I’m going to come right out and say it, I struggle immensely with time management. I’m terrible at making sure that I have enough time in a day to do everything I want to do and even worse at prioritising my day.
This manifests itself in a few ways.
Sometimes I just end up getting lost working on the wrong stuff. I know there are a few things I have to do, but they tend to get put on the back burner while I do something else that comes along. Unlike a lot of people, for me it’s not gravitating towards the fun stuff, it’s usually almost the opposite, I find myself getting stuck into big gnarly tasks and forget to knock over the easy things that I just need to get done.
Worse than that though is that I have a tendency to overestimate the speed or efficiency with which I’ll do things and fall way behind schedule. Then I’ll just start working harder and longer to make up for it which always ends up with me being burnt out.
The last way this time management issue presents itself is related to the last point around overestimating how quickly I’ll do some task and that’s procrastination. In my mind I think I’ll breeze through whatever it is I need doing so then there’s no rush. Of course, this inevitably leads to things backing up and more stress as I have to overcome that work logjam.
At this point, some of you are probably reading this and thinking, “Oh man, I have a solution for you!” Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve read books, watched videos and gone to seminars about time management. I know just about every technique imaginable and yet I still struggle with it.
The answer is pretty easy and if you’re reading this knowing that you’re in the same boat, then you know the answer too… The problem is not with our systems (or lack thereof) or even that you’re lazy, the reality is, the problem is all in your head.
There is some mental block somewhere that’s allowing you to sabotage yourself. I know that’s the case for me certainly and I’m trying to figure it out.
Let me be clear, I get an absolute ton of work done. I have an incredible engine when it comes to smashing through tasks and activities. Most people who know me will often ask how it’s possible I do as much work as I do.
So I’m not lazy and if you’re struggling with this, you’re probably not either.
The problem for me is that I waste a lot of time on things that probably aren’t moving the needle when it comes to my goals. I explore and work on things that are at best peripheral initiatives rather than stepping through the immediate wins I could be having.
Part of it is also I don’t like doing the easy stuff. I like a challenge so I naturally gravitate towards more complex things that make me use my brain. Unfortunately, those things are often not really relevant for what I’m trying to do in the bigger picture.
That’s all well and good to know there’s a problem but the secret is in fixing it.
I started the journey on getting this sorted about a year ago. I tried a number of little things to help me out and most of them failed.
For example, the “Self Journal” is something that a number of people I know use, but when I tried it, I hated it. I like the analogue nature of it, hated all of the emotional garbage associated with their methods.
I also used a number of apps, tools and systems – chucked them all in the bin. I found them too intrusive or just useless in general.
I realised that I needed to create better habits for myself. I think people are simple creatures and if we can train ourselves to get into habits, then we become more likely to follow a program. Obviously, these daily emails are the most glaring example – I’ve done this for about 180 days now consecutively. These emails move the needle for me a little bit every day.
The next phase of my journey is going to break down my weeks a bit better. I’m going to start giving myself smaller, more tangible goals for each day of the week when it comes to the business. I’m going to write them down and cross them off as I do them. When I’m done, then I’m finished work for the day – no looking for extra credit by doing more, just get the work I need to do done each day and then move on.
That last part is really important for me because when I get on a roll, I can really steam into the work. The problem with that is when you’re working full-time, running the business and working on projects, you burn out. If I blast through a twelve hour day working on stuff in the business on Saturday, then Sunday is a write off for me and I struggle for the early part of the week to get back into the flow.
Interestingly, I always succeed when I do less, spend less time working and force myself to be more productive on fewer things in shorter periods of time. That’s the mental barrier that I have to break through. I find working on stuff fun, so I get lost in it. I have to be more rigid in my delivery of the things I have to do and more disciplined about pushing away from the desk when I’m done.
I’m sure many of you suffer from the same problem. You’re not lazy, you do a ton of stuff, but sometimes, you sit back and realise that you’re not sure where you just spent the last six hours because nothing you needed to do got done.
In that case, then I suggest that you join me on the journey of doing less. Just cut out the unnecessary stuff and force yourself to only work on the things that you need to get done to move things forward.
Small incremental steps are our friend.