Time Management’s True Nature

Time management is such a big problem companies make a living solely focused on developing applications and training systems to solve the issue. Over the years I’ve learned: time management is often a symptom of a larger issue.

In Time Management: Friend or Foe I asked you to think of time as a valuable resource. Time isn’t something to manage but rather to allocate in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Now you’re ready to take a good look at the time management symptoms you face uncover their true nature.

How Time Management Issues Appear

Do you experience these?

  • Missed deadlines. Do you miss deadlines? Whether set by a boss, client, or yourself, missed deadlines devalue your efforts. If you miss getting that agreement to your client, what are the risks? What is the cascading effect?
  • Rushed and late. Do you find yourself always late to meetings? Do you run behind schedule or have to reschedule commitments? Are  you often apologizing for being late? These are not signs of being in demand nor a badge of honor. Chronic tardiness shows a lack of control and disrespect for others and yourself.
  • Quality is 20/80 instead of 80/20.  I call this doing a ‘half-assed job.’ Not spending enough time to do a good job where it matters costs you. That presentation you created from an old file (five minutes before the meeting) has the wrong client name listed and sends a strong negative message to your audience.
  • Stressed or worse, paralized. Experiencing chronic stress? It’s caused by many things including having too much work you don’t know where to start! Feel rushed because of that never ending to-do list? Maybe your email inbox is full of thousands of unread messages. You just can’t think straight, so you do nothing and the mountain in front of you grows.
  • The treadmill effect. Are you constantly busy checking off to-do items? Do you spend time reading and responding to emails, answering questions, and going to meetings? Are you busy but not making progress on your work – going nowhere fast? If only you were doing it on an actual treadmill you would at least be more healthy! But alas, that’s not the problem here.

Occasionally we all have these issues, but when they become chronic and impact your relationships, your work, and your health – it’s time to take action. It’s time to find the root cause and do something differently.
Time Management's True Nature

The true Nature of Time Management

So many of us have these perceived time management issues it almost seems normal. We accept it, buy a new planner or download an app and think our problems are solved. If that works for you, well done. If not, consider the real culprit is one of the root causes that I’ve discovered with my clients:

Organizational Concerns

  • Unclear or wrong strategy. You may have a goal, but if you don’t have a clear plan, method, or approach to get there you’ll most likely waste time with no-value-added work. Organizations need strategies to guide work of many people, the solo-worker and freelancer needs a clear strategy for their work as well.
  • Unknown or conflicting priority. Priority means one thing. Unfortunately, the modern definition of priority now includes multiple items. If you don’t know what comes first, second, or third, everything and ultimately nothing will be a priority. Organization and indie workers must establish and communicate a clear prioritization approach.
  • Inefficient systems and processes. Inefficient, non-existent or over-engineered systems and processes hurt productivity. Avoid adopting a process or system that doesn’t match your needs. Evaluate processes periodically to make sure every step is essential (adds value).
  • Contrary cultural. Most organizations want strong, collaborative, responsive teams. Technology enables much of this beyond our widest dreams. But without clear boundaries and expectations it becomes almost impossible to get your own work done. Cultural impact is more prevalent within organizations, but still relevant to the indie or freelance worker. It’s important to recognize and set parameters around expectations. How often have you experienced the expectation of 24/7 access and immediate response to emails, slacks, and texts?

Individual Concerns

  • Insufficient skills or experience. Neglecting to acknowledge your strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots impacts your ability to truly manage yourself, your work and your time. The issues range from inexperience in what it takes to complete a task or project to poor work estimates. Within these concerns are underlying issues.
  • Poor value or goal alignment. Individual professional’s values and goals must align with the organization or project. Misalignment appears as an issue with time management showing up as procrastination, low quality, or competing priorities. The real culprit may relate to conflicting values and goals.

There are numerous reasons we look to time management to solve the problem, just make sure it’s the right problem to solve.