Many managers that I coach struggle to prioritise their work, battle to finish tasks and find time to think. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to do everyday things like shopping, cooking, and cleaning! Not to mention the lure of my mobile as it buzzes to announce yet another text or my laptop telling me another email has arrived. It doesn’t matter if you are at work or at home or out shopping, how to manage your time is a critical skill in a world where weapons of mass distraction constantly seek your attention.

‘I don’t seem to have enough time in the day’, ‘I haven’t got time to do that’ and ‘I’m feeling overwhelmed’ are the sort of what is in your controlstatements that seem to bring knowing sighs from some and a look of bewilderment from others. In the end, it depends on how we view life, whether we want to control it better or whether we like the surprise and variety that it constantly brings, and what we’re good at and not so good at.

Whatever your outlook and personality, if you want to tackle the challenge of how to manage your time here are some common starting points whatever your circumstances.

What is your approach to time?

What is your approach to time? Is it a need for control or are you the laid-back type? Why do you want to manage your time? What do you want to achieve? What will you do with the time you save?

Take Lisa. She likes to make to-do lists, plans meticulously and rushes around frenetically (usually to meet the needs of others) ticking things off as she goes. However, she struggles when things don’t go according to plan. she would really like some downtime for herself or to relax doing her favourite things which then helps her to re-energise.

What do you want to change?

What is happening at the moment that you want to change? Where is your time going? What are the real ‘timewasters’? Is it something you are doing or someone else is doing? What did you do yesterday? What is likely to happen this week?

Lisa wrote down her answers to the above and concluded that the cost of trying to meet all these demands (some self-imposed, some by others) was too great for her wellbeing and effectiveness.

What can you do about it?

What is within your control (and what is not)? How can you prioritise? What is really important to you?  Who can help?

Lisa realised that she wasn’t differentiating between what was urgent and important in her daily life. These were the things that led her to feel out of control. She made a list of the things that were:

  • urgent and important (those things that she would turn her attention to first)
  • the urgent but not important tasks (the interruptions and distractions that are important to someone else)
  • the not urgent and not important tasks (the trivial timewasters)
  • the not urgent but important tasks (where she would get the most value and address things in a measured way before they became urgent)

Take action

Specifically, what will you fully commit to doing that is different and by when? Will you commit to time leadership rather than time management?

Lisa identified where she could save an hour each day. She set herself a deadline of the following week to have made her own needs understood to three key people in her life. Then she booked that evening class she really wanted to do.

Sometimes it needs someone else to ask the right questions at the right time to make the difference between doing something or not. That’s where a coaching conversation comes in. Finally, the keys are to know what you want and why and then take a step at a time (however small) towards achieving it.

I hope that this article, in a non-judgemental way, stimulates you to think for yourself and encourages you to tackle that nagging issue so you can concentrate on doing the things that you really enjoy.

Let me know how you get on.