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Overcoming Time Management Obstacles

I hate to admit this, but I’m a bit overextended. I know, I know. I wrote an entire workbook on Time Management and yet sometimes, I still have trouble with it myself. I think it’s just one of those things that can never be entirely mastered. We all go through phases where we feel mentally and physically overwhelmed. At that point, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

As I’ve said before, I’m a productivity junkie. And, in reality, I think this harms my productivity. It sounds counterintuitive but, when you spend a huge amount of time thinking about how to better use your time, you eventually stop looking adorably neurotic and start looking mildly disturbed.

I’m facing a few time management obstacles and, as I’ve started to recognize them, I’ve realized that others may be dealing with the same issues. So I’ll share my thoughts here and (hopefully) help those of you experiencing similar challenges:

Overemphasis on Tools

I’m a sucker for organizational tools. I love them to the point of obsession. Boxes, books, binders, notepads, folders, pens, planners, techno-gadgets, you-name-it. I can’t walk into a stationery store without getting giddy. The other day, I had just sat down to do some work on my upcoming Reinvent Your Career workbook when, all of the sudden, it dawned on me that I needed a whiteboard.

“Yes, a whiteboard will make the brainstorming process much more productive,” I thought. “I simply can’t work without a whiteboard!!”

I got so wrapped up in the stupid whiteboard idea that I finally had to stop what I was doing, drive over to OfficeDepot and buy one—just to regain my focus.

Why do these kinds of tools matter? They don’t. They give us the feeling that we’re being productive but, ultimately, they’re just soaking up time, energy and money. Sure, some of this stuff is useful. But most of us put too great an emphasis on tools that, in all honesty, we never end up using to the degree we think we will. That whiteboard was really helpful for about a day, but I haven’t touched it since. Like most of my fabulous productivity paraphernalia, it’ll probably end up collecting dust in a corner somewhere. *SIGH*

These kinds of tools can easily become excuses. We convince ourselves that everything will be different once we have that new computer or filing cabinet or day planner. But really, there’s nothing stopping us from being productive right now, this second, with or without the tools.

“I Have Too Much To Do”

Sometimes I find myself repeating this mantra over and over. It’s been burned into my brain and, like any limiting belief—once it’s in there—it has a way of manifesting itself and becoming true. Do I really have too much to do? What is too much? Maybe it just feels like too much but, in reality, I have the perfect amount. The more I tell myself I’m overwhelmed, the more I feel it and the less action I take. Instead, I focus on being frustrated and complaining. I spend all of my energy managing time rather than using it wisely.

I think, in the workplace, we’ve all been trained that being busy (or looking that way) makes us more valuable. The more we have to do, the more secure and important we feel. So, it becomes second nature to emphasize our heavy workload and overflowing calendar. But all too often, we frame it in a negative light. We think, “I don’t have enough time to do it all!” We need to reframe this belief into, “I have enough time to do what matters most.”

What matters most.

This is the crux of the issue: knowing your priorities and understanding the difference between time-wasting fluff and the truly important work. If we honestly assess our situation and whittle our task list down to what really matters, we almost certainly have all the time we need.

Losing the Forest in the Trees

Why do I want to manage my time effectively? In truth, it’s so I can have more time to do things I love with people I love. But I often forget that. When I’m especially productive and end up finishing a project earlier than expected, I just grab another task and keep working. What’s the point in that?

We all have to remember our bigger values and the reasons we treasure time so much. We need to reward our efforts by doing those things we dream of doing with our time—going on vacation, relaxing with our kids, just doing nothing! What makes time so precious to you? Probably not work. And yet, when we work effectively and find ourselves with extra time, we often fill it with more of the same!

I’m trying hard not to lose the forest in the trees. I’m making every effort to reward myself when I hit my time management goals. I take long walks with my dog, spend evenings out with friends, and, every once in a while, I let myself visit a stationery store. After all, once a productivity junkie, always a productivity junkie.

Photo Credit: elycefeliz (Flickr)

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One Response to “Overcoming Time Management Obstacles”

  1. Greg says:

    Your emphasis on the overemphasis on tools reminds me also of how much time and energy is spent on the time management system itself. The decision-making associated with prioritizing and ordering tasks made it seem like I had accomplished some work, but as you said, that only provides the illusion of productivity. Lately, I’ve repurposed an old in-basket to put the things (e.g., papers to grade or comment on, manuscripts to read, etc) that I “need” to accomplish today. Having the tasks themselves visible in a prominent place on my workspace has improved the get-it-done rate of my tasks and projects.

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