When it comes to time management and productivity, most people don’t know where to start. And this is completely understandable.
Consider this: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, time management is defined as “the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work.” Additionally, productivity is defined as “the state or quality of being productive.” Okay, so productive is then defined as “producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.” Do you see the problem? Without going too far down a linguistics rabbit-hole, these are all autological words, which basically means that they define themselves.
The reason I bring this up is to show that it is nearly impossible to come up with a plan of action from the definitions themselves. In other words, I can’t just say, I want to be more productive, so according to the definition, I need to start producing more. What am I producing? Work output? What does that even mean?
To know what you need to produce, you have to look inside yourself. Time management and productivity are entirely subjective to what you want to get done and why you want to get that done. So let’s start there.
Understanding Your Goals and Motivators
The first step in understanding what it is that you need to get done is to know what your goals are. There are multiple ways to determine this, and I will take you through some of these when we discuss how to implement different time management strategies. For now, I just want you to understand that your goals are what determine how you should be spending your time.
Equally important are your motivators. To prioritize a goal, you need to understand why it’s important to you.
Let’s say that you decide you want to start working out. Why do you want to start this? Did your doctor tell you to? Do you want to be able to play longer with your children without being completely exhausted? Maybe you just want to fit into an old pair of jeans. Understanding what is motivating you to pursue a goal will help you to be able to prioritize it.
If the doctor told me to start working out, I’m going to be a lot more motivated to find time in my schedule to make it happen. If I just want to look better, I’m probably not going to set aside as much time. Which brings me to my next point.
Letting Your Values Guide You
In order to determine how you’re going to prioritize your goals, you need to understand the underlying goals that direct your day-to-day life.
Let’s consider the example of working out again. I said that I would be more motivated to work out if my doctor told me to. That’s because I value my health. I would also be more motivated to work out if I was getting winded playing with my son because I value my time with him. How I look is more toward the bottom of my priorities. But, it’s totally fine if that’s what motivates you. Like I said, this is a completely subjective process. I just wanted to use it as an example to show how the values support the motivators, which in turn drive the goals.
It Isn’t a Quick Fix
Now that you understand that time management is something that is created internally and is unique to every person, there are a few other components that should be understood as well.
Time management isn’t a quick fix to make you more productive in the same way that a diet isn’t a quick fix to make you healthier. It’s a lifestyle change that requires active commitment. And changing a person’s lifestyle is one of the most difficult things you can ask them to do.
I want you to think about a lifestyle change you’ve made in the past. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but the result was hopefully worth it. Unless you didn’t get the result you were looking for, in which case I think it’s important for you to realize that you aren’t alone. Let’s think about New Year’s resolutions for a minute. How many of those have you actually kept? Probably not many and the reason is that these are usually habits that are heavily ingrained into a person’s life. According to Forbes, only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are achieved! So if you’ve struggled with making lifestyle changes stick in the past, I don’t want you to beat yourself up. But I do want you to learn from it.
Looking back, why do you think these past attempts didn’t work out? Are you just lazy? Probably not. Do you just not have that gene? That’s probably not the case, either.
It’s more likely that you were taking a change that had worked for someone else, maybe a celebrity or even a friend, and expecting the same exact methodology they used to work for you. And unless you have the same habits, mindset, and internal rhythm as this person, what they did to get results will not work for you.
It’s really important that before you dive headfirst into something that’s going to affect multiple aspects of your life that you fully understand how it’s going to affect these different aspects. This way you can adapt the program to fit your needs and your lifestyle.
So before you considering taking part in a time management program, I want you to truly understand all the different components and how these apply to you and your life.
You Cannot Add More Time
It’s also incredibly important to understand that no matter what you do, you aren’t going to get more time. It’s so tempting to say that you want to find more time for this or make time for that. I am guilty of this myself, and it’s something that I am consciously working on. But the first thing you need to know about time management is that it’s only managing time, not creating more of it. That is physically impossible.
Every single person has the same 24 hours in a day. And no matter what you are doing, the seconds are ticking by. It’s what you do with this time that matters.
And the point of time management is to learn how to maximize this time in the best way for you.
Understanding that Productivity is a Process Not a Destination
It’s also important to understand that being productive isn’t a result—it’s something that you are constantly working on. This is why I took the time to stress the important of embracing a lifestyle change.
Yes, if you go through a time management program or speak with a consultant, you will more than likely become more productive. But it’s important to acknowledge that these are tools to learn how to be more productive. Once you have a time management system in place, you aren’t done. You have to nurture that program. You have to look at what’s working, and what isn’t working and make changes as you go.
Think of it like this: we have determined that how you manage your time is based on your goals, motivators, and values. Well, are the goals you have now the same goals you had ten years ago? Five years ago? Last month? Are your motivators the same? Even some of your foundational values may have changed with life events.
These different drivers in your life change as you change, and for a system to work, you have to allow it to change with you as well.
So for a time management system to work, you have to embrace these changes and see them as room for improvement. As a way to become even more productive than you were yesterday and continually work toward a more productive and more efficient you.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, where I will take you through some different techniques to identify your motivators and values and teach you how to make sure you are setting SMART goals.
If you want to get a jump-start on your productivity and begin putting this series into action in your own life, make sure you sign up for my FREE 5-day productivity challenge!
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