See why time management doesn't work!

Does Time Management Work?

by Jacqueline McLaughlin Hale

I'm sick of time management! It seems that everywhere you turn someone else is telling you how to manage your time. The problem is: time management doesn't work! Don't believe me? I'll prove it. Let's start with the basics.

Webster's defines manage (the word from which management is derived) as, "to control the movement or behavior of." You can't control the movement or the behavior of time. It is finite. There are only 24 hours in a day. Period. The definition itself sets time management up for failure. So the issue is not how to manage your time; the issue is how to prioritize your time. There's a big difference!

Prioritizing your time is about accepting that you cannot squeeze more into a day. It is about choosing what you will accomplish and letting go of the rest. It is an understanding that no matter what you do, you are limited to 24 hours.

To make matters worse, you don't even really have 24 hours. If you want to stay healthy you've got to sleep, on average, eight hours a day. Your 24 hours are reduced to 16. If you have a job, you work eight hours a day, spend an hour on lunch and approximately one-and-a-half hours commuting. That's a total of 10.5 hours per day. Your available time is now down to 5.5 hours per day. (If you're self-employed you may not have a commute but you probably work longer hours, so we'll still allocate 10 and a half hours a day for that.)

Whether you're a man or a woman you probably spend an hour a day getting dressed and ready to go in the morning. Most likely you give yourself an additional hour to wind down before bed in the evening. Your 24-hour day has been reduced to 3.5 hours.

You've got 3.5 hours a day to cook, clean, pay bills, catch up with your spouse and children, get some laundry done, go to the store, help with homework, prepare for the next day and chauffeur your kids. That's the reality. It can't be done. You can't be Martha Stewart in three and a half hours per day! All the "time management" in the world won't change that. So what's the solution? Is there a solution? You betcha! Prioritize your time! Here's how...

To begin with, forget about the three-and-a-half hours a day and just make a list of what your priorities really are. Don't worry about possible limitations, just be philosophical. Your list may look something like this: God, family, health, work, the house, and the bills. You may have more priorities. That's okay. This is your list. Personalize for you! When it's completed, rank the priorities in order of importance.

Next, make a list of how you spend a typical day. That list may look something like this: work, sleep, commute, prepare dinner, clean up after dinner, do a load of laundry, help with homework, go to the grocery store, get the kids bathed and ready for bed, watch TV.

Compare your list of priorities to your list of a typical day. If you're like most people your family ranks in one of the top two spots on your list of priorities, yet they probably receive the least amount of your time and attention in the course of a typical day. Enlightening isn't it? But most people can't cut down on the number of hours they sleep or work to free up time for the family. So the solution is to spend that three and a half hours in ways that are more aligned with your priorities. You can do that by:

  1. Keeping your eye on the ball. This is about setting your priorities daily and staying focused on them so you do not become side tracked. Make a list, similar to a "To Do" list. Rank it in order of importance. Include such items as "listen to my children," "spend time with my spouse." Carry the list with you. Refer to it often. Spend 80% of your time on those items at the top of your priority list and 20% on those items toward the bottom.
  2. Doing less of the "other stuff." Recognize that some of it just isn't that important. Does the dust really matter (not unless someone in your house is allergic to it)? Does the house have to be picked up? Do the beds really need to be made?
  3. Your family needs nutritious meals, clean clothes and bills that are paid (to keep a roof over their heads as well as a few other amenities). They do not need to live in a spotless house, or to be involved in a dozen extracurricular activities.

    So, learn to say "no". "No, I'm sorry I can't be a Scout leader right now." "No, I can't join one more PTA committee." "No, you can't take dance lessons and soccer too."

    Plan more efficiently. Plan meals one week at a time and do all of the grocery shopping on the weekend. Freeze ingredients that will spoil if not used right away. Cook in bulk and freeze the excess for dinners later on in the week. Get a book on crock-pot cooking and do more of that. Visit Reynolds for quick and easy recipes.

    Put everything in the dishwasher (unless, of course, your dishes, pots, pans, etc aren't dishwasher safe). Clean up as you cook. Let some of the dirt in your house stay. Do laundry once a week or make it your goal to do one load a day. Cut out the TV.

  4. Incorporating your family into "the other stuff." Have your children help with dinner. Make the entire mealtime, from preparation to clean up, a family affair. Use that time to listen to your children and talk to your spouse. Take your kids to the grocery store with you and find out what's going on in their lives in the process. Put in a load of laundry while you're cooking dinner. Pay bills while you're sitting at your child's T-ball practice or, make a list of what you have to do to prepare for the next day (so you can spring into action as soon as you get home). Delegate household chores.

All in all, stop managing your time. Prioritize it instead! Establish your priorities daily. Change them as needed. Stay focused and stop worrying about the rest. Three and a half hours just isn't enough to do it all!

Jacqueline McLaughlin Hale is a CPA and the editor of Between Friends: How to make time for yourself. Between Friends is a website dedicated to helping you make time for yourself by showing you how to take care of your responsibilities more quickly and efficiently. Subscribe to our FREE ezine. Just send a blank email to:

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