I’ve been a time management coach for over 10 years. What that means is that I have coached many, many individuals in three- to six-month programs through the process of figuring out which time management strategies work for them, putting them into practice, and learning skills to get and stay on track.
During that time period, I’ve talked to people around the world about their time management issues, perceptions, and concerns. Through those discussions, I’ve found that there are pervasive lies about time management. These lies make me mad. I don’t want you to feel like a failure simply because of bad information. Here are five things you’ve been told about time management that simply aren’t true and what you actually need to know to be successful in your time management.
Lie 1: If you were better at time management, you could do it all
There’s a misconception that if only you could manage your time better, you could do everything: have a skyrocketing career, run marathons, raise five kids, and learn Chinese without breaking a sweat. And maybe some people can. But often, I find that the first step to getting a better overall life is not to try to manage everything. Instead you want to step back and very carefully evaluate your commitments. The answer to managing your time better is often admitting you can’t do it all and then making necessary cuts.
Lie 2: There’s one perfect system
In time management, you can find universal concepts and strategies that help almost everyone. However, it’s simply not true that there’s one perfect system that works for all people. In my experience, I’ve found that individuals need to develop a system that meets their needs and personality. It’s the only way that it will be sustainable.
For example, some people thrive on digital tools while others do better with pen and paper. Some people prefer list-based planning and others will do better working from their calendars. Some people work best in the morning, and others are more productive later in the day. If a system doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re flawed. It usually means you need to adapt the system.
Lie 3: You can learn time management in a day—or even an hour
Change takes time. Time management change in particular can take quite a bit of time because it requires individuals to modify years—and sometimes a lifetime—of programming. When I work with individuals, they’re transforming how they think about time, how they set boundaries, how they make decisions, how they focus, how they plan, and much more.
You may be able to hear some time management concepts in an hour or a day, but in my experience, to actually internalize them, you need to actively practice this new way of being for at least three months.
Lie 4: You can be tightly scheduled 24/7
I’m a huge advocate of planning and having intention for your days. I plan my days and my weeks. I encourage my coaching clients to do the same. For many of them, picking up that habit is life-changing. However, I don’t believe that it’s sustainable to be tightly scheduled 24/7.
What I mean by being “tightly scheduled” is not giving yourself any room in your work schedule for a break whether it’s to go to the bathroom, eat, briefly chat with a coworker, or simply take a breather. Or in the evening, never having the chance to chat, think about your day, get your life in order—like putting away the dishes or folding your laundry—and simply to chill.
As humans, we need to rest and recharge. When we fail to give ourselves “permission” to rest, we tend to take it anyway, but in an unsatisfying fashion. I think much time spent on social media or mindlessly wandering the internet stems from feeling like you never had a real break. If you gave yourself permission to do activities you actually wanted to do, you wouldn’t feel the need to escape.
Lie 5: You’re hopeless
If you’re not naturally strong in time management, it doesn’t mean that you’re stupid or incapable. It’s just not your natural strength. The good news is that time management is a skill that can be developed.
When you learn what works for you and then repeatedly practice that technique, your neural connections in that pattern of behavior become stronger. You can develop the ability to have good time management no matter what your age or past experience. There is always hope. When you know the truth, it can set you free.