“Most people go through life thinking that tomorrow they’re going to do something great. Tomorrow will be the day they wake up and discover what they were put on this earth to do. But, then tomorrow comes and goes. AS does the next day. Before long, they realize that there aren’t any tomorrow’s left.” – Nick Bilton
How many times have you started your day in a positive place, with your eye on the prize (a.k.a. accomplishing the items on your to do list) – only to be thrown off fifteen minutes into your morning?
Even when you have the best of intentions, it’s often inevitable to get drawn away from what needs to be done – set off track by ‘in the moment’ requests and distractions – and left feeling depleted and unaccomplished at the end of the day.
Repeat this pattern day after day, week after week, and this behavior can become addictive. I’ve noticed in working with hundreds of professionals that when work and tasks become all consuming they can stop enjoying life.
But what if I told you that if you shifted your focus you could interrupt this pattern for the rest of your life?
As employees, spouses, mothers, and fathers, we are all working to manage our time better. Managing our time better would allow us to BE better, to work better, to live better. As a mindset coach, and as a wife, mother and human being, I also understand this struggle.
A New Approach
The good news is that the problem of ‘time management’ is completely solvable. Unfortunately, most people are approaching it in the wrong way – with flimsy platitudes about trying harder, being more organized, creating better to do lists, waking up earlier, working later, and so on.
It’s my mission to help individuals experience a powerful, effective, and lasting change when faced with the complaint of ‘not having enough time’ – and to date, I’ve witnessed this happen time and again.
Here’s what I’ve applied with the individuals and teams I’ve worked with over the years, so that you too can experience the incredible freeing feeling of no longer being a captive to time.
Shift Your ‘Time Mindset’
First and foremost, there must be a shift in our mindsets around ‘time management’ as a whole.
Step into this idea for a moment – you have exactly the amount of time you need, to do what you want to do.
What I mean by this is that what we do with our time is completely up to us. Yes, what I’m telling you is to embrace the idea that you are not a victim to time but rather you have a choice – you control your own time. Each day, and every minute, you are making decisions on how you spend your time.
When you focus your energy on how you don’t have enough time to get things done, you’re taking away your power. Alternatively, when you focus your energy on what you DO want to accomplish, big things happen.
For example, when you say ‘I don’t have time to read this book that I’ve had for the last year’ what you’re really saying is ‘I’m choosing to not make time to read this book.’
This is a powerful realization. Something that many of us – including myself at times – have a hard time coming to terms with, but when we do – dramatic changes take place (trust me, I’ve seen it). Once you realize that you have control over what you’re spending your time on day in and day out, you can begin to recognize the opportunities to make different choices – or enjoy more deeply the choices you’re already making.
Which brings me to my next point. What are you choosing to make time for?
“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
― Greg Mckeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
We are Always Choosing
It may not feel like it, but we are always choosing how we spend our time. Often these choices are automatic, habitual responses.
We need to make a true transition in how we make choices so that they are conscious and intentional. This is the key to shifting the way we view and manage our priorities. Without having absolute clarity around your goals and priorities it is difficult to make intentional choices in the moment.
Because I believe the two lives, home and work, are inextricably tied, I’ve put my focus into helping workplace teams harness their time and energy by eliminating places where they are wasting their internal resources. Once they have lightened their load it becomes much easier to establish clear, actionable priorities and their ability to make choices that are aligned with bigger goals improves immensely. Ultimately, time management and productivity skills improve, in turn having a significant impact on company culture.
Here’s why improving time management in your employees should be the core focus of your workplace.
The negative impact of time management issues on your team.
In my experience, poor time management leads to stress, burnout, resentment, blame against job/manager for inability to have a life beyond work, low energy, illness, distraction trying to fit it all in. This all leads to errors, lack of true productivity and less quality work.
Studies have revealed that in the U.S., managers spend 13 percent of their time managing poor performers and 14 percent of their time correcting the poor performers’ mistakes. This translates into an average of 34 days per year dealing with under-performance. In bigger companies (those with over $8.5 million in turnover), managers spend approximately eight weeks per year (or 41 days) managing poor performers.
What’s worse is that American employees admit 68 percent of the mistakes they personally make never even come to their boss’s attention.
So, what’s the real issue here? It certainly isn’t that all of these organizations are just full of “bad employees”. Or bad managers. Or bad systems. Frankly, it all boils down to an outdated approach and a lack of a growth mindset about time management. A growth mindset begins with a belief that our abilities can be upgraded when we focus on growth, improvement and practice.
How to overcome the ‘I don’t have time’ hump.
“Response-ability – the ability to observe ourselves in action and respond to a familiar
situation in a new and different way. “ – Adapted from Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.
What if the problems with time management continue to arise because we are coming at it the wrong way? What if it’s less about managing your time and more about managing your mindset and energy so that you can be more effective?
When I host workshops with teams in the workplace, I’m often faced with many of the same objections:
- I don’t have enough time for [blank].
- I feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities at work/at home.
- I can’t even take a lunch break.
- I have no energy at the end of the day to do the things that fuel my well-being (time w/ loved one, exercise, hobbies)
These feelings are often the result of outdated mindsets, false assumptions, misdirection (where you are placing your energy vs. where you could be placing your energy) and a lack of focus (what are your true priorities and how do you make choices based on those?).
When I am working with a team of individuals who have these concerns, I pose the following questions:
- Where are you fabricating false assumptions and barriers for yourself?
