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The Keys to Time Management (Part 1): Foundations

Over the last 15+ years in my business, I have talked thousands of professionals from all around the globe who share this most common complaint:

Unmet Potential. 

Does that sound like you, Lynne?

No matter what, in particular, they’re looking to improve or achieve in working with me, almost every single potential client talks about feeling like they’re not performing at the level of their abilities consistently.

And it can be a gut-wrenching way to go through life! (I know, because I’ve been there myself.)

If you’re working hard and trying hard, but you still feel that you’re capable of achieving much more than you are consistently, please know that you’re not alone, and that you can learn to turn that around!

There’s nothing wrong with you or your work ethic. You just haven’t learned how to do things in ways that work for you.

And that includes learning how to manage your time in ways that help you get the things that matter done more easily (the “right things”), while freeing up time and energy for what matters most to you.

That’s why I’m sharing with you this five-part series on effective time management.

In this first post, you’ll learn what comprises effective Time Management, and where to start to make improvements that actually last.  The most common complaints I hear from people coming to my coaching practice are about time management. If you, or someone in your life, struggles to manage time effectively, you need to understand what goes into what most of us refer to as “Time Management,” and what you can do to improve it!

For starters, it’s crucial that you understand that…

Time Management Isn’t just about Time!

I often say that my job is to help my clients learn to use their three most precious resources in the most effective and efficient way.

Your 3 Most Precious Resources are:

  1. Your Time,
  2. Your Energy, and
  3. Your Focus (or “bandwidth”).

Those resources are intertwined! If you’re squandering any one of those resources, you’re definitely not living up to your potential, and you’re likely struggling and feeling unfulfilled.

Improving your time management is really about improving your resource allocation. It’s not about doing more. It’s about Getting the Right Things Done more easily and more efficiently, so that you have more of those three precious resources for the things that matter most to you! When you do that,

You have Freedom! 

That’s the whole point of the work I do. It’s about creating Freedom and Fulfillment for my clients. Not crossing as much stuff off some list as humanly possible each day. I can’t say that enough!

So, instead of solely focusing on how you’re using your time, make sure you’re working to improve how you’re managing those other resources as well!

Next, let’s take a look at how we define “Time-Management”:

Time Management Defined

First, it’s important to understand that “Time Management” isn’t a single skill or even a single set of skills, but a complex and interwoven set of skills, tools, systems and behaviors.

There are lots of different aspects of our lives, and different activities that come into play with how well we manage our time, including:

  • How well we plan our time (and execute what we plan).
  • How well we estimate and judge the passage of time.
  • How much we manage our focus (distractions).
  • How well we manage our calendars.
  • How well we manage our tasks and the things we need to do.
  • How well we organize information and the “stuff” in our lives—physically and cognitively.
  • and more.

What it takes for an individual to be good at “Time Management” can be more like a tangled mess of spaghetti than any self-help book might imply! Especially if you have a “busy brain” like my clients and I do.

And to find solutions that will last, we need to start untangling!

I often say, “In order for a solution to be effective, it has to address the root problem!

If you’re simply trying to throw the latest time-management hack, trick or system du jour at your struggles, the odds are really minimal that those things will actually solve your problems for the long haul.

And that’s especially true when I comes to making the most of your days!

To begin untangling time-management, I help my clients look at it through a different lens using a helpful framework I created. It’s what I call…

The Pillars of Productivity©

Looking at your productivity and time-management through framework of the Pillars of Productivity© helps you narrow your efforts and your focus so that you can make changes that last.

There are 5 essential elements of effective productivity and time-management to master your productivity and time. These Pillars of Productivity© are the foundation of the systems, tools and strategies that I personalize with private clients and in my Unleashed!© time-management mentoring program.

These 5 Pillars of Productivity© include:

  1. Your Calendar
  2. Your Task Management
  3. Your Planning
  4. Your Routines/Habits/Structure
  5. Your Perspective.

It’s essential that all the pillars are set up to work for you, based on your unique strengths, tendencies and your actual life. Building your systems, tools and strategies on a foundation of your unique strengths is what makes them easy to implement and maintain for the long haul. Your Pillars of Productivity© don’t just need to take these things into consideration, they need to be built around things like: how you process information, how you organize things naturally, how your energy and focus ebbs and flows throughout each day, and even built around those things you think of as idiosyncrasies and quirks to how you work. Those are all natural strengths you need to build upon if you want to create the scaffolding that will truly support you in performing at the level of your potential more easily and consistently!

When these pillars are solid and set up to work for you, you can be efficient and effective, and proactive, instead of reactive. When your pillars are not solid and sufficiently support you, you are living in reactive mode, and our days are directed by the things that come up, the fires that we need to put out, or what pops into our minds or our inboxes, and we’re taking care of the little things all day long. And, when you live in reactive mode, rather than proactive mode, it’s very hard to do better than keeping your head above water.

