Most individuals would like to achieve their goals and dreams in less time, with less effort and with lower stress. And, they want to have confidence in their ability to control their time and their lives in ways that allow them to be highly productive while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Quite often, however, people feel a very real sense of frustration. They seem unable to get everything done during the day and rarely leave work at a decent hour with a feeling that they have actually moved closer to their goals.
The reason for these frustrations is the fact that most people struggle with identifying the critical skills and strategies required to attain their goals in a streamlined, effective and stress-free fashion.
In addition, common myths and misconceptions about effective time management cause us to go astray in our efforts to achieve the important goals we envision for our businesses and our lives - and therefore, become obstacles in our path to success.
Here are 12 of the more common myths - debunked:
Ironically, effective time management is actually about getting fewer things done! There will always be more to do than anyone can possibly accomplish. No one can get everything done - nor should they try. It actually works contrary to effective time management strategies to attempt to get "everything" done!
I’m no longer consumed with the insignificant "stuff" that was eating up all my time – instead it’s the things I really need, and want, to get done. – Bob H., Small Business Marketing Specialist
Successful time management is NOT about getting more done, or even getting most things done. It's about identifying the critical paths, prioritizing the most relevant tasks and focusing our efforts on getting the important things done first - so we reach significantly greater goals in the minimum amount of time and with the minimum amount of effort. And that, by necessity, requires that we leave the less important tasks undone, or at a minimum, set them aside until the critical-path items are fully addressed.
Achieving success in any endeavor requires us to establish long-term objectives and develop the short-term strategies that facilitate our ability to reach those goals effectively. But, a successful goal-attainment process requires us to focus on only those tasks that support our final objectives. Therefore, we must develop time management skills and strategies that help identify our priorities; and then implement the additional tools that help us execute those priorities more efficiently and effectively.
Ultimately, good time management skills serve as the overriding controls that focus our attention, with laser precision, on the critical path toward successfully achieving goals - while avoiding the daily distractions that only serve as impediments to our success. And, these skills are absolutely essential if we wish to achieve our goals in a timely and effective fashion.
There are, indeed, a few areas of time management where people face similar challenges and where almost anyone can benefit from implementing the same generic techniques and strategies. But, since no two people are exactly alike in their personality, their DISC behavior profiles, talents and abilities, there are many more areas where they face unique challenges for managing their use of time.
And, because people are different, they always benefit from an individualized approach to achieving their time management and productivity improvement goals. Therefore, the "best" program for any given individual would be a program matched to their strengths and talents and one that helps them overcome the specific challenges they face on a daily basis.
Fortunately, there are methods, such as DISC profiling, which can identify natural behavioral profiles and tendencies and, thereby, help each person discover the sets of time management strategies best-matched to their individual strengths. By identifying these traits, every person can then focus on developing the specific skills and techniques, which are most likely to provide the results they desire in the shortest period of time.
We all wish to believe we are better at managing our activities and use of time than we truly are. And, 98% of the time the reality is vastly different than what we perceive.
Our brains function in miraculous ways and they perform millions of activities very well. But, logical and accurate analysis of our own talents and abilities is not one of the strengths inherently imbedded in our mind. As a result, without the aid of quantitative tools for measuring and assessing what we are actually doing each day, our brains lack the capacity to accuracy gauge how effectively we utilize our time. It is only when we apply the proper tools and metrics that we discover where we are wasting valuable time and how our skills need to be improved.
The best way to successfully measure our use of time is to track what we do and record our activities in a log, which can then be reviewed and analyzed. This is something we should do periodically. Each time we record and evaluate current results we are able to quantitatively identify how effective we were with using our time, as well as how our abilities have been improving. We are then able to develop strategies for improving our performance even more, implement those strategies and repeat the logging and evaluation processes again - and again.
Periodic self-analysis revolves around a sequence of tracking, reviewing, modifying and evaluating what we are doing with our time. And, it's the ideal way to maximize the development of our skills - thereby, taking us to a level of proficiency that is not just an arbitrary judgement, but one that we can actually quantify and validate it's effectiveness.
It is not uncommon for individuals to believe that high levels of activity, staying busy and getting lots of "stuff" done equates to effective time management; when, in fact, it can frequently mean quite the opposite.
