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Life happens, and . . . the myth of time management

Life happens, and . . .


Have you ever wished you had more hours in a day? Do you find yourself regularly saying things such as, “I would: Exercise, pursue a hobby, meditate, (you fill in the blank)… if I only had more time."

If you have plenty of time to do everything on your to-do list with time left over, then this blog is not for you. However, if you long for the secret of creating a 25-hour day, then you might want to continue reading.

I have spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars attending seminars and reading books about how to become a better time manager. I have tried so many different methods designed to create efficiency with my time that I have scheduled everything right down to the minute and still found myself frustrated at the end of the day because I couldn’t get everything done.

What I have come to realize is that I don’t need to manage my time better, I need to manage myself better. Time is not my greatest resource, energy is my greatest resource. Regardless of how many time management workshops I attend, I will never be able to create a 24 hour and 10 second day; however, I can create more energy to accomplish more in that 24-hour period. And the good news is I don’t have to work harder or faster. As counterintuitive as it may seem, I am able to be more productive when I make time to rest.

At the most practical level, our capacity to be productive in life and work is directly proportional to our ability to periodically disengage and rest. The reason that seems foreign is that we have become addicted to activity and technology. We often wake up and check our e-mails or texts before we even get out of bed. We go weeks without a day off and cram as much into the weekend as possible so that we re-enter the office on Monday feeling mentally and physically exhausted rather than refreshed. It isn’t that we didn’t manage our time well, it’s that we didn’t manage ourselves well. We didn’t listen to our body’s need to rest and recover.

Psychologist Jim Loehr studied world class tennis players to determine what factors set apart the best performers from the rest of the pack. What he discovered was surprising. After studying hundreds of tapes of top players, he found the difference was what peak performers did between the points. The best players had built in a routine as they walked back to the baseline after a point that allowed them to maximize their recovery. It might have been the way they held their heads and shoulders or where they focused their eyes and perhaps even their pattern of breathing. They were instinctively using the time between points to maximize their recovery. Because of the 16-20 second rest between points, these peak performers had more endurance during the third hour of the match. Their opponents were far more physically fatigued and more susceptible to negative emotions leading to muscular tension, which ultimately undermined their performance.

Can you identify with the tired players? When we push ourselves to cram more into the time we have, we end up fatigued and frustrated. While it may be familiar to be exhausted and stressed, it is certainly not our normal or natural state. We can only push so hard for so long before we break down and burn out. The longer, more continuously, you work, the less efficient and more mistake-prone you become. So if you would like to create more time in your day, then I suggest you practice self-management and adopt a few of the following rituals:

  • Make sleep a priority

The average American sleeps 6.8 hours. Medical studies have related a lack of sleep to health problems and cognitive impairment.  Therefore, experts typically recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

  • Choose one day a week to truly rest

Instead of cramming more into your weekend, choose one day to rest, reflect, be with friends and recreate your energy. The difference between entertainment and recreation is that entertainment may help us “escape” but we may not feel refreshed. Recreation refreshes and refuels our vision and energy.

  • Exercise

You don’t have to join a gym to exercise and you don’t have to commit to an hour per day to increase your physical energy. Take the stairs when you can, take a walk during lunch, instead of meeting a friend for dinner take a bike ride together. Be creative. Start moving and you will find you have energy to accomplish more during the time you have rather than wishing you had more time.

  • Cultivate an abundant attitude

Finally, the most important ritual is to create a positive mindset about the concept of “TIME”. A scarcity mentality thinks there is never enough time while an abundant mindset says you always have enough time to accomplish all you choose to accomplish.

We often wear busyness like a badge of honor. If we learn to manage ourselves, and commit to rituals that replenish our energy, we will find we are more productive without feeling frazzled and depleted. When we effectively manage our minutes, we can manage our energy and make the most of our time. Self-management destroys the myth of time management because even though time flies, you are always the pilot.