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5 Reasons Most Time Management Systems Fail (and How You Can Move From Frenzy to Freedom)

Aug 17, 2007
We're all feeling pressured these days. We're making do with less. We're on call 24/7 Our email inboxes are overflowing

So - no surprise - we're getting bombarded with guides to manage our time more efficiently. Visit any bookstore and you will find dozens (maybe hundreds) of titles with "time" in the title. Surf the Internet for "coach" and you'll soon learn the truth: more people hire coaches for time management than for any other reason.

So why are so many of us still feeling frazzled and frustrated? Most time systems offer band-aid solutions to the life equivalent of a broken leg...or patching a flat tire with chewing gum. For real time management change, you have to dig deeper. Here are 10 reasons most time management systems fail -- and what you can do instead.

(1)"One-size fits all" systems.

Your life is unique - so why should your time management system be like everybody else's? For example, one "expert" advises all her clients to focus on marketing during the day. Gym and grocery-shopping should be reserved for evening, she says. But some people actually work better in short bursts of purposeful activity. They thrive on interruptions. Others need a solid block of time or they accomplish nothing. Which are you?

(2) Ignoring your motivation.

Does this scene sound familiar? You visit friends who have teenagers. After dinner the teens are supposed to take out the garbage. "We're too tired," they protest. "Can't it wait till tomorrow?"

The parents almost give in...till the phone rings. After a brief conversation, the teens are headed out the door: "A party! Just a few blocks away - let's run!"

We haven't changed much, whether we're 14 or 64. When we're highly motivated, action seems effortless. Somehow we manage to get everything done.

(3) Waiting to reward yourself till you've "earned" it.

Experienced trainers and psychologists recognize that offering an unexpected treat can be a powerful motivator. Feeling deprived and resentful will be counter-productive. Often when you've been working hard to solve a knotty problem, the solution will come only when you allow yourself to take a break.

(4) Focusing on task instead of purpose.

Time management systems often focus on scheduling and organizing tasks into charts, folders and lists. But you take control over time when you ask, "Why is this item on my To Do List?" and, "Do I really need to do this?"

Over and over, I've heard people discover the big secret: Often when you ignore an incoming message or call, the problem resolves itself. And when you skip a meeting, the world doesn't come to an end.

Of course, you have to be careful. You can't ignore messages from clients (most of the time). If you work for a company, the decision to skip meetings can be hazardous to your career.

But I urge everyone to ask. "Pete" was supposed to send his department head a monthly report. He would need at least a day to compile the numbers. One day Pete forgot to send the report...until the middle of the next month. He realized he hadn't gotten a follow-up warning or reminder. So next month, he deliberately ignored the report. Nobody noticed for the next year, and by then Pete had been promoted: he was known as a productive go-getter around the company.

(5) Listening to the critics.

"Connie" was feeling depressed: her boss had labeled her "disorganized." True, her desk was cluttered and she sometimes came back late from lunch. But Connie ran a complex department and she rarely missed a deadline.

Connie's challenge was to talk to herself encouragingly. She can't give in to calling herself "lazy" and she can't afford to accept the "disorganized" label.

To take charge of time, begin with the way you talk to yourself. Name-calling and insults won't help. Feeling strong and powerful is the first step to solving your own unique time challenges.
About the Author
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is the author of Your Time Management Makeover System: From Frenzy to Freedom in 21 Days.

Time Management Makeover

Fr^e Report: 10 Secrets of Managing a Major Life Change.
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