The best time management lesson you can ever learn is that you cannot manage time.
No matter how many books you read or how many seminars you attend, you will never be able to gain an extra second in a day, bring back a moment that has passed, or make time move more quickly.
Despite all our best efforts to manage it, time continues to flow with complete disregard for our complex time management techniques. Does this mean that time management is a pointless exercise?
No – not at all… What it actually means is this:
What we commonly refer to as time management is not really about managing time – It is about managing ourselves.
Here’s an example that illustrates why this is so important:
Ben was an accountant in a prestigious accounting firm who was working very long hours in order to move ahead in his career.
One night over a late dinner, his wife said, “Be careful honey, one day you’re gonna wake up and your little girl will have gone off to college and you will have missed everything.”
This comment really struck a chord with Ben. He knew he needed to spend more time at home but he didn’t know what else he could do to manage his time better. He was already utilizing his mobile phone, an electronic organizer and a calendar on his computer.
The next day, Ben chatted to his dad who advised him that effective time management was not about managing time, but rather, about managing himself.
Ben took this idea on board and instead of looking for external ways to control his time, he began to focus internally on finding better ways to manage himself.
- Instead of spending the first twenty minutes of his day chatting with his colleagues in the tea room, he picked up a coffee on the way to work and headed straight to his desk.
- Rather than spending the first hour of his day answering emails, he wrote down a list of the most important things he needed to achieve and immediately began working on the first task.
- He also closed down his Internet browser so that he would not be distracted by Facebook, Twitter, or the ebay auction he was watching.
- When printing his documents he realized he should check the print queue before walking across the office and standing around waiting for other people’s documents to be completed.
Ben was genuinely surprised by how many ways he found to improve his productivity simply by shifting his focus from managing time to managing himself. His new mantra became that he would:
Spend Quality Time at Work in Order to Spend Quantity Time at Home
With this new approach to managing himself, Ben developed the view that any time he wasted at work was time he was taking away from being with his family.
This new perspective made him more motivated and productive than ever before. By getting more done during work hours, he was able to cut down on his overtime and ultimately spend more time with his family.
So today, I’d like to encourage you to realize that while you cannot manage time – you can manage yourself.
Instead of looking for additional ways to regulate your time, turn your focus internally and look for better ways to manage yourself and your actions.
By improving the way you manage yourself, you will greatly increase your productivity. This is in turn will help you accelerate your progress towards achieving your most important life goals.