. However, time is a concept. When you manage time you aren't really managing time you're managing the way you use your time.

Now some people think time management is about tracking and setting appointments in a day planner. As though having everything you do recorded in a box somewhere is managing your time. It isn't.

Most of what you have entered in a day planner doesn't belong there. Most of the information in your day planner is reactive rather than proactive. In combination that's a big problem.

Managing the way you use your time is about :

  • Setting clear objectives
  • Defining actions that produce those objectives
  • Tracking those actions and their results
  • Getting to the right place at the right time
  • Sticking to your plans and accounting for the unexpected

I'd like you to notice something about the keys to managing your time from the above list. One and only one of those keys has anything to do with a day planner. The only purpose a day planner serves is ensuring you get to the right place at the right time.

Day planners are about time and place. Only pre-planned appointments should get entered into it. Nothing else should clutter up your day planner. Guess what that also means. The bulk of the way you use your time has NOTHING to do with your planner, appointment book or calendar. The rest of the time, time outside of pre-planned scheduled appointments, has no place in your day planner.

And when you try to make the way you use the rest of your time fit into a day planner life gets really messy really fast. You actually increase your work, reduce your effectiveness, and increase your stress when you were trying to make things better. What a disappointment.

You increase your work because you end up moving and rewriting things to make room for the real appointments. You end up searching for information you know you wrote down somewhere in your day planner, but you aren't exactly sure where. You lose key information because you don't know where to put it.

You reduce your effectiveness because you give yourself permission not to get things done. When you write something you need to do in your day planner and then you don't do it at the designated time, what do you do? You erase it from that time slot and then rewrite it in another. The more often you do that the more you begin to doubt your ability to get things done and the less effective you become.

All this shuffling of information, lost information, and things not done makes you more stressed. The more your level of stress increases the less you can get done. The less you get done the worse your results. It's a viscous cycle.

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