I always thought I was pretty effective at using my time and never realized how many ways my time management skills could be improved, until I saw your presentation. – Andrew H., Owner, Commercial Printing & Silk Screening
Some individuals work diligently, complete lots of tasks, sort through tons of issues and completely consume their days with "busyness." But when the day is done they actually haven't achieved the truly important things they wanted and needed to achieve.
It's very easy to get totally wrapped up in day-to-day activities to the degree that we become misguided about what an effective time management strategy should look like.
"Busyness" and effective time management are not the same. Busyness consumes and often wastes much of our time and energy. And, ultimately, over time, it is a destructive force that that prevents many individuals from arriving at the destinations they desired for their businesses, professional careers and personal lives. Or, at a minimum, it impedes the process of reaching those objectives in a timely fashion.
Effective time management is about achieving goals. And, learning to more successfully achieve our goals is about setting the proper short-range and long-range objectives and having the ability to discern which tasks we must prioritize in order to reach those goals in the shortest time and with the least amount of wasted energy. And, equally important is the development of strategies to avoid getting consumed by those tasks which have only the illusion of being important. Because, all too frequently, we get trapped, erroneously, into thinking we "need" to focus on those items first. And, with the proper time management strategies those distractions can often be avoided.
The good news is; everyone has the ability to learn how to get the "right things" done, more quickly and easily, and avoid being consumed by the things that don't lead to long-range success. It simply takes a disciplined approach to time management. And, it is only through this disciplined approach that we retain the ability to stay on course - which is the only path that leads to the realization of our long-range goals, in an efficient and effective manner.
A "to-do" list can be both an asset and a detriment to our time management agenda - depending on how they are structured and applied to our goal-seeking efforts.
Just itemizing and attempting to chip-away at items on a list, even when we do so in a structured fashion, is actually counterproductive to good time management. The true purpose of a to-do list should be to prioritize the tasks we have set before us - which is vastly different than thinking of it in terms of all the things we need to do.
A full 80% of the benefits we gain will typically come from 20% of our efforts. So, one of the most effective things we can do is identify which of our listed tasks fall into the 20% of tasks yielding the greatest (most relevant) results - and focus on doing only those items. A "properly leveraged" to-do list can help us achieve that goal.
Since only 20% of items listed will produce the most relevant results, it only makes sense for us to extend every effort possible to avoid doing the other 80% of items listed. Consequently, this need to avoid 80% of the items listed would seem to indicate that our "to-do" list should more appropriately be named a "To-Don't" list.
Therefore, we need to shift our way of thinking about to-do lists and turn them into tools for sorting, prioritizing and controlling tasks, rather than simply using them as lists of "stuff" we want, or "need," to do.
Implementing comprehensive strategies for managing tasks, and the time they normally consume, can dramatically improve our efficiency and effectiveness. But, it generally takes a significant shift in our approach to be successful.
Do you really believe that most people are better managers of their time now that they have additional technology tools available?
Technology has definitely made it more "convenient" to transfer and access information. But, the reality is that it has generated information overload, more than it has helped us manage our time. Technology has also changed our perspective on just how "available" we feel we should be. And, as a result, many of us have allowed ourselves to be positioned in a constant state of "readiness" - anxiously awaiting the next piece of information or digital communication that comes our way - so we can immediately respond.
Unfortunately, a high percentage of our population have bought into the "illusion" of these tools serving us in ways that facilitate greater productivity. But, more often than not, we have become slaves of the technology; whereby cellular calls, text and email, for example, all too often end up controlling us - rather than us controlling them.
We all have the ability to take back control of our technology, simply by implementing a totally different set of strategies. But, we must choose to do so, by learning the techniques required to better manage our technology tools - so they, once again, begin to serve us, in positive ways - rather than serving as constant distractions and obstacles to our effective utilization of the very limited time we have available.
On the surface this sounds like a positive attribute. We all have times when we are up against deadlines; and wouldn't it be great if we had the ability do some of our best work when "crunch-time" comes our way?
But, in reality, what it normally means when someone says they "work best under pressure” is, they are such great procrastinators that they put everything off until the deadline for completion is so close they are forced to do the work under pressure; or, alternately, they lack self-motivation to the degree that they need the external pressure of a looming deadline to get any work done at all.
