Like pretty much everybody, I often find myself whining that there just aren’t enough hours in any given day. Every morning, I’ll sit down at my computer, take one quick glance at the to-do list that stretches out in front of me, and quickly find myself met with that feeling of dread that there’s no way I’ll ever get everything done.
Of course, I’ve tried my best to identify possible solutions to my seemingly constant time shortage. I’d wake up earlier or work later. I’d use a productivity method like the Pomodoro Technique. I’d rearrange my to-do list. I’d work through lunch.
Still, I still found myself with the same problem: There was never enough time.
In these stressful moments, my thought process was always the same. “What’s my problem?” I’d think to myself while staring at that lengthy roster of unfinished tasks, “I must really suck at managing my time.”
Recently, I read this thought-provoking article written by Charlie Gilkey, in which he mentions that the idea of time management itself is really a bankrupt concept.
“Money can be managed. People can be managed. Schedules can be managed. Time can only be accounted for,” he eloquently explains in the piece.
He goes on to explain that people who believe themselves to have time management problems really have priority management problems. There’s no way they’ll ever give themselves more hours in the day—so, they need to get better at determining what tasks and to-dos should actually be filling that allotted space.
I’m sure we all know that’s far easier said than done. So, Gilkey also suggests several questions you can use to help yourself better identify your own priorities. And, one in particular really resonated with me. It was this:
What matters now?
It’s a deceivingly simple question—yet, one that’s far too easy for us to lose sight of when we’re attempting to tread water throughout our workdays.
Admittedly, I’m guilty (as I’m sure the rest of you are as well!) of not necessarily tackling things according to their priority level. I’ll start my day with mindless tasks like clearing out my inbox—when that article that’s due by the end of the day should really be up first.
Even further, things that aren’t necessarily relevant or of extreme importance wiggle their way into a spot on my to-do list and stay there. They don’t need to be done today—or even tomorrow—yet I cloud my perception of my own priorities by assigning them false importance.
For the past few days, I’ve used this question to counteract those natural tendencies and help me get a better grasp on where I should really be focusing my attention and my time. I’ve even gone so far as to take a highlighter to my to-do list to pull out those must-do items that would otherwise get buried.
I’m pleased to say that, so far, things have been going well. Those high-ranking tasks are wrapped up by the end of each day, leaving me to feel accomplished and on top of things—rather than stressed and frazzled.
So, if you find yourself often complaining about your perceived time management problem, I recommend you give Gilkey’s article a read and this strategy a try. No, I haven’t managed to literally get myself more hours in the day—but, it certainly feels that way.