Time Management Myth

Wall clock

Lately, it feels like time is my enemy, keeping me from being as productive as I should be. The clock ticks on whether I complete a task or not. With the increasing workload of my freelance business, I’m realizing the need to schedule my time more intentionally. Until recently, I have been able to get work done in “spare” hours throughout the day. I’d work a little here, work a little there, work a lot after the kids went to bed. But with freelance jobs being sporadic, I didn’t work on my freelance every day, just as needed. That has changed.

I’m finding that as my business grows, I actually have to work more often. It seems an obvious cause and effect, doesn’t it? However, it only occurred to me in the past few months, which is probably why I’m not running a Fortune 500 company. As my need for time management increases and my attempts at scheduling my tasks seem thwarted at every turn, I began to ask, “Can time really be managed?”

I like what Peter Bregman, blogger for the Harvard Business Review, said in one of his posts. He stated that “the idea that we can get it all done is the biggest myth in time management.” He went on to explain that we are limited resources with a limited amount of time in each day. According to him, this can be empowering because it forces us to focus on what is really important. We can choose the things that really need to be done and put off, or forget, about the rest.

In the spirit of Peter Bregman’s post, here are a few tips I’m going to use to try to “manage” my time more effectively.

  1. I will prioritize. I’m going to focus on what needs to be done today or this week and try not to let the “busy” work of life interfere. This is especially challenging when one of my kids is sick or there isn’t a clean towel in the house, but I will prevail.
  2. I will plan my workload. I’m going to break down my current jobs according to deadline, and plan out what I will work on from week to week. This requires predicting how much time each job will take, so adding a little lead time to each job is a good idea. I recently learned that the hard way. I will be missing a deadline on a job I’m working on now because I miscalculated how long the job would take. I don’t plan to do that again.
  3. I will use daily and weekly to-do lists. This sounds a bit simplistic, but I’m the kind of person who likes to check things off a list. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. It also helps me focus on what needs to be done. There’s an item on a list staring at me daring me to cross it off as completed. I do love a challenge.
  4. I will set aside specific hours each day to work. This is particularly difficult because I still have a three-year-old running around who requires some attention during the day. I can still plan to work in the morning before my family is up, during her nap time, and after the kids go to bed. This makes for a long day, but it’s doable. Some afternoons and weekends I reserve a study room at my local  library to work. (I love the library, so quiet and peaceful. I get so much done there, plus they have all the reference books I need and a coffee shop.)
  5. I will set aside time to relax. When deadlines loom, I get so caught up in getting a job done, I tend to neglect my down time. I pay for it later by getting stressed out, grumpy, and depressed. My time management plan must include some fun. It also makes me more productive and helps me avoid burnout.

Maybe time management is a myth. After all, I can’t control time, I can only control myself. I will try to carry out my plan while keeping in mind that my freelance writing business isn’t a life and death institution. If I miss a deadline, it doesn’t bring dire consequences. It may cost me a client in the long run, but it’s not the end of the world. I do want my business to succeed, but not at the cost of every other aspect of my life. So, with careful consideration and trepidation, I will attempt to harness the power of the clock and take charge of my life.

Later, I’ll be checking this blog post off my to-do list.

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7 responses to “Time Management Myth”

  1. dazeofgrace says :

    Hear, hear!! Great advice!

  2. quetzalcotl says :

    Great post! I’m a freelance writer as well, and the greatest challenge of this job is to set a number of uninterrupted hours dedicated to writing. From all the productivity blogs and books I’ve read, your tips are.basically the essentials of better time management.

  3. onlineghostwriterforhire says :

    I almost never watch television anymore…because…

    (A) it is a bunch of garbage…
    (B) it is a huge waste of time…
    (C) I am too busy having fun writing, and working online, and it does not even “feel” like work!

    People can choose to be productive, or they can choose to waste time…

  4. JJ says :

    I believe that the key to manage time effectively is through self discipline. With self discipline it can help you stay focus on tasks and ignore work distractions, which will get you more things done. I manage to keep myself productive with just two things, one is self discipline and the other is with the help of a time management tool that tracks time accurately. Using this tool I set an estimated amount of time when working on each task that limits me wasted time. It also keeps me focus where I can take a break for a given time to relax a bit and try to refresh sanity. Take a look at this http://reorg.co/timedoctor-review-2012-04/ productivity review of the tool that I use at work.

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