Can We Really Manage Time?

Not really. However, we can manage ourselves.

In our work and life, it’s likely that we feel overwhelmed by the situations, relationships and deadlines we are facing. What do we do? We blame it on a shortage of time! We say there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.

Most people who believe they need to improve their time management really need to improve their self-management. Unfortunately, for some of us, it’s tough to admit there is an area of ourselves that could be improved to create more harmony with our ideas of success and well-being. How about changing from the word improve to develop? Would you be open to developing a resource called YOU? That is self-management.

One way to look at self-management is to think of our day in terms of energy rather than time. Imagine, for a moment, that when we wake up each morning we have “100 units of energy” at our disposal to experience our day with. If we expend the 100 units before the day is out, we experience “burn out”. Every decision and interaction we have while in “burn out” will be based on insufficient fuel to continue our day in an affirmative way. After a good night’s sleep (that’s if we have one) our 100 units are replenished and we get to start all over again.

If YOU woke up this morning and knew you only had 100 units to spend, how would you deal with the overwhelming schedule ahead of you? What would be different?

When I ask my clients this question, a light bulb usually goes off. Their capabilities suddenly expand like magic. They instinctively know what to prioritize. They immediately focus on what their true role is in each situation and realize that not every situation requires them to be in charge.

The realization that our energy is limited and therefore precious makes us do a double-take. It wakes us up. This is the path of self-management. This is the wake-up call to pay attention and value our inner world as priority number one.

What is the inherent learning when we look at our day through the imaginary lens of 100 units of energy? We gain clarity about how purpose and meaning can focus us to take decisive action and see what overwhelms us in a new way. Rather than viewing a jam packed schedule as an overstuffed box, we see it as the opportunity to get clear with ourselves and sort out what matters most and why. That is something we can do in this moment, immediately with pen and paper in hand if necessary.

Since most of us are accustomed to spending so much of our attention on the outer world of accomplishing our “to do” lists, we neglect to spend much noticing how these items got on our schedule and if they still warrant our attention in the same way as when first placed there. By looking at our inner world, we define purpose and meaning which creates a personalized roadmap for us to navigate everything we do with more ease. By operating in alignment with what is most purposeful and meaningful, we serve ourselves and others in a more honest and straightforward way.

The most generous act we can do is to BE our right fit rather than trying to FORCE the fit of others.

Sound too soft? Consider these consequences and their impact on our relationships and quality of work when we operate at a lower potential by discounting purpose and meaning. The following is not scientific but rather an observation of what my clients have come to discover:

Increased negative emotions – Eventually our inner world finds a way to get our attention and many times it is with anger and frustration.

Defensiveness – Our attitude becomes one of resistance as we try to hide our negative emotions.

Micromanagement – We try to control little things in an effort to control the bigger purpose and meaning that is unrecognized.

Passive aggressiveness- We say yes to others in one moment and then don’t follow through in an effort to avoid conflict between what is important to us and what others want from us.

How can we use purpose and meaning as a way to develop our self-management and master our energy more effectively? Here are some questions to expand our thinking and breakthrough old patterns of perception about what it means to be overwhelmed.

What do I really want for this situation and in the bigger picture? What level of importance does this play in the big picture for me and for others? How am I balancing what is important to me and what is important to others? How would my energy be best spent for myself and for others? How did I get involved in this situation in the first place? What assumptions am I making about my role and responsibilities in this?

After exploring these questions, return to my earlier example of 100 units of energy and ask yourself-

How much energy is it worth to think about this situation? How much energy is it worth to worry? How much energy is it worth to act?

Why not consider a change of viewpoint by managing energy rather than time?

We don’t need to be reticent about developing ourselves. Growth is the way of nature, the way of moving forward and is the most natural process in the world.

Jo-Aynne von Born, Executive Coach, Workshops, Keynote Speaker



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