We are obsessed with time management. We spend a great deal of time and effort seeking out strategies, apps and tools that promise to help us squeeze in more work in seemingly fewer hours. Although some systems and tools deliver a benefit, they are perpetuating several time management myths. We need to unpack these myths and start doing what works.
The relationship between time management and performance is relatively weak. Performance is about much more than time. We’ve all heard the old adage, “work smarter, not harder.” This is good advice for time management enthusiasts. It’s not about how much work you can get done—it’s about how much your work positively influences others. We need to reframe time management to be about focusing on quality, not quantity.
Most time management tips entail techniques for managing our task lists and calendars. This has a relatively small influence on our time management success. The best way to maintain performance with less stress is by focusing on “filtering.” No matter how amazing your time management system, if you let too many things in on the front end, you’ll never have enough time to get everything done on the back end.
It’s time to get better at saying no and stop doing things. When approached by others with a new project, always ask for details. Never commit to something unless you have an understanding of the big picture, your role, and how much time it will take. We have a tendency to get involved in projects where we don’t add substantial value or to end up stuck in projects that develop into long term commitments.
I regularly see stories about how very successful people maximise their time by refusing to go to meetings.
Instead of following this extreme action, just be purposeful and strategic about meetings. For example, plan your calendar whenever possible so that your meetings are back to back. This will ensure that you aren’t jumping back and forth between manager mode (making decisions with others) and maker mode (creating something individually), which drains our energy and breaks up our focus during deep thinking tasks.
Another idea is to block out your schedule with a “self meeting” to work on your deep thinking tasks. You have the right to do your deep thinking tasks during work hours, not outside.
"We spend a great deal of time and effort seeking out strategies, apps and tools that promise to help us squeeze in more work in seemingly fewer hours."