Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.
Time Management Won’t Help You
For a long time I worked hard to manage my time well. To plan my schedule, to allocate time to various tasks, to minimise distractions, that kind of thing. I read books on time management, heard successful people speak about it and it’s importance and value. But something always seemed off. There was something that never quite sat right.
And it was only a few weeks ago that I figured it out. And it has absolutely revolutionised the way I think about and approach my week. And it will do the same for you.
Time Management is a mirage.
Now a lot of the ideas and skills I learnt in pursuing time management were good and helpful skills. Planning my schedule is a good thing to do. Minimising distractions is a good thing, I’m glad I do it. They’ve certainly been helpful and I can see why people write books and speak about these disciplines. They’re good disciplines. They’re just not time management.
Here’s the two realisations I’ve come to that have revolutionised the way I conceptualise and plan my work:
1) You can’t manage time.
You can’t make time go faster. You can’t make it go slower. You can’t make it more efficient. You can’t help it to increase the amount of time it outputs per minute. Time doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t listen to you. And it will not be managed by you. Time will just continue to do what it does whether you want it to or not and whether you manage it or not.
What’s normally referred to as time management is just self-management. You’re not doing anything to time or making any changes or improvements to it. What you’re doing is managing yourself and what you do within time and how focussed you are with the time you have.
But even that realisation wasn’t enough. Because thinking purely in terms of time and minutes and planning and distractions is still misleading. So if time management is actually self-management, the question is still, what specifically about myself am I managing? What should I be thinking about and utilising? Which leads to my second realisation:
2) You manage energy.
You know how sometimes you block out 2 hours to work on a project and at the end of those two hours you’ve hardly achieved anything and your mind was just wandering all over the place or just felt like mush, thoughts just weren’t coming? And then at other times you’ll have a block of half and hour where you are just ultra-productive, thoughts are flowing, decisions are easy and obvious and you’re laser-focussed? It’s because time has very little to do with it.
Sometimes you’ll achieve twice as much in a quarter of the time. Why? If it was purely about time spent then it wouldn’t work that way. But it does work that way. That’s because it’s about energy.
You need to think about your day in terms of packets of energy. It will take a bit of trial and error to work it out, but you need to work out how many packets of energy you possess each day. Maybe it’s 5. Maybe it’s 7. People are different. But once you work it out then you need to think carefully about how you’ll assign that energy on a given day. Do you want to assign all your energy to work, so that you have nothing left for yourself or for your spouse and family? You know how sometimes you finished work and you come home and you just have nothing left to give to you family? You’re with them but you’re not present because you used up all your energy for work? That’s probably not a good way to manage your energy, and certainly not long term.
There are some activities I do that don’t take up much time but take up heaps of energy. Leading a funeral is one of them. They don’t go for very long, but they take up a big chunk of my energy. And so I need to manage my energy use carefully the rest of that day.
This has revolutionised the way I think and plan my weeks.
Time management won’t help you. Manage your energy.