“Whenever” never comes: The truth about time management

It’s hot today, and  I don’t much feel like sitting at my desk and working.  I would much rather go down to the beach, spread out an over-sized blanket, sip coconut water, listen to the sounds of crashing waves, and enjoy the sunshine.  However, even though I live blocks from the ocean, it’s not a possible given my schedule.
Let’s talk about productivity and organization.  Do you feel the need to be more organized and/or more productive? Do you spend your day in a frenzy of activity and then wonder why you haven’t accomplished much? With so much talk about “time management” in the business world, it’s hard to ignore.  However, it’s not really about managing time.  How do you really do that?  After all, there are only 24 hours in a day.  Since time doesn’t change, what exactly are we managing?  In truth, we are managing ourselves.
Harry is a freelance write who works from home.  Because Harry works for himself, he enjoys having “free” time  during the course of the day.  Today, Harry’s day went something like this: Harry rose to the sounds of his iPhone going off at 8 am.  Realizing that he had a number of magazine profiles to write and some editing to do, he figured he would knock them out “whenever.”  So, keeping that in mind, Harry threw his work-out clothes on and decided to run to the gym.  He raced out the door, stopped at Starbuck’s for a double latte, and then made his way to the gym.  At 11am, Harry left the gym after getting a phone call from a buddy who wanted to meet for lunch.  It sounded like a great idea, so Harry met his friend at their favorite local pub. There’s nothing like a refreshing beer on a hot day.
Two hours and two beers later, Harry left the pub, feeling stuffed and a little sluggish.  “Must be the heat,” he thought, only he had been in air conditioning for the bulk of the day…Go figure… When Harry got home, his best friend, Dewey greeted him at the door with a “look” of total dissatisfaction.    Once Harry walked into the living room and saw the over-sized patties that Dewey left on the floor, Harry realized that he neglected to let his big golden retriever out to relieve himself, nor did he take him walking before he left the house.  Consequences are a funny thing…
At 1:30, Harry “still” had not even peeked at the work piled on his desk.  Even so, he decided to take a few minutes and take Dewey on his morning (now afternoon) run. Running out the door with Dewey, Harry said, “Okay buddy, we can jam for like 20 minutes, and then I gotta get to work.”  You have to appreciate his heartfelt honesty…
The 20 minute jog lasted all of  10 minutes because everyone knows it’s too hot to run a dog at 1:30 in the afternoon in Southern California. It should have been no surprise to Harry when Dewey made a be-line with his ball for the first body of water he could find, soaking his furry body from head to paw.
Harry thought, “Oh shit, now I’m gonna have to bathe him, and I need to work.” The first sign of panic is pretty easy to recognize.  You know the feeling… Heat suddenly rises at the nap of your neck while your heart begins to race a little, and your breathing gets restricted.  When you live in So Cal, it’s easy to blame this kind of panic attack on poor air quality.  However, the air has nothing to do with it.  It’s that rise of irritation at everything or everyone that suddenly interrupts your day, because you are out of time!
Harry bathed Dewey, but afterwards he was so hot and tired that he forgot himself for a moment, grabbed  a beer, sat down on his over-sized soft Italian leather sofa, and proceeded to fall asleep.  You can imagine his panic when he woke up at nearly 5 p.m. only to find that he had not done one ounce of work!
Somewhere between his latte and Dewey’s bath was Harry’s problem. Needless to say, Harry’s day was ridiculously unproductive.
This really isn’t about time management, but Harry organizing his priorities and changing his behavior. Do you find it hard to manage your work load?  Are you accomplishing what you need to accomplish during the course of the day?  There are some things you can do to re-organize your priorities and find out where you’re wasting time. Start by looking at where you spend your time during the day.  Take a day and write down everything you do from the moment you wake up.  Believe me, a lot of time bandito’s will surface to your amazement!  Things like:  Fiddling on facebook, twittering yourself happy, net surfing, answering every email that comes your way, talking on the phone, eating/snacking, or socializing instead of working. Once you have isolated a typical day, and you take a look at all of the seemingly harmless things you do, you will be shocked at the minutes that fly by while engaging in all of these activities.  You will quickly see that much of this stuff is an utter waste of time.  This is not about time management, as much as it is changing your behavior.  It’s also about setting reasonable goals for yourself, perhaps keeping a daily schedule, monitoring the things you do during the course of a day.

Keep in mind, if you increase  your productivity, you will decrease your stress, and undoubtedly put out much more intelligent and cohesive writing.

Prioritizing your day, and setting goals at the beginning of every day are paramount, in fact, I try and set list my tasks for the following day the night before.  With every goal or task I complete, I check it off the list.  It’s the greatest feeling in the world to know that you are controlling your work day, and actually accomplishing something.  Sometimes, I even surprise myself, and finish with time to spare!
Now that is a profitable day!

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