‘Time management’ is something we all try to do, every single day. Most people feel they have more to do each day than they can do justice to. So we ‘manage’ our time through delegation, prioritisation, to-do lists and long hours.
Yet despite these tactics, each week the cycle can begin again, new to-do lists, new actions that haven’t even made it on to the to-do list, prioritising the work for which the deadlines are looming, or the work that is most visible if it is not completed. The cycle carries on, and we continue to ‘manage our time’ as if we are racing the clock, and we still don’t seem to have enough time.
I have often wondered – what if there was a different way to do things?
The reality is, time is limited. We can’t buy time, we can’t go back in time, we can’t make time go more slowly. So I can’t ‘manage my time’. Time just passes.
But what I can do, instead of trying to manage my time, is manage myself. The best way to manage myself is to emulate the behaviours of great managers. A great manager has a clear vision – so I need one too – that I can work towards, and link what I do day-day with that vision. A great manager also puts people first, so I can be kind to myself if I am under pressure or under the weather. I must also be honest with myself, and appreciate that time at a desk does not always equal time doing productive work. I can give myself feedback when things go great, and not so great, allowing me to pause and reflect on why something worked, or did not work. I can aim to make decisions with confidence, and without procrastinating. I can reward myself when I have worked really hard, or had a great success.
Even better, as I am managing myself, there is even more I can understand about myself to be more effective, such as knowing what times of day I’m better at different tasks, or even what days of the week I’m better at different tasks. Friday – more creative – great for thinking about vision; Monday – very focused – great for doing tasks that require attention to detail. I can plan my day and week around my optimum performance times.
You can ask yourself: ‘If I was my own manager what sort of manager would I like to be? What makes a great manager?’ And decide your own behaviours from there.
Managing myself well, rather than trying to manage my time, actually means I am more efficient, less stressed, more effective and ultimately more successful. My to-do lists change from simple lists of tasks to key outcomes I need to achieve, and the top three things I must do that week or that day to achieve that outcome. I am clearer, and calmer.
I know it’s just a way to frame how I manage my day, but it works, and even though time never stands still, I can find stillness and a sense of calm whilst still getting things done with purpose and direction.
Sarah Alexander, Director. Coach and Trainer, Vivid Communication