The stay-at-home mom, the aerobics instructor, and the CEO of Nike all have one huge thing in common: Just like you, they all get 1,440 minutes each day to get things done.
That’s why “time management” is a myth. You can’t manage time. It comes in a set amount every single day. What you can manage is the choices you make about what you’ll do with the time allotted to you. You manage your own actions. That’s it.
Take the teachings of all the time management gurus you can find — Covey, Morgenstern, Tracy — all of them, and you’ll find the core concepts all boil down to three main points.
Since you only have so much time to read books, then, we’re going to cover those three elements right here, right now, and in a hurry.
Are you ready?
3 Essential Take-Aways From Time Management
1. Do what’s most important: Stephen Covey calls it “putting the big rocks in first.” It’s easy to spend more time each day checking email and browsing Facebook than speaking face-to-face with your loved ones.
It’s easy to say “I don’t have time” when it comes to regular workouts, then waste hours following the news or getting caught up in time-draining conversations with people who have little of value to say and drag you down emotionally.
List the most important things you could invest your time in today … then DO THOSE THINGS. Avoid allowing the little nit-picky things to outweigh the things most valuable to you.
ACTION: Carry a notepad on a typical day and jot down how long you’re spending at what. You may not think you’re majoring in the minors, but the notepad will almost certainly reveal blocks of time you spend aimlessly.
2. Stop running from crisis to crisis: When everything is urgent, few things are really important. Most emergencies are the result of someone else’s failure to plan and execute.
Whether at work or home, don’t allow others to sabotage your schedule. Once they see you’re not going to willingly pick up their slack on demand, they’ll either find another patsy or they’ll learn what it’s like to be responsible.
Of course, crises don’t always come from others. Some of us are absolute geniuses at creating our own.
ACTION: Check your notepad from Step #1 (above). How much of your time was invested in crisis management?
3. Live in the present moment: Before you say “Yes” to the next crisis, yield to the urge to read the news headlines (for the twelfth time today), or check your email just to see if there’s something “important” there, do something earth-shattering: stop and breathe.
Check in to yourself now and then, and you may find you’re constantly running way ahead of where you are.
- Maybe you’re speaking with one of your children while thinking about what you need to get at the supermarket
- Maybe you’re trying to focus on your work, while your head is dwelling on the idiot who cut you off in traffic on the way to work
- Maybe you know you should get to the gym to build up your energy reserves, but you’re too darned tired from running in the rat race to get off the sofa
Unless you develop the habit of stopping to check in on yourself, you’ll remain oblivious to where you really are. I know, the whole idea sounds like a zen koan, but I’m not pushing any certain practice here. However you pull it off, the main thing is that you get in the habit of breathing consciously — especially before responding to demands on your time or making decisions about what you’re going to do next.
Teach Your Children This and You’ve Taught Them Something of Great Value
Do your kids look at you and shake their heads? Do they plead with you to spend more time with them? Are they making excellent decisions about how to manage their own time? When you learn to prioritize your own actions, they’ll pick up on what you’re doing (versus what you’ve been saying), and they’ll start making changes in their own lives.
The surest way to guide your family is to lead by example. Now that you know the three essentials of time and life management, you don’t have to read a stack of books. Learn the three principles, then apply them daily. They will serve you well.
If you want to go further, check the The DEEP. It’ll give you some special tools to help on the way. Come on down to the gym, let’s talk about it.