Reaching for the clock

I’m frequently asked by clients to show them ways they can manage their time more effectively.

Usually I respond, “Sorry, but I can’t help you with that.” They have either a puzzled or disappointed look on their faces.

This happened just yesterday in a coaching session. The client asked if I had any “tips or strategies for managing my time more efficiently.” I told him he couldn’t really manage time.

I continued, “But, you can make better decisions about how you spend your time.” As usual, that got his attention and we chatted for several more minutes on this topic.

Would you agree there are a large number of “time management systems” available today? Some of the more popular include:

  • The FranklinCovey Planner
  • DayTimer Planners and Calendars
  • DayMinder Planners and Calendars
  • At-A-Glance Planners and Calendars
  • The 12 Week Year System
  • Time Management for Dummies

There are most likely dozens more. What this tells me is that the perfect time management system that works for all people DOES NOT EXIST. If it did, wouldn’t everyone naturally gravitate towards it?

I believe the reason there is no single accepted system is this: any time management system will work if one has the core discipline to relentlessly follow it.

Think about it. If your day goes to pot and you finish the day frustrated you didn’t get anything important done, is it the fault of the time management system you are using? Of course not, it is a discipline problem. You actually said “yes” to things that weren’t in your plan, and you didn’t have the self-control or discipline to say “no” instead.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this happens to me more than I’d like to admit and I know full well it is matter of discipline. I do allow distractions and interruptions to impact my day more often than I’d like. In fact, in the middle of typing this sentence, I was interrupted by a text message, made a phone call to follow up on it and sent another text message to a third party! All that probably took 8-10 minutes.

The conclusion is that ANY system will work if you have the foundational discipline first. The system can’t teach or provide the discipline, just like a cookbook can’t prepare a good meal – it can only tell you how to combine and cook the necessary ingredients.

Here are a few key disciplines I have actually found helpful – if only I would consistently practice them:

  • Let your goals drive your actions – don’t spend time on any task or conversation unless it can be tied directly to one of your goals.
  • If you have more than 10 priorities, you don’t really have any priorities at all.
  • Spend 30 minutes at the beginning of the week to plan the week out, taking into account your longer term monthly, quarterly and yearly goals. Take 5 minutes each day to make adjustments.
  • Never start the day until it’s finished on paper – thanks to Jim Rohn.
  • End each workday by identifying the 3-5 things you must accomplish the next day and write them down. This process engages the powerful subconscious mind to work on developing ideas about or solutions to those things overnight.

I’d be interested in any tips or hacks you have found helpful in increasing your time usage discipline.

Best regards,