Almost all my leadership coaching clients, as well as my business strategy clients, struggle with time management issues at some point. It is a very real problem for most of us, no matter what level of leadership we have, and one that no amount of time management tools and techniques can solve. The secret reason you might find that you keep failing at the simplest time management skills is this: you can’t manage time. No one can.
Time management is often described as an oxymoron because it implies that one can control or manipulate time. However, time itself is an abstract concept that cannot be managed or controlled. Time passes regardless of our actions or intentions. And, spoiler alert: you cannot create more time or gain back any time that has passed.
The term "time management" suggests that we have the power to bend time to our will, as if we can somehow make more time or slow down its passage. (Actually, there are ways to create this experience in higher levels of consciousness, so read on to find out how this is done.) But in our common reality, time is a finite resource that is distributed equally to every individual. We all have 24 hours in a day, and no amount of planning or organization can change that fundamental fact.
What Time Management Can Do Well
Time management techniques and strategies can help individuals become more efficient and focused on their tasks, allowing them to accomplish more in the given time frame. These techniques include setting goals, prioritizing tasks, creating schedules, working in micro actions, taking frequent breaks, and eliminating distractions. While these practices can improve productivity and provide a sense of control over one's activities, they do not actually manage time itself.
Once we embrace that time management is not about controlling time, but rather about managing ourselves within the constraints of time, we learn to stop trying to work around the clock 24/7, neglect our vital need for sleep, and stress our bodies and minds to their breaking point.
By being mindful of how we spend our time and making conscious choices, we can make the most of the time available to us. We can manage our own beliefs, behavior, priorities, and how we allocate the limited time we have. Isn’t that the trick!
The Secret Villain Behind Time Management Failures
There’s a lot of talk these days about abundance and scarcity mindsets. One of the most prevalent scarcity mindsets is around time itself. Overcoming time scarcity thinking involves adopting a more productive and balanced mindset towards time. Here are several strategies (some are focused on raising your consciousness into a flow state, and those are noted).to help you overcome time scarcity thinking:
1. Identify and challenge limiting beliefs (Consciousness lifter): Reflect on the beliefs and thoughts you have about time. Are you constantly telling yourself that there is never enough time? Acknowledge these beliefs and challenge them. Replace them with more empowering thoughts, such as "I have enough time to accomplish what truly matters."
2. Prioritize and set clear goals: Clearly define your goals and priorities. Determine what is truly important to you and align your actions accordingly. By focusing on your priorities, you can allocate your time more effectively and reduce the feeling of scarcity.
3. Practice effective time management techniques: You might already do one or more, so don’t stop using them. Learn and implement proven time management techniques. Some popular ones include the Pomodoro Technique (working in focused bursts with short breaks), creating to-do lists, and using productivity apps or tools. These methods can help you make the most of your time and reduce feelings of scarcity. They work best when you also use them in combination with other approaches in this list, however.
4. Delegate and outsource tasks: Recognize that you don't have to do everything by yourself. Yes, even if you are the only one on staff in your business right now. Delegate tasks that can be handled by others, either at work or in your personal life. Additionally, consider outsourcing certain responsibilities or hiring help for tasks that take up a significant amount of time and don't align with your strengths or priorities.
5. Set realistic expectations: Often, time scarcity thinking arises from setting unrealistic expectations for what can be achieved in a given timeframe. Be realistic about what you can accomplish within the available time. Avoid overloading your schedule and allow room for unforeseen circumstances or breaks. And hey! Stop de-valuing your time by saying yes to impossible responsibilities, responsibilities that belong to someone else, or are flat out unreasonable.
6. Practice self-care and boundary-setting (Consciousness lifter): Take care of your physical and mental well-being. Allocate time for activities that help you relax, recharge, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Set boundaries with your time by learning to say no to tasks or commitments that don't align with your priorities or values. Also, remember the tiny and mighty idea that in order to be a resource and support to your family, kids, peers, friends and clients, you simply must put the proverbial oxygen mask on yourself first.
