Why Your Time Management System Sucks
Time management as an abstract concept or idea will never—I repeat never—get you to where you want to be. Unless where you want to be is where you already are. Why not? Time management isn’t a device for change. It’s a function of the status quo. How do we know? Here is a 2-question test.
Question 1: How can I better handle my daily responsibilities? “Time management,” we all said loudly.
Question 2: How do I change my entire life completely? “Time management,” said no one, ever. 🙂
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Why time management is broken and what we can do about it
Most of us have a day job. Not all of us are happy. But as they say, you can’t stop the train in order to work on the train. So if you have a job you’re not happy with, how can you ever find time to do something you like? How can you write a book or become a full-time author? Or how can you start a business even? The situation feels even more hopeless if you’ve been stuck in that same position for years.
You’re in luck, folks. I have a system to get you out of this jam. And that in itself is the key—it’s a system. A good system will always work . . . once you have it in place. At that point, all you have to do is work the system. You won’t even need to innovate. It’s a simple, “set it, and forget it” mechanism to lift you to new heights. Sound like fun? It is! Let me explain the only achievement system—notice I didn’t say “time management” system—you’ll ever need, and why time management does not now, and nor will it ever get you radically different results.
Achievement System: Step 1
The first thing you do is write down the hours of your day that are set in stone. For example, if you always sleep from 10pm to 6am, those are off limits. If you have a day job from 8am to 5pm, that is off limits as well. This leaves you with the time from 5pm – 10pm. Yikes! That’s not a lot. On top of that, what if you then donated your other 4 hours of free time to spending with your family and could only hold on to your one final, remaining hour? Could you still do it? Yes. Here is how. Let’s use writing a book as an example.
Achievement System: Step 2
Now you have to turn that daily one hour into a bucket. If you kept all 5 hours, on the other hand, and did not give any hours away, then you can make each of those into a bucket as well.
What is a bucket? It’s just some thing designed to hold some other thing. So our bucket is basically a holder of your things that need to get done. Call it a placeholder for now, because it also serves that need as well (and we’ll come back to that function).
You need to make each one of your free, remaining hours into a bucket or placeholder for your tasks (and then realize that there will sometimes be different things that fill each one of them).
Believe it or not, we are already MOST OF THE WAY THROUGH with our system. And yes, I know that on the surface that may not look like much, but here is where the achievement part comes in of the achievement system. It is the incremental progress we make each day that gets us our results. Let me repeat that. This system represents steps in a process of smaller, incremental steps that we will implement each day until we have hit all our goals. Try it as an acronym and see if that helps you remember it:
How this works in a real-life situation
Let’s dig in to our “book writing” example and see how this would work. You have one hour a day free, period. Can you write, publish, and market a book? Well . . . did you know that if you only wrote 200 words a day, that you would have an entire book done within a year? Did you know that? That equals only about 3—maybe 4—paragraphs a day. That’s really it. So the question I am really asking you is this? Can you write 3 paragraphs a day? If you can, I have some great news for you. But you seem pretty smart. I bet you already know that I’m going to say this system will work for you, right? Let’s keep walking through the example to make sure.
If you had a book project, you would spend that one hour every day working only on the bit you are on (and nothing else). In other words, if you are in the writing phase of that book, then you would spend that one hour period every day just writing your 3 or 4 paragraphs. If you still have time after they are written, then how you spend that time is up to you. But if all you did was just this one hour, you would still succeed.
Maybe for you that might be from 9-10pm each night. And don’t worry if the writing itself sucks! Just keep going. You can always edit it later, but you can’t edit an empty page – Jodi Picoult, said that, not me. But the MANY novels she has vs mine, well . . . she’s right! So please, just spend your hour writing and get your paragraphs finished.
Once you are done with the writing phase of your book project—in our example this might take you a year, let’s say—you then have to edit it (as Jodi mentioned). So this means that every day for that same 9-10pm hour you simply edit your book. Nothing more during that one hour each day. Why?
Because for the category (or bucket) of book project and during that one hour from 9pm to 10pm, you are only advancing your book. Nothing else. So then, once your book is edited, then you spend that hour (the book hour) of each day submitting it to agents or publishers. Each day, for that one hour—the book hour—you are only looking for places to submit your manuscript to (and submitting it). That’s it, and nothing else. Understand?
Go beyond one bucket
You can do the same for each of the other buckets (on what used to be your time management list) by giving each new area of your life their one (and only one) window each day. Bucket 1 might always be your book, but maybe bucket 2 is always your fitness). But when you look back, after that year has passed all of them will have advanced, tremendously. Not just the book. Your fitness, your charity involvement, your family time—all of it! This is what makes it amazing. Let’s take just 2, and look at them closer. (By the way, yes. We are saying that because we are looking at only 2 buckets, this person had only 2 hours each day that they could allocate.)
- After year one, the book is written and you will also be in great shape.
- After year two, your book will be edited and you will have completed your first marathon!
- After year three your book will be published, you will look amazing at the beach, and
- You will have even created new buckets for other goals because those buckets are empty now.
The money match
This is the placeholder effect I mentioned earlier. It’s very similar to the financial advice that says pay off your small debts first, and then take that same money (the money that no longer needs to go to those small debts because you just paid them off) and apply that money now to a bigger debt. Your money would be the placeholder in that example. Because your goals were accomplished (your book was written or your debt was paid off) you can now allocate that bucket and that mindspace to a new goal. It’s an amazing system because everything gets done, where, before you thought there was not time. Time management is juggling. This is focused achievement in small steps.
If you think it takes too long
If you find that you are hesitant because a year seems like a long time, there are 2 things I would tell you. One, it isn’t a year (or at least it doesn’t have to be). It can be whatever your goal needs. And two, that time will fly by faster than you think. At your current rate, you may not actually HAVE that beach body yet, and you may not have already written that book. I would have to say that one year, then, really is a bargain!
Honestly, I don’t even think of this as the best part. What I like most about my little “Achievement System” is that it really helps you beat the “impostor syndrome.” It does so because, now, when someone asks you what you do, you don’t have to mention that job you hated. You can now say that you are a writer. And it will be true.
And 2 years from now, you may just be getting paid for it! I know it seems far away, but those years are going to come anyway. Why not be doing something cool when they get here?