Either way, it is highly dubious they will produce their "best" work under those conditions. That's because no one can produce their optimal work at the very last second. It's simply impossible.
Their feeble attempt to avoid admitting that they are just procrastinating or lack motivation is one thing; but to claim that it makes them work "better" is quite another issue altogether. Their poor work habits may force them to work faster under stress, but working "better" is not likely. Generally, it is little more than an attempt to fool themselves, and perhaps others, into believing what they are doing is not only okay, but desirable; rationalizing in their own mind that they perform even better as a result.
In the final analysis, however, everyone suffers the negative consequences of this false perspective of reality.
So, if you are a purveyor of this destructive philosophy, maybe it's time to take another look at reality and implement corrective action.
Developing the skills to appropriately plan and schedule critical tasks, not only equate to a less stressful environment, but the quality of the outcome is invariably superior to the alternative. It simply requires breaking old, bad habits, and developing the skills and techniques required to take control of our time.
Most people procrastinate at one time or another. It is quite common to try to avoid doing activities that we do not enjoy, we are not comfortable doing, we feel are boring, or for which we believe we are not particularly well suited.
...they helped me discover that I was avoiding doing a number of things that I simply didn't like to do, even though I knew they were critical to my success. – Keith B., Real Estate Broker / Agent
Psychologists have studied procrastination for decades and have discovered what they believe to be some of the root causes for delay or avoidance of tasks. But, regardless of the psychology behind this habit, putting off tasks, for any reason, can be costly. Even small amounts of procrastination can keep us from achieving critical goals, meeting deadlines, or living our lives to the fullest. And, as a result, procrastination can negatively impact the success of our businesses, and our lives.
So, procrastination can, indeed, be an extremely counterproductive habit if we are putting off doing the things that we should be doing; especially if it is the avoidance of the select group of tasks, which effectively lead to attaining our long-rang goals.
However, there are times when the strategy of "Selective Procrastination" can be an asset to our time management agenda.
It is true that we absolutely should not put off doing important tasks. But, to delay working on tasks that do not serve as the best use of our time or to forestall doing something when we simply are not prepared to perform the task well, are totally different situations.
However, before we consider using Selective Procrastination as a viable tool, we need to have a very clear understanding of which tasks are, in fact, most "important" tasks we need to perform, and when we are "truly prepared" to work on tasks that are of critical importance for achieving our goals.
So, to identify if we should perform or delay any particular task, the questions we need to ask ourselves are; "Is what I am about to do the single best use of my time right now?" and "Am I adequately prepared to perform this task?
If the answer is a resounding "No;" to either of those questions, then maybe it's the appropriate time to "Selectively Procrastinate."
"Selective Procrastination" should be cautiously applied. We must make sure we do not use this technique as just another excuse to procrastinate. But, under the right conditions, it can prove to be a valuable weapon in our arsenal for mastering the effective use of time. Therefore, we can actually become more productive and effective by cultivating a keen understanding of how and when to apply "Selective Procrastination."
Actually the opposite perspective rings more true.
A person can be highly efficient and still not be effective. For instance, if we are efficiently doing the wrong things, or doing them at the wrong time, effectiveness is lost. Another example is when an individual consumes themselves with tasks that someone else could, or should, be doing. While we may be efficiently performing a given task, if our priorities and efforts should be focused elsewhere, we are not being nearly as effective as we could be.
Our goal should be to become increasingly more effective, and by design that typically includes some degree of efficiency. In fact, a highly effective individual will generally be relatively efficient. But, the primary focus should always be on effectiveness first.
Listed below are definitions of "efficient" and "effective" from Dictionary.com:
Efficient: Performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.
Effective: Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.
Note that the core of effectiveness is accomplishing a purpose and producing the desired result. Therefore, being "effective" is actually mastering the art of getting the "right person" to do the "right things" at the "right time;" resulting in achieving the "right goals."
Learning how to be effective is significantly more beneficial than just learning to be efficient. So, start making effectiveness your goal and allow efficiency to evolve naturally as a result of the process.
