I sometimes wonder how is it, that we have more tips and tricks, tools and technology, calendars and checklists than ever before and yet we still always seem to be behind? How is it that we work longer hours, we work faster than we’ve ever moved in history and we never seemed to be caught up. How is it that we know more about time management today and yet stress is at an all-time high?
The only reason for that is everything we know about time management is WRONG.
Even though everything that we’ve ever heard about time management is all logical, tips and tricks, tools and technology, calendars and checklists, everything is based on logic. But today, time management is no longer just logical; it has become ‘emotional’. And how our feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, and frustration those things dictate how we choose to spend our time as much as anything that’s in our ‘to do lists’. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘Time Management’. You can’t manage time, time continues on whether we like it or not. But there is ‘SELF-MANAGEMENT’. And that was the first big realisation I had.
Now, if we look at the world history, the concept of time management came around in the late 50’s and 60’s during the Industrial Revolution. In those times time management was based on efficiency and it was pretty much one dimensional. And the idea of efficiency was that if we could develop tools and technology to help us to do things faster, then theoretically that would give us more time.
Well!! There’s nothing wrong with efficiency, all things are being equal but yet there’s an unfortunate limitation to efficiency as a strategy for time management. And it’s evidenced by the fact that we all carry around miniatures computers in our pockets and somehow we are still never caught up.
A very beautiful concept of time management was introduced by the late author and educator Stephen Covey. And that called Time Management Matrix where the x-axis is urgency and the y-axis is importance. And the beauty about this is it gave us a system for scoring our tasks and then based on how they scored in these areas, we could prioritise our tasks one in front of the other.
Prioritising is all about focusing first on what matters the most. And for years this concept has been the pervasive mode of thinking as it relates to modern time management principles. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with prioritising, in fact prioritising is a valuable skill today as it ever has been in history.
Even though we through that word around like it’s the end-all and be-all of time management theory, but in reality, it’s not really the case. Because there is actually a massive limitation to prioritising that nobody ever talks about. And that is there’s nothing about prioritising that creates more time. It doesn’t do anything inherently to create more time. And it does nothing to help you accomplish the other items on your to-do lists.
If you think about efficiency, it is kind of like running on a hamster wheel and if you think about prioritising, it’s really about borrowing time from one activity to spend on another. And in that paradigm there are only two strategies:
- To do things faster
- To do more things.
You cannot solve today’s time management problems with yesterday’s time management thinking.
Nowadays, most people make decisions based on urgency and importance but we need to add another factor to this thinking and that is ‘significance’. And if urgency is how soon something does matter, an importance is how much does it matter, then ‘significance’ is how long it is going to matter. And it’s a completely different paradigm.
There’s a huge difference in waiting to do something that we know we should be doing that we don’t feel like doing versus waiting to do something because we’re deciding that now is not the right time. Waiting to do something we know we should do, but don’t feel like doing is called procrastination‘ the killer of all successes.
But waiting to do something because we are deciding intentionally that now it’s not the right time, that isn’t procrastination that’s virtue and it’s a skill that the world needs or in other words it can also be called ‘patience’, the patience to put off insignificant things. You multiply by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today that can create more time for tomorrow.