When people operate this way, they get behind and they stay behind, they’re overwhelmed and they’re unfulfilled.

I’ll briefly explain each pillar.

Your Calendar

Having a solid calendar system and the corresponding behaviors needed to make it effective for you, is essential to being able to take control of your time and your productivity. It’s one of those crucial tools for externalizing your Executive Function challenges with organization and time. I’ll explore this pillar more in a later part of the series.

Your Task Management

Task Management is simply how you handle, or what you do with all the things you need, want, or could do. This goes for those one-time things that come up as well as your long-term projects and goals and your ideas and things you might like to explore some day down the road. Task Management is complex, but you have to have a solid system in place to manage all of this so that you can free up your brain for its more important work.

I think of your calendar and your task management system as the yin and yang of productivity. If you’re not managing your calendar effectively and managing your to-dos effectively, you’re winging it every day, and you’re probably dropping important things left and right. You’re putting out fires, you’re reacting, and you’re guaranteed to struggle with follow-through, and you’re guaranteed to be under-performing. They need to come together for the next pillar…

Planning

I can almost hear you groan as you read that word! I get it. Most of my clients overcomplicate planning.

Planning is simply giving yourself direction for your days. Planning gives you clarity of focus and clarity of action so that you can be proactive, and get the right things done more easily and more consistently.

The most effective and productive people around you always have a plan for their day, so they have clarity of focus and action right out of the gate. When you have a plan, you have less stress, and less fatigue at the beginning and at the end of the day. If you’re not planning, you’re winging it. And no really successful person wings it all day long!

Routines/Habits/Structure

This pillar also tends to elicit groans from my clients at first! I often call this pillar “Personal Automations”, and it’s all about making your life easier, and having less to manage in the other pillars. Having a rhythm to your life, having routines and habits for when and how you do things that happen repeatedly, gets all of that stuff out of your head AND your systems. You don’t have to plan it, and it’s not cluttering up your calendar or your task management system.

Your Perspective

Your perspective is your mindset, your beliefs, and your perception of time, your to-dos, and yourself. Most of my clients have quite a bit of work on this “between-the-ears” stuff to really make a difference in their ability to show up as they intend and perform at the level of their abilities more consistently. 

Your perspective, like all of the Pillars of Productivity©, is something you can learn to improve in practical, actionable ways that work for you!

And that brings me to brings me to the practical part of all this! (And I’m all about practical! Education is important, but we need practical application to turn that into change!)

Strategies

The first place to start to improve your time management is by improving your awareness of where your pillars are supporting you, and where they’re not, so that you can focus your efforts and stop throwing the proverbial productivity “spaghetti” against the wall to see what sticks! When you shift to a more focused, intentional approach to making changes, it will be easier and faster for you to see results, and learn what works for you.

First, you have to learn to Notice & Pause. When you find yourself at odds with time and productivity, instead of beating yourself up, hit the pause button for just a second. When you’re late, lose track of time, under or over-estimate time, or struggle with to follow-through in some way, take just a second to pause so that  you can …

Answer the following questions for yourself:
  • What went wrong this time, specifically? Did you forget something you needed to do? Did you start the day without clear direction and let your inbox drive your day? Did you lose track of time? Did you get “surprised” by a meeting or commitment that you didn’t plan well for? It’s essential to identify the root problems so that you can start to find the solutions that work!
  • Was there something I could have done differently that would have had a better outcome? (Look for a cue you missed, something you did or didn’t do, a split-second choice you made that sent you in the wrong direction, etc.)
  • Which of the Pillars of Productivity© could help prevent this in the future? 

Once you start to look at what you need to improve through the lens of the Pillars, you can focus your efforts in more concrete and beneficial ways.

Next time, we’ll talk about effective ways to combat typical Time Blindness and improve your sense of time.

Hint:  it does NOT involve setting your clocks ahead!  (After all, you know you are smart enough to do the math!)

And if you want help customizing your own Pillars of Productivity© to work for you and support you in fulfilling your potential, scroll down to check out my 90-day time-management mentoring small-group program.

Until next time…

Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity & ADHD Coach

P.S. The path to your success is not in another planner. The solution to your struggles is not in another app, or even another system. Because those things are Not Made For YOU! They’re made for someone with different strengths, different tendencies and different ways of processing. You need to Custom-Fit Your Systems, tools and strategies to You and how you process, organize and do things most naturally! So, if you’re ready to Unleash Your Potential and Achieve More in Less Time, check out my upcoming 90-Day Small Group Time-Management and Productivity Mentoring Program for professionals, called Unleashed! at www.UnleashedPotential.group. Stop Struggling, and Start Succeeding! 

 

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