It’s not really about time management because this focuses on the fact that you are spending your time productively. It’s not about being productive; it’s about accomplishing the goals that we set out. So, it’s not about time management, it’s about goal management; putting the goals in order, figuring out what the requirements are to accomplish those goals, and then moving forward with those goals. Take the focus off managing your time and turn that focus towards accomplishing those goals you set out for yourself.
Time management, as a field, generally bugs me. I think most of the time there is too much focus on “efficiency” and “getting things done.” My problem is not usually in getting a certain number of things done. I can get fifty things done in one day if I try hard enough. However, there may be much more important things I really needed to get done.
Time management often seems to focus on the minutiae, on the simple fact that you are spending your time productively.
On the other end of the scale, we have “structured procrastination,” which basically means planning your time so that you deliberately don’t do the most important things, but complete a long list of tasks that makes you look very “productive.”
I’m not interested in being productive. I’m interested in accomplishing my goals. That may mean I need to work on one thing all day, every day this week. It may mean that fifty little things need to be done so that one big thing can be done later.
Time management, at least when it’s my time, is not a science. It’s not something that can be “managed.” It’s an art.
I sit down every Sunday and plan out what needs to be accomplished during the next week. I consider this a map, not a schedule. Each day, and sometimes several times during the day, as things change, I adjust the schedule for that day and the rest of the week to make sure things are going to get done that need to get done. Sometimes that means moving things around, sometimes it means spending more time on a project, sometimes it means putting something off until next week.
I guess the easiest way to explain this is that it’s not time management at all. It’s goal management. I’m putting my goals in order, figuring out what it will take to accomplish each, and moving forward with my goals.
I know I can’t manage time. Time is not something you can move around, organize, or otherwise manage. Time is just there. You have a certain amount, how are you going to spend it?
When I take the focus off managing my time and put it on accomplishing my goals, the whole thing becomes much clearer. I can look at my calendar, or my to-do list, and instantly see how things are going to work to accomplish my goals.
I can not only tell what I have to do and when I plan to do it, but I can see my time as an inherently interrelated system. What I do before lunch is very much related to what I do after lunch.
Rescheduling an appointment does not just mean moving that one obligation to another day. It may mean giving me more time to prepare for a meeting, or it may mean needing to move something on the new appointment day to allow time.
Everything is connected. There is an art to getting things done.
How can you learn this art of getting the right things done?
- Spend some time looking at how your currently “manage” your time.
- How can you determine what needs to be accomplished, rather than just the individual “to-do” tasks?
- Schedule your time so you’re accomplishing the big things, not just getting things done.
Thanks to Stuff for Getting Things Done for featuring this post in the GTD Digest, and to E3 Success Systems for including this post in the Carnival of Success Principles.