Everyone has the same 24 hours (1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds) available every day - no more and no less. It's just that some people are more proficient at using their time than others. And, typically, those individuals who effectively manage their use of time are more successful at everything else, as well. That's because they have developed strategies for getting the most important things done first.
Usually, the feeling that others are accomplishing more than we do results from a sense of frustration about our own lack of ability to achieve our goals. This often leads to a state of constantly feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and exhausted. And, it's only natural to feel that way when we work hard day-after-day and year-after-year and still fail to realize the progress and goal achievement that should result from all our time and effort.
Most people are not masters of the methodologies required to properly manage their hours, days, weeks, months and years in ways that cause them to reach their goals more effectively. Therefore, they recognize they are not achieving what they should and the resulting frustration is reflected in their overall attitude toward themselves and others.
Shift you attitude about time management. Control what you can control - which is yourself and your use of time - and feel better about your newly found abilities to achieve your goals - every day. It won't be long before you not only feel more productive but the resulting accomplishments will speak for themselves.
People who refuse to use delegation as a tool automatically limit their achievements to only what they can accomplish on their own. This may be acceptable for some individuals, but only if they are willing to accept the fact that they simply cannot reach anywhere near the potential that someone else can, who is willing and able to multiply their effectiveness by successfully delegating to others.
The following are a few of the common rationalizations for not delegating.
- It takes too long to delegate
- I can do it faster and better myself
- I tried in the past and it failed
- I will lose control
- I don’t trust my staff to deliver
- My people are already overworked
- I don’t have enough people
- I don’t like to ask for help
None of these "reasons," however, can withstand critical scrutiny and they exist only as roadblocks to improved productivity and effectiveness.
Delegation is one of the most powerful time management tools available. It is a developed skill that initially requires an investment of time. However, once we learn the general techniques for success and identify the subtle differences for delegating to the various DISC personality and behavior profiles, it will very quickly begin to reap enormous rewards.
Proper delegation techniques benefit everyone involved in the process. They grow the capabilities and capacity of the individuals who perform the delegated tasks. Delegation fosters a greater sense of self-worth, and builds morale. At the same time it greatly enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of the individual doing the delegating. These benefits increase exponentially as the number of individuals involved in the delegation process increases.
You, too, can exponentially increase your effectiveness by mastering the techniques of successful delegation. At the same time you will be helping others to grow and develop their own skills and abilities. It's a "WIN-WIN" proposition!
If your multitasking activities equate to nothing more serious than listening to music while you commute, watching a newscast while cooking dinner or something similar in complexity, whereby your cognitive processes are not being highly taxed, you will probably multitask just fine. But, recent research has shown that multitasking in more intense environments, where critical outcomes are at stake, can seriously inhibit our ability to learn new skills, slows the processing of information, reduces productivity and usually degrades the overall quality of results we achieve.
Our brain's cognitive ability is naturally wired to focus on one task at a time. Multitasking forces the brain to literally shift its focus every time we reorient its attention to perform a different task. And, as that happens, our brains require time to realign. The more complex the task the longer it takes for this realignment to occur. So, each time our brain makes a transition from one task to the next we lose just a little bit of time. The cumulative effect of repeatedly adjusting and refocusing our brain, every few minutes or seconds, is significant. Every instance disrupts our train of thought and slows down the cognitive process, which actually causes us to become less productive and efficient.
But, there are other long-term ramifications, which can evolve from multitasking that may be just as detrimental. The same studies have indicated that, over an extended period of time, heavy multitasking causes people to have more difficulty tuning out everyday distractions, as compared to people who regularly focus on one task at a time. And, evidence seems to indicate that brains of individuals subjected to heavy multitasking even lose capacity to store and organize information. Additionally, from a health and wellness perspective, long-term multitasking appears to lead to elevated levels of stress.
Therefore, the preponderance of evidence indicates we are more productive, (and perhaps less stressed), when we focus on a single task for a period of time and then shift our total focus to the next task, and the next; rather than trying to perform more than one task at any given time.
Obviously, there are times when focusing on a singular task is not always possible. But, to the degree we can control our use of multitasking, it is best to keep it to a minimum.
Stop thinking of multitasking as a positive endeavor, and discover the true benefits of focused, incremental work strategies. You will actually become more productive and effective in the long run.