Time Management Is A Lie | Can We Really Manage Time?

time management manage timeWe can’t manage time; we manage ourselves regarding time.

Time management is a lie—a complete impossibility!  How does one actually manage time?  Time is ever passing-it cannot be grasped.  Time is also a measurement, and we can’t control its quantities.  No matter what you do, you cannot create more time. (Except maybe living longer-but even then you wouldn’t create more time-you would just fill it longer!)

Easy to Follow?

Who do you find easier to follow:  a disheveled leader always on edge, or a calm person that gives you the feeling that things are under control?  A follower can sense if a leader is spinning out of control or if he or she has a handle on things.  It’s easy to sense if someone is unable to “manage time.” They are more likely to respond well and follow the person who gives them the feeling that things are “together.”  When we don’t have a good grasp on managing ourselves regarding time, they know it!

Your leadership ability is directly correlated to your ability to manage yourself regarding time.  You may have great skills, but if you cannot spend time expending your skills, your reach is limited.

Time is life. How you spend your time is how you spend your life.

Compare time to money.  If each hour in a day were worth one dollar, you would get $24 to spend.  Once each hour and day has passed, you can never regain that $1.  You must, and will, spend it immediately.  That’s why time management is a lie-you can’t control it, make more of it, or direct it. You can only direct yourself.

Where you invest your money (time) is where you will get the return. Whether frivolously or as a wise investment.

1.  Sow yourself into empty things, and you reap an empty person.

2.  Sow yourself into what matters most, and what matters most is the return.

3.  Seek first what’s most important-and I’m certain your other true priorities will be fulfilled as well.

Roles We Live

If you’re anything like me, we find ourselves pulled in numerous directions.  Sometimes I’m stretched so thin I think to myself, “Where did all my time go?”  And sometimes I wonder whether or not I’m fulfilling to the fullest what I know I’m born to do.  I find it helpful and focusing to actually write down what my most essential roles in life are.

Do you know what the primary roles are in your life?  When you describe yourself, what roles come to mind?  What are you defined by?  At the end of your life, if you didn’t fulfill these roles in your life, would you say you did not succeed?

Step 1:  Write down your 5-7 roles.

Take some time and contemplate what the primary roles you play in life are.  You should end up with 5-7.  Here’s an example of what the everyday man might say:

1.  Husband/Father

2.  Son/Brother/Best Friend

3.  Manager

4.  Student

5.  Self-developer

6.  Volunteer

Stephen Covey, from whom I’m borrowing the “roles” idea from in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (I might add-this is a must-read for every type of man that wants to be a person of influence), states that if you exceed seven roles you are probably doing too much.

Step 2:  Write down the amount of time assigned to each activity that makes up that role in a week.

Take each of these roles and flesh out what during the course of the typical week makes up you living out that role.  What are the things that you MUST DO?  If you were to not do them, you would not be fulfilling who you are, that which is most important to you.

For example:

1.  Husband/Father=Weekly date with wife=4 hours, Development Night with wife=3 hours, Jonny’s Saturday baseball games=2 hours, etc

2.  Son/Brother/Best Friend=Weekly phone call to parents=# hours

3.  Manager=# development, # hours planning, # hours executing, # one-on-one with boss, # hours one-on-ones with leaders, etc

4.  Student=3 hours homework, 3 hours reading, 3 hours writing papers

5.  “Sharpening the Saw”=# hours sleep, 4 hours exercise, 6 hours reading

6.  Volunteering=# hours

Step 3:  Add all those hours up.  Is that total more or less than 168?

Once you’ve listed out what you must do on a weekly basis to fulfill those roles, total up all of the hours assigned to them.  If this number exceeds 168, then you’re probably doing too much!

Manage Time

It might seem crazy to think through this, but it’s one of the most important things you can ever do!  Time is life-where you spend your time is where you spend your life!  If you don’t know where you are investing your life you may not get the return that you’re truly intended to receive!  Remember that these roles are the ones that are most important to you, that if you DON’T do them, at the end of your life you would look back and say that you failed in that area. Then you’ll know that you truly didn’t “manage time.”

Less May Mean More When You Manage Time

Sometimes in life less is more.  If you’re exceeding 168 hours in a week, you have four options:

1.  Do less

2.  Do what you’re doing in less time

3.  Do what you’re supposed to do at the right time

4.  Sleep less-but will this option actually make you more productive?

Step 4:  Focus your time:  Is there anything you should cut from your schedule, or reduce the amount of time you spend on?

That’s the reality of managing ourselves.  We can’t create more time, but we can leverage ourselves by knowing what we need to do and when we are sharpest to do that particular activity.  I personally am terrible at reading in the morning.  So I’m not going to read the anything more than sports and news then.  I am not a sharp thinker in the morning either.  Early morning times are when I devote myself to more rote tasks, and the late morning and late afternoon I devote to more thinking-oriented time.  I know that right after lunch my energy level will drop, so I schedule something more fitting to that time.

Next, take those time allotments and plug them into a calendar.  Software is preferable as it’s easy to rearrange your blocks of time.  Use whatever you need.  Plug these time allotted tasks into a calendar so that you can visually see where you’re time goes.

Step 5:  Execute=”Just Do It”

Now comes the difficult part-execution.  Have you ever written a new plan to manage time but failed to fulfill it?  Yeah, me too.  We might have the perfect calendar booked but when it comes to manage time for a task we may not be in the mood to execute it or a pressing matter may have come up.  Allow your blocks of time to be a little bigger than they may need to be, and know which blocks of time can be shuffled around with others.  And when it’s time do to a task you’re not in the mood for—MANAGE YOURSELF.  It’s a choice.  Lead yourself, and tell your time where to go!

[Featured Image Photo Credit: http://dribbble.com/WSTMN]


  1. Nice work Todd, I am going to try it!

  2. Francis Floth says

    Good article. This is somethings that most people struggle with. Students especially. This gives me great perspective on how to use the most of my time and not fall into laziness.

    • Todd Mayfield says

      I think we all struggle and fight to leverage our time. It’s so easy to let it get eaten up by trivial distractions and easy, menial tasks. Being purposeful and maximizing our time doesn’t happen on accident. It takes concentrated effort and planning as we tell our time where to be invested. Keep us posted on how this process is going for you!

  3. Crap, I am doing too much, time to widdle it back down to something manageable. Nice post Todd, very insightful.

  4. It is really a shame that I can’t do all of my cleaning and lawn care during the winter when I have more free time from being off of work.

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