- Where are you taking on responsibilities (emotionally, mentally and physically) that are outside of your domain of responsibility?
- Where are you saying yes, when you mean no?
- Where are you giving your time and power during the day? How is this affecting your performance and productivity as an employee/spouse/parent?
Then, I equip them with the tools to establish healthy boundaries, clarify priorities and define actual areas of responsibilities. This approach is essential to creating sustainable change with an employee’s performance, effectiveness, and overall happiness.
When I hear “I don’t have time for…” I immediately want to know if it’s a priority. And if it is, but it’s not getting the attention it deserves, then I know we need to make a mental and emotional shift.
If it’s a priority, it is your job (not your spouses, not your job’s, not your family’s) to carve out space to make that happen. “Not having time for that” is an excuse that keeps us from the very things we desire. It’s a fixed mindset that has become a barrier to our own growth – personally and professionally. We always have time. We each have the same amount everyday. We are constantly making choices about how we spend it, even when it feels like we have no choice.
Making these small but significant mindset shifts opens the door for your brain to kick in and start helping you accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Our brains are like heat seeking missiles – once they have a goal, it’s their duty to help you find the pathway to it.
Growth Mindset in Action
Let’s try on a few different examples –
I can’t get this project done with all these distractions and competing priorities.
How can I better manage my distractions so that I can complete this project?
“I wish I could take a vacation this year, but I don’t have time…”
“I’m committed to taking a vacation this year, and here’s what I need to do to make that happen…”
“I have this training to complete, and still haven’t had time to do it…”
“This training is a priority. How can I equip myself to be successful in completing it before the end of the month?”
Or if you’re telling yourself you’re doing something because you ‘need to’ or someone else is requesting you do it. Remember, you have a choice! For example –
The thought “I need to workout this week” can leave you feeling bitter, negative, or stressed about trying to ‘fit it in’ compared to:
“I’m committed to working out this week because I feel great and it benefits every area of my life.”
It sounds simple, and maybe even silly to some, but flipping your internal script can have a big impact on our day-to-day happiness and our progress towards our goals.
It’s up to us to really look at our choices and understand our ability to change them. When we, as humans, employees, spouses, and parents, start taking responsibility for the time we DO have and equipping ourselves with the mindset, tools and actions to maximize it, big changes occur.
Here is the three-step framework I walk through during my company workshops.
3-Step Framework to Create a Major Mindset Shift
Mapping out your time & energy
We look at where employees are spending time and energy doing things that are outside of their domain and outside of what’s expected of them. Are they spending mental, emotional and physical energy on items or thoughts that are completely outside of their control? Alternatively, we dig into whether these items are zapping their energy due to deeper issues like old thinking around confidence, fear or self-doubt.
One of the most transformative experiences I’ve witnessed happened with an employee I’ll call Esther*.
When I met Esther, she was tired, exhausted, frustrated, depleted and had no energy at the end of her day to do anything that was meaningful to her. She was over-giving, over-extending herself, felt responsible to “help” everyone else, felt at the mercy of everyone else’s demands, and was bombarded with interruptions. Ultimately, this meant she had no energy for what fueled her.
This cycle was causing her energy to go down and her work to diminish. She quickly found herself withdrawing from others. She was disappointed, frustrated and resentful that she wasn’t moving forward on the things that mattered most at work and at home. She needed to make a change – and she needed to make it fast.
Equipping employees with tools to perform better.
With this information in mind, we work to equip them with tools to quiet the noise and inner chatter that clouds our ability to perform in the moment, at home and at work. Together, we look at where they are doing things out of obligation and old beliefs.
With Esther, we identified the long standing beliefs that kept her in the cycle of over-extending herself, putting her own priorities last, and the impact this was having in her life (not to mention, her performance and productivity at work).
I helped equip her with tools to communicate more effectively, set healthy, clear boundaries, minimize interruptions, reduce the noise and self-induced stress, and taught her how to align her actions to her bigger goals.
Identify & establish priorities and goals.
This is where the magic happens. We identify the priorities and big goals and line up thinking, beliefs and actions to those very things.
The end result for Esther? She became a happier, more energetic and productive version of herself. She started moving forward in a way she has never done before, accomplishing goals that had been on her list for ages with more ease, clarity, confidence and flow in her life. She went from feeling powerless to her circumstances to confidently leading her life.
This transformation can happen for you, and the individuals on your team. A change in approach from addressing the time-management issues with a Band-aid to focusing first on the root of the issue is a game changer. Focusing on the foundation of our actions and behaviors first, and then applying time-management strategies is the best approach for equipping yourself and your employees to thrive inside and outside of the workplaces.
I can help you and your team choose to design your best day, every day.
One final, key insight I would like to share with you on managing your time is this: the tone of your day begins in the morning. This means that the course you set for yourself when you wake up can have a profound impact on the quality of your day, and ultimately on the quality of your entire life.
I challenge you to fully explore the following and make notes:
- How are you starting your day (mentally, emotionally, physically)?
- Are you living at the mercy of your circumstances and letting that guide your day – or are you beginning with a clear mind, clear goals and designing it from here?
You can change your mindset and set a new course of action for yourself every single day. You have power over your time and how you choose to spend it. Use the steps outlined in this post today in order to clear your mind, set solid, foundational priorities for yourself, and watch your performance, productivity, and quality of living improve drastically.
*Esther is a pseudonym – name has been changed for privacy and confidentiality purposes.