I apologize for the one-day delay this week. We were in NYC to help our son and his girlfriend celebrate their engagement. Happy times!!!

More than 30 years ago when I started as the head of continuing legal education at Georgetown Law, there was a group of nationally recognized speakers who traveled across the country presenting half-day or full-day presentations on critical topics.

One such presenter was Frank Sanitate, and his area of focus was time management. Frank would travel from state to state offering meaningful tips on the subject to bar associations, law schools and law firms. Later other accomplished presenters like my friend Meg Spencer offered terrific presentations on this subject.

I too disseminated tips on time management as part of the multi-day “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” workshop I facilitated at Georgetown University, focusing on Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix, which categorized all activities as urgent, not urgent, important and not important.

Covey believed that the more time we spend in his Quadrant II, – Important but not Urgent – the less time we will have to spend in Quadrant I – Important and Urgent.

The more I thought about this subject, I realized that time management is a misnomer. We cannot manage time – as often as we would like to do so. Rather, we can manage ourselves within time!

I was reminded of this conceptual paradigm shift recently when I read an email from my coaching colleague, Chris Thyberg. Like me, Chris is a graduate of the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program and a member of the Institute for Transformational Leadership Network.

Chris made these important points about what we have traditionally called time management, but what is really self-management
– People often end up discovering it’s not time that they can’t manage – It’s their commitments.
– They have a commitment management dilemma that no amount of time-hacking is going to resolve.

Chris asks what are some of people’s commitment challenges? Of course, , too many commitments! However, as Chris warns, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

How did there get to be too many?
And why are so many of our commitments …
• All over the map in terms of purpose and priority?
If we don’t know what matters most and why, we are tempted to chase everything.
• Externally imposed rather than internally chosen?
If we let others decide our commitments for us, we will feel obligated to say “yes” to everything.
• Unconscious, tied to false narratives or limiting beliefs?
If we believe lies about ourselves – “I am only as good as what I produce; I am not enough; I’m really a fraud” – we will be hounded by the gremlins in our heads to make commitments that are not really ours to make.
• Very often in conflict with one another?
People can get stuck in “immunity to change” – a powerful model of transformation created by Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey in their book of the same name.

As Chris says, we can’t carry out our stated commitment to, say, spend more quality time with family, because below our awareness we’ve made work our primary source of belonging and self-esteem and can’t give that up when push comes to shove.

• Very often driven by attempts to navigate polarities by “splitting the difference”, “oscillating”, “finding balance.” By “polarities” we mean the dynamic tension between two good desires that tend to pull apart from each other. If you want to know more, check out “Navigating Polarities: Using Both/And Thinking to Lead Transformation” by Brian Emerson and Kelly Lewis.

To continue our example, it is great to want both Results AND Relationships. Both are necessary for flourishing professionally and personally. But if we lean so hard to Results that we neglect Relationships, we fall into overcommitments to doing at the expense of being. No wonder we end up with loads of unintended negative consequences. Same thing if we double down on Relationships without enough attention to Results.

Too much of a good thing is really Not Good! What we need is integration – a Third Way – to achieve the best of both poles while avoiding the pitfalls of each

• And finally, are we framing our commitment dilemma as a problem to fix because it’s causing us pain we wish to relieve instead of as a moment to identify a desired outcome that we wish to live into?

As Chris says, it’s a completely different energy. The reactive problem orientation is a strategy for avoiding what we fear, and it never works for long. The creative outcome orientation is a strategy for leaning into what we love. It’s not easier than fear management, but the results are worlds apart!

Chris and many coaches have learned that people make big shifts when they choose the creative rather than the reactive path.

I encourage you to check Chris out. He offers great insights and terrific coaching. His company is called “The Serving Way: Leading from Within” and his email address is Chris.Thyberg@The Serving You can also find Chris easily on LinkedIn:

Thanks for the great tips, Chris!

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