Is managing your time rather like grabbing the tiger by the tail? Does there never seem to be enough time to get it all done? Do you miss deadlines, feel pressured, or just plain do not know if you are using your time in the best way?
I looked for research on this question – how people feel about how they use their time – and I did not find any. There is a ton of literature out there on how to best use your time, manage your time and manage your energy.
Despite not finding a study on this I can tell you from hundreds of conversations I’ve had with people in all walks of life that time management is a problem for many people. Most of us have a lot of obligations: a job, a family, friends, social responsibilities, taking care of a home… the list just goes on. Some people feel absolutely buried in tasks and duties and have no idea how to fit it all in.
The truth for many if not most people is that you cannot fit it all in if you try to. That is what many of us do. We try to do it all. We try to be everything to everyone in our lives: parent, mentor, helper, spouse, employee, leader, active in our community, and so on. If we are lucky we may find a bit of time to squeeze in some exercise and healthy eating. Some even get enough sleep.
The average person I talk with does not feel they can fit it all in. Unfortunately what they often sacrifice are important things like their health.
The bottom line is that most of us cannot fit in everything that everyone else in our life wants us to do and everything we want to do along with everything we believe we “have” to do. This inability to get it all done creates stress and unhappiness.
The solution to this is to prioritize. People often shrink from that word. They do not want to confront everything they have to do or want to do and make hard decisions about what to say yes to and what to say no to. Yet the only sane way to manage your time and your work is to prioritize.
A couple months ago I saw that the local theater group was seeking people to try out for a play. It was a play (The Odd Couple) that I acted in during high school. I had a blast doing that play and I thought how fun it would be to do it again 42 years later.
I spent about 6 hours doing try-outs for the play. Then we were told that the “call backs” would be posted on the theater door the next day.
I walked over to the theater during my lunch break with real mixed feelings. I did want to be in the play and I knew I’d enjoy it. I also knew it would require evening rehearsals from 6:30 PM to 10:00 PM four days a week for eight weeks followed by four weeks of performances. I knew it would be exhausting. And I knew that there were not enough things in my life that I could let go of or wanted to let go of to do this. I wished very much that my name would not be on that list.
I walked up to the door and my name was not on the list. At first it was disappointing. But soon it was mostly a feeling of great relief. I’d jumped into this project without adequately looking at my priorities and determining if this was what I really had time for and really wanted to do right now.
This experience was a great reminder for me to remain mindful at all times of my goals and my priorities and to organize my time in accordance. It means saying no to things I might like to do, and might one day do when I have time, such as be in a play. It means saying no to the many things others ask of us.
It is hard to do this. It is hard to say no to our own desires and to others. But it is essential if we want to manage our time and our energy and avoid undue stress. If we want to do the important things in our life and do them well there is not time to do a lot of additional things.
Taking on this major new project, being in a play, was truly grabbing the tiger’s tail. And we can well imagine what will happen if we do grab a tiger by the tail – and it will not be pretty.
We need to set limits on what we obligation ourselves to and what we ask of ourselves. Let’s get the important things done first. If there is time left over to do new things that is great, but make sure you have the time and the energy before taking something new on, whether it is something you think you want to do or something someone else wants you to do.
Learn how to manage your time to achieve more of what you want to do in my book, Effective Time Management. Get free lessons on how to use your time more effectively with my Effective Time Management Lessons.Wishing you well,
Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.