While doing time management seminars, I invariably hear from one particpant or another that one of the challenges they have in managing their time is that they can’t seem to stop. They get caught up in a project, they skip lunch, and stay late in order to “get ahead.”

Ever been there? I know I have.

The thinking is that if they can just get this one thing done, then it will free them up the following day. Do you think they show up the following day with more time on their hands than they know what to do with? Of course not. That’s not how it works. The next day, something else pops up and they dive into that project.

The problem with time management is that sometimes we get so focused on completing a project, so that we can cross it off our to-do list, that we forget to think about the big picture.

Not all projects are created equal. And focus and energy spent on one project is energy that can’t be spent on another.

One recent seminar attendee told me that she often forgets about taking time for lunch until around 3pm when she starts to really get hungry. When someone is low on fuel, how productive are they going to be?

Let’s do the math. If she’s going to accomplish eight major things in a day while taking a half hour for lunch. Does it matter when she actually takes her lunch? Not really as far as results are concerned. However, as she depletes her energy as she goes further into the afternoon without refueling, might her focus be reduced? How about her overall productivity and quality of work? Most likely it is going to go down.

Here’s another example. When I work on projects around the house, I often like to immerse myself. The world fades away and I focus solely on whatever I’m doing. Often times I would find myself working until 2 or 3am trying to get it done so that I don’t have to worry about it tomorrow.

It is true that the following morning I don’t have that project on my to-do list but how do I feel having thrown my body off so drastically? While I may have freed up my schedule, my energy and mental focus were often impaired. Whatever gains I made the night before, were lost the next day.

Time management is not about trying to cross off everything on your list as fast as you possibly can. There are times for that, of course, such as when a major project is due. But ideally, it is about setting up a system that allows you to consistently produce results.

Some people prefer the go-go-go, then crash model. Which is fine if that works. But top performers know that it is not just about today, it is about achieving results today and tomorrow.

Take a look at how you manage your day. Do you manage your production capability, keeping an eye on the big picture or do you get caught with tunnel vision?


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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