Time Management: It’s Not About Time

Think you don’t have enough time to do all you need to do? The reality is, no matter how much you do, you’ll never get it all done. The key to being satisfied with your accomplishments is making the right choices.

With mounting to-do lists, big projects with short delivery dates, consuming workloads, growing obligations and festering unfinished tasks, it’s no wonder in this what-have-you-done-for-me-today world we often feel time deprived. Work-life flows to home-life, balance becomes imbalance, and goals and dreams get relegated to a closet shelf.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. In a recent “Winning at Working” reader survey, the most commonly articulated work problem was related to time. Overwhelmed. Overworked. Overstressed. Too much to do and too little time to do it.

But here’s the reality. No matter how much we do, we will never get everything done. There isn’t enough time for all that needs doing, all we want to do or we’d like to do or we should do. There never will be, even with the most sophisticated productivity, organizational and time-management approaches. Sure, they’re helpful, but thinking the chaos and stress in life is caused by not having enough time is an error.

You see, the problem is not a time problem. We all have the same amount. It’s a choice problem. The choices you make determine whether you’re running your life, or your life is running you. And you do have choices. Sure there may be consequences to saying no, establishing boundaries or reordering priorities. But there are also consequences if you don’t.

All tasks are not equal. All commitments are not equal. All responsibilities are not equal. All clients are not equal. All people of personal importance to your life are not equal. Yet many of us operate as if they were. You can do fifty things today and get little, if any, result for having done them. Or you can do one or two that bring a big return, be it emotional, financial physical or psychological. People who are winning at working know the difference and operate accordingly.

They see time as life’s currency and how it’s used as a choice. Choices shape your results and your life. You get the same twenty-four hours each day as your co-worker down the hall. But use differs. Practice the piano eight hours a day and you’ll be better than people who don’t. Practice and hone your workplace talents and the same applies. Or spend time getting ready to work, shooting the breeze, surfing the web, fiddling with email and you’ll complete the day having traded your time for minimal results.

How you spend your time puts value on what you’re spending it on. For years, I never had “time” to exercise consistently until a health issue caused me to re-prioritize my choices. Funny how I managed to find the hours when I had to. Choosing to eliminate an hour of television created 365 “found” hours a year. That’s nine weeks.

People who are winning at working know this secret: there is always time for what matters to them. So, they allocate their time carefully, understanding their life as a reflection of their choices. They make time for the people they love, the passions they have and work that uses their uniqueness. They focus on the results, goals, and life-dreams they desire, rather than accepting what comes their way. They do, while others talk of doing. They plan their day, while others let their day plan them. And they motivate themselves, while others wait for someone or something to motivate them. For people who are winning at working, it’s not about the time they have; it’s about the choices they make in how to use it.

(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

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