This article isn’t going to solve all of your time-management agonies. It’s not full of lists on how to maximize your time, minimize your email inbox, or how to set your priorities the right way. There are other blogs, books, and online courses that will make you a time-management wizard.
I am going to ask you a question that will put you on the right path. It’s the first step to making the most of the time you have.
Most people think that the reason they don’t get everything done is because they haven’t stumbled upon that right tip, tool, or lifehack. (Oh, I can separate an egg yolk with an empty plastic bottle, now my life is going to be so much easier…).
But here’s the question you have to ask yourself first, before you look at any time-saving shortcuts. And you have to answer it – honestly. Not to me, but to yourself:
Do you control your time?
Actually, I don’t care what the answer to that question is. Here’s one that is more relevant:
Do you act like you control your time?
If you don’t truly behave like you are in charge of your time, that everything you do is by your choice, you will always feel behind the 8-ball.
I had a client who was an incredibly accomplished executive. He said that he controlled his time because he would stand up to his boss sometimes and say, “No, I can’t meet with you then.” But his direct reports were a constant interruption in his day, and if a client called with a problem, well, there went the next hour…
Whenever I ask people this question, the most common response is bluster and harumphing (it’s a word, trust me). I hear about responsibilities and chores and bills to pay and children to raise. I hear about all of the reasons that they can’t control their time. And they are all incredibly legitimate! We do have to pay our bills and feed our children, but do you realize that those are all still choices? You don’t have to do any of it. You might not like the consequences if you don’t, it’s a choice, not a pre-determined fact. There are plenty of bills that don’t get paid and bad parents out there.
If you are going to point to external responsibilities as your structure, then you have to accept that you don‘t control your time. That you aren’t the master of your own life. That might be a hard pill to swallow, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be driven by external forces and still be in control of your time. So be very wary before you give away your responsibility and power so quickly.
Time is truly our one finite resource. More so than money, power, or fame, how you spend your time determines the quality of your life. How you actually spend it. Not how you plan to spend it, or how you think you will spend it, or how you imagine that you will spend it.
So here’s a trick that you can use to get better at controlling your time use. Act like you are in control. There will always be lot of external forces that act on us. When you take action, though, do it intentionally. Even if that action isn’t something you want to do, understand how it has consequences that you do want.
Because if you act like someone who is in charge of destiny, you eventually will be.