Struggling with Time Management is a universal complaint among the individuals who come to my coaching practice for help. And, honestly, it’s one of my favorite things to work on with a client because the results of the work we do can be a really dramatic, tangible improvement in their performance and their quality of life. And watching my clients flourish really is my favorite part of my work!
Last time, I gave you some Time Management Foundations, and some simple strategies to help you get started. (If you missed the first part of the Keys to Time Management series, you can view it by clicking here.
And If you’re like many of my clients, and you struggle with the perception of time, this second article in my Keys to Time Management series is for you!
No discussion of time management would be very worthwhile without helping you address
Many of my clients (and I) struggle with a wonky sense of time that we refer to at Time Blindness. We have difficulty judging the flow of time (what time it is at any given moment and how much time has passed), as well as remembering how long tasks have taken in the past and estimating how long tasks might take in the future.
Obviously, trouble perceiving time can significantly impact how we manage our time! (I almost feel like I should say, “Duh!” as I type that!)
Often, our sense of the flow of time is directly related to how stimulated by or interested we are in what we are doing at any given moment. The more stimulated or interested we are, the faster time seems to fly. Conversely, the less interesting/stimulating something is, the more slowly time seems to drag along.
As a result, the amount of time (and energy) you think you need to do those dreadful, non-preferred tasks can be completely disproportionate to how long they actually take. (My mind: “It’s going to take me foreeeevvvveeerrr to file ALL those papers! I just can’t / I don’t have the time.” Reality: “It takes me less than 10 minutes to file the papers in my tray, and I can suck it up to do just about anything for 10 minutes.“) And it’s why hours feel like minutes when you’re surfing the tangled web of the internet.
The perception of time is tied to your Executive Functions, and is more than likely something that is more beneficial to focus on accommodation, than it is to try to “fix” altogether.
Which is why I often say that solving your time woes starts with your
Surrender to your Time Blindness.
But please hear me loud and clear…
Surrender does NOT mean Giving Up or Giving in!
I’m not talking about letting yourself off the hook or abdicating responsibility for losing track of time or being chronically tardy! Quite the opposite, actually.
I’m talking about accepting the characteristic of Time Blindness as part of who you are so that you can find ways to improve it, without the blame, shame, or self-flagellation around your difficulty with time that keep you stuck where you are.
What I mean by surrender is a deeper, real acceptance that is necessary for us to learn to rely on the kinds of tools and strategies that will help us. If a client doesn’t accept these kinds of manifestations of their brain wiring, they have a tendency to continually blame themselves and their character rather than being able to find practical solutions that help.
Accepting that your sense of time is, at best, unreliable, is really important in learning to overcome it. Once you really accept it and surrender to it, you can let go of the guilt and shame, and that little voice in your head that says “I don’t need to wear a watch!” you can learn to rely on some tools that can help you keep better track of time!
Otherwise, you’ll keep going back to thinking, “I should be able to do X. Everybody else seems to be able to do X. Therefore, I just need to try harder to do X.” Even though that hasn’t gotten you anywhere yet!
So, I want to share some simple, practical strategies you can use right now to help you
Improve Your ‘Time Sight’
It’s a great first step toward helping you can take control of your days so that you have the fulfilment you want, and more time, energy and freedom to be really present for the things (and people) that matter most to you!
First, I want you to find ways to
Make Time Visible!
First and foremost, ALWAYS wear a watch, and/or put clocks everywhere in your home and office. I am always amazed at how many clients come to me with complaints about time management, but don’t routinely wear a watch! So, be honest with yourself—you know that you have a wonky sense of time and that you’re not always the best judge and the best at keeping track of time, so do yourself a favor, and always wear a watch!
And… for those of you who are thinking, “I don’t need a watch, I just use my Cell Phone!”… Think twice about that! If you’re in a meeting, or even a casual lunch with someone, picking up your cell phone, unlocking the screen and checking the time looks rude, even if you don’t mean it to be. In certain circumstances, it looks like you are totally disinterested, and it can also lead you to getting sucked into your email, text messages, etc. and lead to you tuning out. Ultimately, we end up not doing it, and losing track of time. It’s so much less obnoxious to glance at your watch.
I have clocks all over my house—including in my bathroom, strategically placed above the door so that I can see it from the shower! Of course, there’s a clock on my computer screen, but I also keep an analog clock on my desk at all times as well. In fact, I’m not sure there are really any places in my house that don’t have a direct view of a clock!
For many of us, watches and clocks with an Analog face (you know, ones with gold old-fashioned hands that tell the time rather than a digital face) can be much easier to read and will enable you to much more easily see the passage of time. Believe it or not, this can make a BIG difference!
Keep it Real
And, whatever kind of watch or clocks you use, do yourself a favor and set them to the actual time! Too many of us try to play the losing game where we set our clocks a few minutes ahead to try to keep us on time, but what it really does is just makes us do the math. Plus… it lulls us into a false sense that we’re more punctual than we really are.
Really, we both know that you’re smarter than to try to trick yourself into being on time! If that worked, I wouldn’t be writing this. J
Timers & Alarms
Timers & alarms are really handy, and inexpensive, tools for helping improve our perception of time. Using a variety of timers and alarm sounds can make it less likely to become immune to the sounds they make. Timers may actually also improve your “time blindness.”
I recommend you use a timer to time tasks you do frequently. Task-timing exercises may improve your perception of the passage of time, and can be super helpful if you’re frequently tardy because you try to squeeze in “one more thing.” Knowing exactly how much time that “one more thing” really takes enables you to make a thoughtful decision in the moment, and improve your punctuality greatly. It can be very eye-opening and help you improve your perception of time as well.
I often recommend my clients play Time Estimation Games to improve their sense of the flow of time. Estimating the time it will take to do something or get somewhere, and then checking your guess against reality, both improves awareness, and also improves your ability to judge time conceptually.
Along the same lines, I usually try to guess what time it is before I look at the clock (and I played the “Guess-What-Time-It-Is” game with my kids). I think this has helped me learn to judge the passage of time a little better as well.
Or… it could just be that I have so many clocks around me that I rarely go very long without looking at one anymore!
So, practice improving your Time Sight as a good first step toward improving your overall time management skills.
Whether or not time blindness is part of your personal struggles, stick with me!
Next time, I’ll explore one of the most important aspects of good time management: using a Calendar effectively and share more practical tips. It’s part three in Keys to Time Management series, so don’t miss that one!
Until then, Happy Times!
Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity & ADHD Coach
And if you’re ready to set up systems and tools that work for you to take control of your time, check out my Unleashed! 90-Day Time Management Mentoring Group and save your spot today at www.UnleashedPotential.group!