Why Don’t Time Management Techniques Work?

Why Don't Time Management Techniques Work?Do you ever feel panicked about not having enough time to do everything?

You’re not alone.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend more than 13 hours a day working, running their households, and caregiving in one form or another.  If you factor in time for eating and sleeping and we’ve reached our 24-hour time limit.

No wonder new time management techniques are popping up as often as new diets.  They’re also constantly failing, just like so many of the latest weight-loss fads.

Why?

The answer is simple.

Time management is a myth. 

Let’s consider my situation.

I’m responsible for running my own business, guiding a group of amazing entrepreneurs to create great changes in their businesses, and additionally, I’m the mother of a restless 3-year old, a household manager, and a wife who wants to keep her marriage thriving!

After trying countless time management methods, I came to the realization that there is only so much time management I can do.  I need to learn to manage myself and my energy—not my time!

5 Ways To Manage Yourself & Your Energy

1. Say No to Last-Minute Commitments

Saying no is never easy, especially if you are a people-pleaser like me.

Whenever someone asks something of me, my first reaction is to drop everything and accommodate their request.  It’s not something that I’d want to totally change about myself, but I have taught myself new, more effective ways of handling these situations.

Now, before responding to requests, I consult my calendar and contemplate whether or not they’re aligned with my priorities.

For example, a few days ago I received a request to write a guest post.  The request came from someone I respect.  Besides that, the piece that I was asked to create would bring visibility to the work I do, but the deadline was in only 3 days.

My first impulse was to accept it on the spot.  But I made myself walk away from my laptop and let the request set in.  I knew that if I agreed, certain things would have to get pushed back.  Was that acceptable?  In this case it wasn’t.

So I went back, thanked them for the opportunity and explained that I just couldn’t commit to writing this article in the time allowed.  I then apologized, but I deleted the apology and  in its place, I asked for 2 weeks of lead time if they wanted me to guest post.

I was immediately asked if I could write just one paragraph so that I could be quoted in the article.  Of course,  I said yes.

It was a win-win situation.

So a “no” is not always a rejection.  More often than not it’s a“not now” or a “not on those terms.”

Remember, it’s YOUR time.  You’ve got to use it on your own terms. 

2. Don’t Be Busy—Be Strategic

For small business owners who are responsible for everything in our businesses, it’s incredibly easy to fill our days with things that we know need to get done.

The problem is that being busy doesn’t always mean that we’re being productive. Tweet this!

Doing things just for the sake of checking them off our lists only leads to our feeling stuck, drained, and discouraged. 

You know what it’s like to slave away day in and day out only to realize that you’ve made very little progress.

Overcome this frustrating situation by making sure that you have a tangible goal in mind for each thing you do.

Do you want bring in more income?  Here are some tangible goals .  . . .

  • I need to sign 3 new clients in order to bring in $6,000 of additional income.
  • Approximately 7 sales conversations are needed to bring in these 3 clients.
  • To generate these conversations, I have to get in touch with about 12 people.

Assign your own numbers to these targets and start experimenting with them so that you can get clear about what is and is not working.

Maybe you’re struggling to generate the conversations in the first place.  If so, you might have to create more (or differently designed) sales offers to your list, ask existing clients for referrals, or create alliances with other service providers.

Having trouble with the sales conversations?  You might need to find a way to better understand the needs of your potential clients and ensure you’re selling a solution to their specific problems.

If everything is working in these two areas, but you’re not closing enough deals, you’ve got to look into what’s going wrong with your close.

I gave this actual advice to a colleague who was feeling stuck, and here is what she shared with me: “Thank you so much for your help! I decided to take action on what you suggested and have already had a shift—two new sign-ups to my newsletter today!”

Get clear on what you need to do, and why -then analyze the results.  This will not only give you a clear sense of direction, but you will accomplish more in less time.

3.  Your To-Do List Should Only Have 1-3 Priorities

Back when I was laying the foundation for my business, I was going absolutely insane because of the amount of things I needed to do.  I remember coming to my husband one day and asking for his advice for how to manage my laundry list of to-dos.  His advice was simple “Cut it in half.”  I gasped: “And what do I do with the other half??”

After looking for some answers online, I came across a suggestion from Ramit Sethi’s that sounded even more radical.  He recommended that you have no more than 3 things on your daily to-do list and they had to be related to moving your business forward.  Also, he advised getting clear on these 3 things the night before (or first thing in the morning).

