In today’s guest post, Karen Southall Watts once again forces us to face the truth — no matter how painful — so we can achieve our business and personal goals.
The challenge of time management is not new. Increasing pressure to “do more with less” is the hallmark of modern life. At some point everyone faces issues about how much to do or how to prioritize the items on their to-do-list. And the resources we need are all around us. There’s a wealth of information on the internet (much of it free), thousands of self-help books and CD’s and legions of gurus willing to tell us how to get it all done.
So, what’s the problem?
Often we merely give into our excuses. It’s time to confront those ideas, thrash them and move on.
Excuse #1 – I work better under pressure.
Uh… no you don’t. The science simply does not back this up. Intense pressure and worry, like what you feel when you are about to miss a deadline, triggers the body’s limbic system. This is the part of your brain that sets in motion the famous “fight or flight” response. Once the body and brain get focused on survival you can forget about creativity or systematic organization. The fact that you sometimes manage to scrape by does not mean you are turning out quality work or managing your time effectively.
Excuse #2 – I shouldn’t have to do this.
Sometimes in my workshops I call this “magical thinking”. Many people resist learning to be more efficient because they feel they are being over worked or treated unfairly. It’s hard to get things done when you feel that “it’s not my job.” Not making an effort and waiting for the system to change is totally unrealistic. However sometimes people think they can out wait a boss, a client or a policy they don’t like. They refuse to try time management strategies because they are hoping and waiting for the rules to change.
Excuse #3 – I HAVE a system; I know what’s in all these piles.
If you find yourself defending your mess or your methods, that’s a sign of trouble. True, we are all individuals and have different personal styles for work. However, when you start making this excuse ask yourself who you are really trying to convince. Do you really know where everything is? Try giving yourself a test. Make a list of four to six important pieces of information you should be able to find (tax returns, client numbers, vendor contract, sales letter template etc). Now…try to find them within 15 minutes.
Excuse #4 – I really don’t spend THAT much time watching TV, surfing the web, snacking, texting, chatting or posting to Facebook.
There’s a reason almost all time management books, seminars and workshops begin with some type of “record your typical day” exercise. Most of us simply do not realize how much time we spend in mindless activities that contribute nothing to our personal or professional success. If you’ve never done this, it’s time to give it a try. Social media and the arrival of smart phones have made this an even more attractive excuse. Think about it. If you are never, ever disconnected from information input and you’re constantly interacting with your online community, how do you have time to do anything else?
Excuse #5 – I’m too busy putting out fires.
Emergencies happen, but for most of us our jobs or businesses do not revolve around crisis control, or at least they shouldn’t. If you are constantly in emergency mode then either you or your staff needs to review prioritization. Not everything is urgent. Ask yourself if you’re addicted to the rush of saving the day. Be brutally honest. Unless you are a first responder (police officer, fire fighter, EMT) then you should not be too busy with emergencies to improve your time management skills.
It may seem harsh to strip away our favorite excuses, but in today’s competitive environment no one can afford to waste time. Pour yourself a cup of bravery and confront these excuses and put them in the past.
Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney
Karen Southall Watts is an entrepreneurship and management coach who focuses on practical and effective solutions for professionals. Karen offers workshops and one-on-one coaching. She is the author of the ebook, Sex is Good for Business: A Workbook for Couples in Business Together. Follow Karen on Twitter or find her at www.karensouthallwatts.com. Karen also teaches Business Ethics and writing at the community college level.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies.
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