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The Impossibility of Time Management

How can you possibly manage time?  You can’t see it, hear it, touch it or feel it so how can you manage it?  It is an interesting question to ponder on!


Yet, time management is one of the most requested training topics that we trainers and coaches are asked to help people master and is something that many of us spend our whole lives and careers battling with, often to no avail.  So, are we wasting our time?


Why is time management such a hot topic?  Well, in my experience, when people say they need to go on a time management course it is usually for one of 3 reasons:

  1. they are frustrated at never getting to the end of their to do list
  2. they are stressed because of the ever increasing demands on their time made by others
  3. they are seeking the magic formula which will give them the work/life balance they seek


Let me be straight with you….there is no magic formula!  There is no “10 steps to excellent time management” for you to follow (contrary to what some authors might tell you!).  Nor is there one strategy that will guarantee you success.


However, the answer to how YOU can become better at completing tasks on time, reducing your stress levels and gaining a work/life balance so that you get to do more of the things you want to do not just the things you need to do is……..to be ruthlessly compassionate!


Sound a bit odd?  Well, it’s not as odd as if might first appear.  Let me tell you how…


You see, I believe that the people who use their time effectively are the ones who are ruthless about who and what they give their time to.  They are clear on what they need to achieve in that hour, day, week, month or year, they keep focused on that goal and block out anyone or anything that does not help them to achieve it.


That sometimes requires them to say “no” or to admit that they will not be able to do everything that they or others would like them to do.  But as long as what they are spending their time on takes them at least one step closer to their goal (for that hour, day, week, month or year) then they allow themselves to feel ok with it.


And that is the compassionate bit.  People who use their time effectively are mindful of who is dependent on them to get things done and they ensure that they manage their own and others’ expectations so that neither party ends up feeling let down.  They appreciate that everyone has priorities and those may sometimes conflict but they also realise that for them to deliver a really fantastic result, they will need to choose which priorities are the most important at that time.


Compassion is about not beating themselves up when they have to say “no” or when they can’t complete a request made by someone else but to give themselves permission to make a conscious choice over which tasks can and which can’t be completed in the time available, based on their goals at that time.


So, is time management impossible….YES! You can’t control time!


The seconds, minutes and hours tick past at the same rate every day and so, if you want to make better use of each and every one of those seconds, you need to take control from the inside….be ruthlessly compassionate with yourself and the people who make demands on your time every day.


Before you close this blog down and get back to your “to do list” (oh, and at this point let me say a huge “thank you” for taking the time to read this far!), pause and consider what you can do differently today – right now – to make the most of the time you have today.


  • What can you do to get clarity on what your priorities are for today?
  • What can you do to reduce or minimise any distractions that might stop you from achieving those priorities?
  • Who might you need to say “no” to?
  • And who would you like to say “yes” to?
  • What can you plan time to do today which will nurture you and make you feel good about yourself?


That final question is a good one to ask yourself every day because we all respond really well to reward and incentive.  So, if you start each day with a plan to spend time doing something that makes you feel good, it has an amazing effect on your energy levels!


Good luck and let me know how you get on!

  1. Ruthless compassion. Love it! What a great oxymoron. Great article – thank you.

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