It took me a while to switch gears.  I had to quiet the voice in my head screaming that I was not going to make any progress this way.  But after a couple of weeks of making more headway than in the previous two months, I was a believer.

I swear by this technique and always share it in my presentations.

After a recent presentation, a woman who is running her own business while also holding down a full-time job said, “I am now focusing on doing ONE thing each day (instead of 20 million like I usually try to do) and you know what, it really makes a difference. I am actually getting things done. So thank you, thank youuuuu!”

 4. Give Your Workflows a Makeover

As your Systems Chick, you know I have to mention the importance of systems.

But let me clarify something.

I’m not referring to software and gadgets.  Though technology is important and helps us automate/streamline many processes, business systems are more about the step-by-step paths we take to get from point A to point B and much less about the tools we use to do it.

For example, a few weeks ago I had a Chaos to Clarity session with a client who felt that she didn’t have enough time in the day to get everything done.

She’d create a to-do list in the morning.  However, she wasn’t able to concentrate on them because of all the other things that were floating around in her head, which needed to get taken care of but weren’t attached to any specific dates. Even simple tasks were taking her forever because these things would pop up in her head and totally interrupt her flow.

I recommended that she first created a map of her business using this worksheet.  It’s a list that covers most of the key activities for online businesses.  She applied those activities to her business.  Crossed out the activities that weren’t relevant for her, and added any activities that weren’t on the list.

Then she established priorities, i.e., activities that were most frustrating or that were having the most detrimental effect on her bottom line.  I suggested that she concentrate on each area for one week; creating a checklist of things that had to happen for the processes to flow, and blocking time in her calendar to take care of them or assigned them to her VA.

The day after our consultation, she said: “My entire day went so much better than usual after you shined the light on some simple steps I can take to get more organized.  I felt more confident and capable–it was empowering.  And that’s even BEFORE I really get going!!!!  Think about how it will be once I implement systems.”

5.  Listen to Your Body

Once you have mapped out your business you will find yourself much clearer on what activities you need to be concentrating on and why.  This is huge.

There is just one last skill that you need to master.

You’ve got to learn to listen to your body.

You’ve got to get attuned to how you feel during your highs and lows to take advantage of your productivity waves and give yourself a break when your body needs to replenish its energy supplies.

Go for a walk, workout, take a nap, or treat yourself to a healthy pick-me-up.

By listening to your body you’ll  learn to differentiate between fatigue and, what Steven Pressfield calls resistance.  By ‘resistance’ he means the internal self-sabotage that can be defeated only by working through the discomfort and honoring commitments you made to yourself and others.

Overcoming the internal resistance is the hardest thing of all.  For most people it’s a lifelong challenge.

But as you practice it more and more, you’ll start realizing that you don’t need more time.  You have plenty of it.  All you need is making the best out of the time that you do have by managing yourself and your environment.

Back to You

How do you manage yourself and your energy?  Which one of the techniques in today’s post resonate with you most strongly?

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4 comments

  1. Great post, Natasha! And I love the idea of 1-3 to-do’s per day. That feels like a sane, reasonable suggestion when the days feel chockfull and often chaotic. Question: what *did* you do with the other 1/2 of your to do’s when your husband said, “cut them in half?” Did you just spread them out over a few days? Thanks!

    • nvorompiova /

      That’s a great question, Elizabeth! I allowed myself to slow down. I also reexamined the list and took quite a few items out based on my priorities and time constraints.

  2. Thanks for this info. I’m so excited to implement it all. I decided to tweak things slightly. I made a list of all things I need to do in the coming month. I took that list and broke it down by writing out the tasks I want to complete this week. This list still looked so big to me. I decided to make things more underwhelming and broke up those tasks into much smaller tasks so I am taking baby steps to get into better self managing habits. I can’t wait to get started on my list today because it actually seems like I will get it all done.

    I was thinking of moving on to tomorrow’s tasks and getting ahead if I finish today’s list and still feel like I have the energy and mindset to. Do you think this is a good idea… or will this lead to my usual burnout?

    Crystal

    • nvorompiova /

      That’s wonderful, Crystal! If you feel like you have the energy, go for it! Just make sure that you take breaks and listen to your body. It will tell you when it’s enough. :)

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