Is time truly “manage-able”? Is there anyone alive who can truly manage time – speed it up, slow it down, increase or decrease the hours available? Of course not, at least in this reality… So cross that one off of your resolution list or development plan for good. Stop expending effort trying to learn and stick to new systems or rules. It’s not worth it. There are at least five reasons you don’t need to learn another time management tool:

  1. It’s not time you’re feeling the need to manage, it’s your energy level. Notice your rises and falls in energy level throughout a typical day and work with it! Batch similar tasks and allocate blocks of time for types of work that are most conducive to your level of energy at various times of day. You’ll be easing the load on your brain and body.
  2. It’s not time that needs managing, it’s your focus and attention. In environments with constant distractions and interruptions – external and internal – it’s critical that we learn techniques to improve and sustain our focus more quickly and for longer periods of time. We waste several hours each day trying to mentally return to a thought process or task that we were interrupted from. Over the course of a week, this is a startling percentage of your time spent non-productively.
  3. It’s not time that presents a struggle, it’s decision-making and prioritizing. There are many genuinely helpful techniques to discover and try out here. Ultimately, the tricks are to reconcile what is and is not urgent and about finding the right balance between effort spent on tasks with immediate vs. longer-term payoff.
  4. It’s not managing your time that is difficult, it’s your relationship with your boss. If you could improve your communication with your supervisor, your understanding of his/her expectations, and your ability to describe your own capacity and interests to your boss, wouldn’t ‘time’ become less of an issue? Coming to agreement on work priorities are is one of most impactful ways to change the way you spend your time. A related note: if you or your boss are not currently using a work plan, consider starting. This can be a fantastic tool for outlining work actually possible given the numbers of work hours available in a given period of time. It can also be a powerful negotiation and communication tool when new work requests emerge. Laying out the hours required for work projects on paper also helps to add objectivity to the discussion about shifting priorities. The numbers and resources required are plain to see.
  5. Time itself isn’t the problem, it’s that you spend much of it in counterproductive and dysfunctional meetings. Meetings are one of the biggest time and resource sinks in organizations today. This one organizational improvement lever can yield enormous productivity boosts! This too, my friends, will be another separate post.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fallacy of multi-tasking. We now know that it is detrimental to our brains (energy, focus, capacity and quality of thinking) to attempt to work at multiple tasks at once. This is not the answer to being pressed for time. Pay some consideration to the five ideas listed above and you may not feel compelled to multi-task any longer.

And finally, sleep more. The majority of us are chronically short on sleep. Without sufficient, high-quality sleep, our ability to succeed at any of the five suggestions above are compromised.