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  • leighmcswan

Why Time Management Isn’t Working for You

Do you struggle with time management? I can completely understand you may believe that but I want to urge you to rethink the problem: time management. Consider that it’s not the culprit that contributed to your stressed out state.

One of the reasons women feel stressed out all the time is because we tell ourselves this story: “I don’t have enough time,” or, “I have poor time management skills,” or perhaps you have the belief that you just weren’t organized this week, but on Monday, that’s going to change! It’s the constant state of believing that managing our time better will help us feel less rushed, like we’ll complete everything, feel organized and, alas, our stress will dissipate.

I don’t believe that for a second.

But I used to! It wasn’t until I realized that no matter how much I thought I managed my time, my time was actually managing me. Often, the intention of time management left me more stressed out and anxious, feeling worse about myself and my to-do list than before I even considered trying to tackle this mystical concept called time management.

Time management is useless.

It’s useless and fruitless unless you know how to accurately assess time.

The majority of us are absolutely terrible at estimating how long a given task will take us. Not only are we horrible at assessing how long we think it will take us, we don’t give any wiggle room for the one thing that is ever present, ever evolving, and screwing with our plans: LIFE. When we try to manage our time we don’t plan for the conversation with friends at drop-off, we don’t plan for the unexpected phone call, or the absolutely urgent email we must tend to or the technical issues we’re bound to have right when we need to submit a project.

You will never, and I repeat, NEVER feel less stressed in your daily life if you attempt to improve time management without first getting really good at time assessment.

When do you make your to-do list? If you’re like me, you like to do it first thing in the morning when the coffee is in your hands and whispers “add more, we got this."

We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish and underestimate how long each item takes us. If you’re overexerting yourself with your to-do list you will be operating from a state of frantic energy and constant self-loathing (“can’t I ever finish anything on time?”) Defeat sets in and you’ll continue to push the start date to the ‘new you’ to Monday for the rest of your life.

Unless you learn how to properly assess time.

Consider doing a time audit so that you have a better understanding of how long certain tasks will take, what you spend the majority of your time doing and where you have gaps where time is either wasted, unproductive or spent doing unexpected tasks like taking phone calls or answering emails that you didn’t plan for. This should be done for a minimum of 1 week, ideally 2-3 weeks. Make sure you are choosing a timeframe that is typical to get a proper analysis. Don’t choose a week where you have 2 birthday parties, a wedding, a baby shower and an anniversary to celebrate: you won’t get accurate data this way.

When you are doing your time audit you are tracking and recording every single minute of your day. This takes a great deal of vulnerability and honesty with yourself to record everything, but doing so will help you get unstuck and into better habits.

Once you have completed your time audit, look at how much time is being spent. You should be able to get a feel for how long each task you need to do requires of you, where your time gaps fall and how much time is spent outside of being productive. You should have better time assessment skills with this new information.

What I encourage you to do to help you get through a daily to-do list with great success is to do a weekly brain dump. For me, this happens Sunday morning.

I like to sit in my office or on my porch and just dump everything I need to think about for the week ahead onto a piece of paper. This is the weekly list that I mentioned in last week's blog post in the last section on procrastination.

Getting everything you want and need to do out of your head and onto paper helps you focus and feel a sense of calm throughout the week- don’t hold things in your head! Remove those thoughts and make them the responsibility of the papers to hold onto for you.

Then, grab your daily to-do lists (one for each day of the week) and start moving the items from the weekly brain dump onto the daily lists. Highlight your MUST DO items. There should only be 1-3 per day- anything more than that and you’re likely overfilling your list. Your must do items are the things you absolutely need to accomplish that day, such as attending an important meeting, meeting a deadline, etc.

Everything else on that list are the ‘would like to do’ items. These are the things it would be nice to get done but aren’t urgent or absolutely necessary to accomplish that day.

Once you’ve highlighted your must do’s, guesstimate how much time you believe it will take you to accomplish that task. Multiply that by 0.5.

For example, if you estimated that your project would take you an hour to complete, you’re going to time block 1.5 hours to get that done. This is the time buffer for success! Give yourself an extra 30 minutes so that if your FedEx driver needs a signature or your dog needs a bathroom break, you’re accommodating those interruptions without being a slave to your own list. We must make room for LIFE when we write and execute our to do lists.

By implementing these systems and rethinking the way we view to-do lists, you’re going to be left feeling a lot less stressed, less burdened by all the things you want and need to accomplish and you’ll finally feel a sense of pride at the end of the day.

Get these system into your life by downloading the To-Do Bundle here.

How do you feel about this new method of auditing your time, assessing time and making a new to-do list?

Let me know in the comments below this post!

In vibrant health,

ox Leigh

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