Do you have time to read this?

If you’re like many of the people we speak to every day, probably not! But you’ve managed to read this far, so stick with it – we have something to say about how you manage your time.

These days people seem to have less and less time: the more work you do, the more work comes your way. With email, the internet, smartphones and tablets, you’re never out of touch and all putting increasing demands on your time. Most time management techniques focus on managing activities. We believe this is missing three essential perspectives:

1. What’s your purpose?

In the maelstrom of requests for activity, it’s easy to allow work to fill your time regardless of whether it furthers your (or indeed any useful) purpose. Revisit the vision and purpose of your organisation, and your own purpose and values. If you get involved in activity that doesn’t naturally and effectively forward your purpose, challenge it – it’s likely you should eliminate it. If you don’t have a compelling vision and purpose for your organisation, or for yourself, creating one should be your top priority. If activity doesn’t forward a worthwhile purpose, what’s the point?

2. What are your hidden drivers?

There’s always a reason for your activity, even activity that isn’t aligned with your purpose. In this case the motivating force – your ‘driver’ – is usually hidden. Mostly we don’t examine the motivations behind what we do – it’s usually uncomfortable. Because it’s uncomfortable, it goes unchallenged (after all, you don’t have time anyway!). Some examples of common hidden purposes:

Activity Hidden Purpose
Long communications Promote my importance
Extra analysis Cover myself
Answer emails in detail after hours Avoid dealing with something uncomfortable
Do it myself, rather than delegating Get it done ‘right’ (my way!)

 

Challenge your hidden drivers: until you expose them, they will guide your actions without you realising it. Do this with another person – we have a fantastic ability to fool ourselves. Having someone else help you is important to make sure you separate the truth from your reasons and excuses!These two perspectives can often dislodge over a third of your total activity and give you freedom and focus for activity that truly forwards your purpose. As good as this might sound, there is yet one further crucial shift in mindset that will make the biggest difference to how you manage your time.

3. Most time management approaches are inadequate!

All time management approaches developed before the age of mobiles and the web are fundamentally flawed. They don’t address a new truth: ever since about 1993, when the Internet became widely available, you will never get it all done.

We’ll say it again: YOU WILL NEVER GET IT ALL DONE!

These days, the more you accomplish and the more you communicate with people, the more work you create. It’s exponential: with ease of communication and access, there is unlimited availability of information. Before about 25 to 30 years ago, when many of us grew up, it was pretty reasonable to expect to complete everything on your to-do list. Though it’s no longer feasible, many of us are still trying to do it!

The effective approach to managing your time better

To be effective in an age where you will never get everything on your to-do list done, your approach to managing your time must tackle your underlying beliefs and attitudes. It’s no good continuing to believe that with better systems you might one day finish the list. One day you’ll die – and you’ll still be in the middle of your list!Successful approaches to time management training do two things:

  • they challenge you to expose and let go of your outdated beliefs about what you can actually achieve.
  • they introduce new support structures tailored for the internet age.

So if you:

  • discover your purpose and align all your activity with fulfilling it,
  • rigorously expose and abandon your hidden drivers,
  • honestly face up to the reality that you will never get it all done,

your problems with managing your time will finally be under your control. Doesn’t that sound good?Now do you have time to do something about it?