Time management is all about trying to squeeze in everything you need to do into those boxes on your calendar. When executive coaches talk about “time management” they’re generally referring to the way that you organize and plan how long you spend on specific activities.
“Good” time management takes that definition further – it requires an important shift in focus from activities to results. The problem with that is that you can end up with more to do than you initially anticipated. That’s why I prefer a new take on time.
The secret to managing your time effectively is knowing what you want to do, and when you will do it, and so over the last few years I have been teaching people to “maximize” their time.
Maximizing your time means clearing away obstacles to increase time and productivity. For example, let’s say you’re going on a business trip. Managing your time would mean you get out your calendar, you slot in all of the things you need to do, you crunch and cramp them into the calendar as much as you can, perhaps even double booking yourself, and sometimes even adding an additional to-do list.
There is nothing wrong with managing your time – but you need to recognize your time limits. All that time management does is get you organized, which makes you feel like you can get more done in a day than you probably can. But is that the only goal?
Maximizing your time means making the most of your time. It requires asking yourself important questions like: What’s essential? What’s my number one priority? What’s the impact of this priority? How does it compete with the other things that might otherwise be on my calendar?
To use the travelling example, instead of just making the calendar schedules and to-do lists (managing your time), you might rather identify for yourself the one thing that’s most important to you to get done on the trip. Carve out your time on your travels to do that action item, eliminate some of the other items of lesser importance on the list, the things that you could choose not to in service of a greater goal.
If you’ve ever been to Europe, you might have had the experience of sipping wine or coffee at a cafe for hours in the middle of the afternoon, or luxury eating in an hours-long dinner with family and friends well into the evening. Europeans may sometimes be as stressed as we are, but they have routines that allow them to maximize their time in a way that allows them to take control over how they want to prioritize their day.
Now the next time you’re on a business trip, instead of scheduling and managing your time, try maximizing it by prioritizing your time. You’re thinking about not how to get everything done, but how to be your best. Being your best might mean that you get in bed early, get extra sleep, wake up feeling refreshed, eat only healthy food while you’re there and focus on that one essential thing you need to do.
You’ll feel a dramatic difference when you maximize your time. Life slows down, you feel centered, you feel aligned, you may even feel like you’re living a higher quality of life that’s very different from the mad dash that many of us feel on a daily basis. Maximizing your time may seem like a luxury that you feel you can’t afford right now, so maybe you might make the big bold leap to maximizing your time with these practices only for one day a week to start. Give yourself the opportunity to experience the difference.
The following article appeared on Inc.com today as a part of my column, “Behind The Desk.” Look out for new columns every week!