Can Time Be Managed?
I have historically had a love/hate relationship with time. There never seemed to be enough of it, for starters. Typically, I rushed. I drove fast. Often I arrived late. I juggled lots of high-profile responsibilities, and I loved taking on even more exciting new opportunities at every turn. In brief, I was extremely busy. Although I kept a careful calendar and a detailed to-do list, I am embarrassed to count how many times I dropped the ball, missed an important meeting, or cancelled on a friend because I couldn’t do it all.
Still, I was able to focus and get more done in 24 hours than almost anyone I knew. Deadlines were my drug of choice, and I learned early how to plan a strategy and make the impossible happen without breaking a sweat. I expected the same from my team, and it felt as though every second, every minute, every hour and every day was about how much money we could exchange for our time. The more we got done, and more productive we were, the more money we made, and more successful we were.
That’s the compelling lie of our time.
What’s Your Time Really Worth?
Time is a non-renewable resource. The average human spends roughly 79 years or 28,835 days on Earth. So, there are an average of 692,040 hours in a lifetime. Sure, you might get a few more good days than the rest of us. And you might get less. Either way, you won’t get a single hour, minute or second back once you have spent it.
Whether I get paid $3, $30, $300 or $3000 for an hour of my time is a variable I have control over. It is absolutely unrelated to how much time I spend, and entirely dependent on the value I create. What if I slowed down, and created 10X the value of an hour I used to charge $50 for, and started charging $5000? Then I wouldn’t need to work as many hours to achieve the same result. (NOTE: It is important to take the time to understand what truly creates 10X the value before you 10X your price tag. I am speaking about real solutions, not false promises for a fast buck.)
Bottom line, you can always create more money, by investing it, enhancing your value, or bringing new, innovative ideas to the world. You cannot create more time.
Don’t Manage Time. Manage Your Mindset.
There are countless time management tools, from the Eisenhower Matrix (grab your free matrix download here):
to the Pomodoro Technique – and many others I will cover in my Time Management Course in Unstoppable U. These are great if you are just looking for a way to block your time, streamline your productivity, and understand where you might be misallocating it. However, all of these tools share a big limitation: they do very little to address any mindset issue around your relationship to time.
Just like with money, too many of us live in a time scarcity mindset. We think some or all of the following thoughts:
Time is money, so I just have to work faster, and do more
There’s never enough time to do the things I really need and want to do
I’m constantly find myself procrastinating
All the things to do are just too overwhelming
I’m late because I’m overbooked
I just can’t seem to get it all done
Who has time to work out/go on vacation/see the doctor?
If any of these thoughts seem familiar, don’t worry. Not only are you not alone, our society nods its collective head knowingly, and says, “That’s just how things are.” In fact, we get a lot of positive affirmations for our overworking and overbooking ourselves. As a result, we tend to think we are doing something wrong if we work harder and faster, and don’t see the results we were promised.
We are stuck in a time-impoverished quick sand, and if this is you, no time management technique will solve it. But don’t give up. The answer is to shift from time scarcity mindset into a time affluent mindset. What follows is excerpted from the book Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life.
Time Affluency Habits
The following are proven strategies to help you lead a time-affluent life.
Vary your activities. The impact of time-smart choices will decline over time if you engage in the same time-affluent activities repeatedly. When planning time-affluent activities, try different activities over a period of days or weeks.
Say no. Set default responses to certain kinds of requests that you receive and that frequently cause you time stress. Practice saying “no” to requests that you do not think you have time for. Try to say “yes” to requests for conversations but “no” to requests for actions or taking on additional work.
Ask for more time. Many requests do not have hard deadlines. If you think that having more time would improve the quality of your work, ask for it. If you need a vacation, or are feeling overwhelmed, tell your boss.
Remind yourself of the opportunity costs. Whenever we say “yes” to something (travel, work projects), we say “no” to other things—spending time with friends, kids’ soccer games, helping our parents. Before saying “yes,” calculate not only the time costs but also the opportunity costs to help you decide whether the choice (e.g., additional work travel) is really worth it.
Ask yourself the “big why.” When making major life decisions, ask yourself what you value. What is your purpose, and why does prioritizing time matter to you? Put a physical reminder of your “big why” somewhere where you can see it. This will prompt you to think before making any decision in the moment and to ask yourself whether it aligns with your overall goals and purpose in life—whether it aligns with what truly matters.
That’s the secret about time: When we know what we value, where our priorities truly lie, and lean into our sense of meaning and purpose, the voice of society that demands we hustle ourselves into overwhelm falls silent. We step into flow. Time isn't managed. We become partners with it instead.