Time Management Is A Misnomer
Back in 1985, when I started my job leading the Continuing Legal Education Department at Georgetown Law Center, many well-known speakers were touring the country specializing in particular subjects that appealed to lawyers.
One of those speakers, I remember clearly, was Frank Sanitate. Frank was the first speaker I ever knew who specialized in educating professionals about time management. In the decades since, others have taken up the mantle and become well-known presenters and writers about this issue. One of the best, who I hired many times at Georgetown, is my friend Meg Spencer Dixon. I encourage you to check out her website and writings.
Time management is an evergreen topic for speakers and writers appealing to professionals from all industries. Yet I fear that it is really a misnomer. I think it is a catchy phrase that caught on a long time ago and has become part of our daily vocabularies.
We cannot manage time. We all have only 24 hours in a day. Rather, we can manage ourselves within time. A critical challenge for all leaders is how to manage ourselves within each day in order to fulfill our leadership potential.
In my leadership coaching practice, I’ve seen numerous accomplished and successful leaders struggle with this particular issue. So many are victims of perfectionism, thinking they can do everything, or victims of their own accomplishments, having crafted a persona that allows them to think they can get everything done.
Managing ourselves effectively within the time we have demands a paradigm shift for many of us. We must acknowledge that we cannot complete every task and effectively address every priority in the time we would like. That forces us to engage in one of the most important tasks any leader can master: prioritizing.
Stephen Covey called it “Putting First Things First,” focusing on those activities and decisions that we believe are the most important. His famous Time Matrix encouraged leaders to focus on those things which are important but not urgent, activities connected to planning, preparation and prevention.
I encourage you to make time to assess your own ability to manage yourself within time. If your skills are not where you would like them to be, create strategies for yourself to improve and then track your success at implementing those strategies.
Some strategies might include:
1. Making time before the week starts to craft specific goals for that week.
2. Making time at the end of the week to study your effectiveness at achieving those goals and identifying the reasons when you did not succeed.
3. Over time, looking for patterns in your success or lack of success in meeting your weekly goals and learning and applying the lessons revealed by those patterns.
4. Blocking time in your work schedule for thinking time, time when you are not available for meetings or conversations.
5. Choosing not to respond to emails in a random fashion throughout the day, but instead proactively devoting specific blocks of time at different points of the day to address emails.
6. Starting your workday with specific action items remaining from the previous day or days and feeling the sense of accomplishment when you complete them.
7. Learning and practicing the art of delegation, which will create a win-win for you and those you lead, particularly if the delegation enables them to grow professionally.
8. Giving yourself permission to acknowledge that you may not be able to accomplish everything you wish to accomplish today and that for many tasks, doing them tomorrow will be just as effective.
9. Ranking the tasks and decisions facing you in a particular day, and tackling the most important ones when you know you have the most energy.
10. Seeking tips, pointers or advice from other people you trust. We can always learn new tricks about managing ourselves within time.
Remember that we cannot manage time. We can, however, adopt belief systems and habits that will allow us to manage ourselves more effectively both in our personal and professional lives.
What will you do starting tomorrow to manage yourself more effectively and lead a more fulfilling life?