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  • Writer's pictureMaria Wade

Don’t Try to Tame Time, Tame Yourself

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Note: This blog is part of a series of posts about time management. Check out my first post here.


Time… My best friend and my worst enemy.

Do you feel like me? Do you feel that there is never enough time? We spend it, plan it, waste it, optimize it and still want more of it.

Here’s the reality...

We cannot manage time.

Coming from a time management blog series, this may seem like a surprising position for me to take, but let me reframe to explain what I mean.

When it comes to “time management,” I believe the only thing we can manage is the focus of our attention and the work and tasks we’re doing. We need to create a system to follow. We need to master the system to make it efficient.

As I work with leaders to increase their personal and professional effectiveness, I’m actively searching for ways to create more time without being stressed and overwhelmed. All of my clients note that, as a time management expert, I have quite a peculiar approach to the whole idea.

What does time management really mean? To stop time, to slow down, to speed up, to cancel? I haven’t learned how to do any of this yet. So, I don’t try to do any magic in this area; my magic is in shifting the focus into a different direction.

Fun fact: When a client complains to me about time issues and poor ability to manage time, my first question is “Tell me about your breakfast and sleep”. I learned this from Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist. (Check out this short video about breakfast).

You will make better decisions when you feel good, not when you are under stress or hijacked with anxiety.

Additionally, sleep is the most accessible free drug that will make your life longer, and help you to improve your memory, health, and mood. It will make you happier, less depressed, and less anxious. I love the book Why We Sleep? by Matthew Walker, PhD where he provides scientific proof for all the benefits of sleep in a very digestible and comprehensive manner. I highly recommend this book. It will literally change your life; it has changed mine.

My second question is about the system(s) that you use to get things done.

The most popular answer is a to-do list. Great. (Using a to-do list is something that we will explore more in future blog posts).

Some follow up questions: How many items are on your to-do list? What is the nature of the items on your to-do list? Are these actions or ideas?

Why does it matter? The ideas will keep you overwhelmed; actions will move you forward.

If you move through your to-do list slowly and often don’t feel motivated to take action, it’s probably time to ask yourself why you have to take this action. Where is the place for this item in your big picture? When you know why you “need” to do things, the motivation required will naturally be there. Normally, we don’t want to do things that we don’t see as necessary for completing the big picture.

So, I invite you to try this very simple system:

● Have a healthy breakfast each morning

● Create a healthy, consistent sleep routine

● Ask yourself each time you will put a new item on your to-do list why you are adding it and where is the place for the item on your big picture map

● Make sure that you have actions - not ideas - on your to-do list

● Try to focus on how to remove things from your list rather than add new ones

● Count hours required for each action on your list to make sure that your plans are ambitious but still realistic

● Look at managing your tasks as a fun game. Create rules that will work for you. You are the owner of your system and you can adjust it to your unique needs.

Are you interested in learning more about “time management” tools and techniques?

Do you want answers to questions such as: What is a good use of time? What can we do to reduce time pressure? How can I avoid feeling that I am constantly pushed to do what I don’t want to do? How can I stop perceiving time as an enemy? How can an effective system of managing your tasks improve my well-being?

Stay with me. Let’s continue this path of exploration of the idea of shifting our perception of time.

If you're interested to learn more, you can watch my videos from Time/Task Management Series:

Photo by Olga Prudka

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