7. Cultivate mindfulness and present moment awareness (Consciousness lifter): Practice being present in the moment and focusing on the task at hand. When you are fully engaged in what you are doing, you can utilize your time more effectively. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises can help cultivate present moment awareness.
8. Reflect and evaluate regularly(Consciousness lifter): Be honest – when is the last time you stopping doing and reflected on your progress and direction? Take time to reflect on your time management practices and evaluate their effectiveness. Identify areas where you can improve and make adjustments accordingly. By regularly assessing your approach, you can refine your strategies and overcome time scarcity thinking.
Stop Time Scarcity At It’s Source
Time scarcity can be influenced by several factors. As a leader or business owner, you face most or all of them simultaneously. So it’s no surprise that they can feel overwhelming, leaving no time to manage your time in the first place. However, they do not have to rule you and your relationship with time. When you focus on the consciousness lifting practices (above) in conjunction with time management techniques, all these pressures can be “down-sized” to be manageable. Here are some common ones:
1. Heavy workloads: Leaders often have numerous responsibilities and tasks to manage, which can consume a significant amount of their time. This includes attending meetings, making decisions, strategizing, managing teams, and handling administrative tasks. The sheer volume of work can create a sense of time scarcity.
2. Decision-making pressure: Leaders are frequently required to make critical decisions that have significant implications for their organizations. The pressure to make timely and well-informed decisions can create a sense of time scarcity, as leaders may feel they don't have enough time to gather all the necessary information or reflect on the options thoroughly.
3. Constant interruptions: Leaders are often in high-demand positions, leading to frequent interruptions throughout their day. Phone calls, emails, and unexpected meetings can disrupt their focus and make it challenging to allocate uninterrupted time for important tasks. Constant interruptions can lead to a perceived shortage of time.
4. Balancing multiple priorities: Leaders must juggle various priorities simultaneously, such as meeting organizational goals, managing teams, fostering innovation, and addressing unexpected challenges. Trying to allocate time to each of these priorities can be a daunting task, leading to a sense of time scarcity.
5. High expectations and accountability: Leaders are expected to deliver results and meet performance expectations. The pressure to perform, combined with the need to be accountable to stakeholders, can create a sense of urgency and time scarcity. Deadlines, targets, and milestones can further contribute to the feeling of limited time.
6. Information overload: In today's fast-paced and highly connected world, leaders have access to an overwhelming amount of information. Staying updated with industry trends, market conditions, and emerging technologies requires continuous learning and information processing. Filtering through vast amounts of data and determining what is relevant and valuable can be time-consuming and contribute to time scarcity.
7. Inefficient work processes: Leaders may face time scarcity due to inefficient work processes or organizational structures that hinder productivity. For example, if decision-making is overly bureaucratic or if there are unnecessary layers of approval for tasks, it can slow down progress and create a sense of limited time.
8. Lack of delegation or effective teamwork: Leaders who struggle to delegate tasks or rely too heavily on their own abilities may find themselves overwhelmed with responsibilities. A lack of trust in team members or ineffective teamwork can result in leaders taking on more work than they can handle, contributing to time scarcity.
9. External demands and expectations: Leaders often have external demands on their time, such as speaking engagements, networking events, or industry conferences. While these activities can be valuable for professional growth, they can also add to the overall time constraints leaders face.
10. Personal obligations: Leaders, like anyone else, have personal obligations and commitments outside of work. Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, and the need to fulfill personal responsibilities can add to the perceived scarcity of time.
Just reading this list is enough for some leaders to race back to their overflowing inbox and endless meetings thinking “How can I ever get this all done!”
Here’s the thing though: You won’t ever get it all done. Ever. But you can get a lot done. Perhaps even more than you ever imagined possible, by slowing down a little at first, in order to stabilize and accelerate. It's important for leaders to recognize these factors and develop strategies to manage their time effectively, such as prioritizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, and setting boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
If you are ready to change your mindset about time, let's set up a time for a free, introductory call. I have helped scores of leaders make friends with time, and reclaim a healthy, abundant relationship to it. We all deserve that chance.