Every high achiever understands the value of time yet most will readily admit that they never have enough of it.

The problem with time management

This challenge has led to the wide popularity of time management as a means to help us make better use of our time.

There is no shortage of reminders, time trackers and lots of related apps/devices designed to help us get better at managing time.

Ironically however, the very act of using several tools to ‘manage’ time ends up to be a self-sabotaging process. The more time management apps you invest in, the less productive you’re likely to be.

Apart from the fact that each app has its own learning curve, the anxiety that could come with monitoring feedback can defeat the original intention.

Rather than managing time, we should seek to manage ourselves in relation to our priorities.

Get comfortable with the fact that you cannot do everything, be everywhere or serve everyone. Y

ou are neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.

Your strength is limited per time and it gets depleted with every new commitment.

You must be aware of this fact and consciously reduce your commitments so you can have time left to replenish yourself instead of driving yourself to exertion.

In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about sharpening the saw, an expression he uses to describe the process of investing in ourselves and making out time for self renewal in four important areas of our lives: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.

Some of the activities through which we can replenish ourselves include beneficial eating, rest and exercise, meaningful connections with others, learning, reading, writing, teaching, spending time in nature and receiving spiritual nourishment through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service.

Did you notice that it is exactly these kinds of activities that first get cleared out or continually postponed from our schedule when we get so busy that we have no time left?

What we fail to realise is that our ability to do every other thing is consequent on our commitment to doing the most important thing — taking care of ourselves and we cannot take care of ourselves if we’re always short on time.

If taking care of yourself makes you feel bad you need to think about it again.

You cannot take care of others if you are not well taken care of yourself. And how can you take care of yourself if you don’t have enough time?

So make it your number one goal to create time for self-renewal even if it means someone else has to feel the pain of your absence.

It is not selfishness, it is self care.

And if you don’t care for yourself, who will?

You will appreciate the wisdom in this when you realise that more often than not, the people for whom you are wearing out yourself do not necessarily care about you, they care about their own agenda.

And you are only important to them to the extent of your usefulness in that regard. If you drop dead today, how many of them will invest in supporting your family or advancing your legacy? Most of them will not even attend your funeral.

Again, you are not being selfish to think this way, you are only being realistic.

If you wouldn’t give your checkbook to a random stranger or even a close neighbour why should you give your most limited asset to everyone who asks?

Start to PRACTICE saying ‘No’.

In fact, let ‘No’ become your default response to any request that depletes you without yielding commensurate returns or giving you a sense of fulfilment.

Saying ‘No’ to unprofitable activities gives you the margin you need to accommodate the really important things like spending time with your family and investing in your most important relationships.

It’s a choice that you must make consciously.

You can either have everything and everyone bump into your schedule at will or you can guard your time like a desert traveler guards every drop of water.

You can choose to have people perceive you as a nice person while you’re hurting on the inside or you can choose to focus on your most important priorities regardless of what people think.

In the final estimation you’re not doing anyone any good by saying ‘Yes’ to everything and giving your time to everyone. You will end up overloaded, with stress and fatigue as your constant companions.

Now, what good is that? Wouldn’t you rather wake up each day bursting with energy?

I like the way Dr Richard Swenson puts it in his book, “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives”.

He says “It is important to understand our emotional reserves. It is important to understand how much we have at the beginning of each day and which influences drain our emotions dry or recharge our batteries. It is important to learn what our limits are, and not to make further withdrawals if we are already maximally depleted. And it is important to respect these limits in others.”

If we’re ever going to achieve that, we must learn to become comfortable with saying ‘No’ and receiving same from others.

That’s how we can really begin to take charge of our lives instead of being fascinated with every new time management technique.

How do you set your priorities? How do you devote your time to accomplish these priorities? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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