The Importance of Time Management Is Clear. The Real Question Is, How Do You Actually Do It

We all intuitively know the importance of time management activities in our lives.

At it’s most basic level, time management activities can help us keep up with all of the competing demands that fill up our days – email, to-do items, events, meetings, etc. It can help you be more productive and it can help you get more done in less time.

More importantly, however, time management methods can help you begin to proactively weave a life you love. Once you have mastered several easy exercises, you can identify things you care about most and begin to build your life around them. This proactivity represents a dramatic shift from playing defense and simply managing the flood of things coming at you.

While the importance of time management clearly lays in first playing a good defense and then playing offense in your life, so to speak, the larger question is, “How do you do it?”

Whereas most time management gurus recommend first starting with elaborate exercises to identify priorities, I find that most people need immediate relief from the onslaught of demands. In fact, many of my executive coaching clients say to me, “Just make it stop!”

To do this, as a first step to get your head above water, you need to develop a few quick but powerful disciplines around managing emails, planning your calendar, triaging to-do items, and managing physical mail and clutter. Frequently, when people can master new habits in these domains, they can then “take a breath” and then carve out time for more advanced life and time management methods.

Next, take time to identify the patterns in your life. What seems to cause your problems? (Look for both internal and external factors). What seems to help you? What seems to hurt you? What seems to happen over and over? How can you use your strengths to help you?

With clear answers to these questions, then identify your priorities and start planning your annual, quarterly, and weekly goals around these priorities. Clear priorities can also help you plan your day effectively. With clear priorities, many people begin making dramatic shifts to their lives, such as paying greater attention to their health, their families, and activities they enjoy. Because they’ve learned core skills, they can turn these priorities into realities.

Finally, I recommend you take a systems mindset – like an engineer – and design systems in your life to help manage the details. There are many time management resources out there to help with this. Some excellent ones include automatic bill pay, automatic bank transfers, electronic to-do lists, among others. With a little creativity, you can design systems to work for you in many aspects of your life.

In short, time management exercises are important first for playing defense against the onslaught of modern life. More importantly, it can help you learn to play offense and proactively weave a life you love. To accomplish this, first focus on developing good habits managing the usual culprits – email, calendars, and activities. Then, once you can carve yourself some time, identify your most important priorities and begin building your life around them.

Good luck!