Time management is one of the most common skills that people point to when asked about their strengths. Whether applying to college, interviewing for jobs, or completing a performance review, people are conditioned to believe that there is a proper way to manage time in order to be desired and successful. However, time is actually not in any one’s control. In fact, a better skill to boast is that of self-management.
Self-management is the ability to more efficiently use the same 24 hour 7 day chunks of arbitrary time that modern progressive societies have sectioned time into for every single person. Management of time is therefore impossible. Management of one’s actions, decisions, and priorities within a given period of time is both possible and guaranteed to increase success.
Self-management begins with a shift in perspective. Individuals must carefully observe their objectives, the amount of time set aside to achieve them, the resources available to make them happen, and then honestly answer the question of whether or not the whole picture is realistic. If it is not, and people proceed anyways, they end up seen as poor managers of time. They either fail to meet deadlines, meet deadlines with poor quality work, or sacrifice too much in their personal lives in order to meet professional expectations.
On the flip side, success lies in adapting goals and having open conversations with supervisors, colleagues, friends, and family. Success lies in identifying one’s strengths and playing to them, and identifying challenges and either designing paths around them or sources the appropriate people and tools to overcome them. Success lies not in manipulating time, but rather in understanding oneself and one’s place in the world.
Self-management also involves identifying what is motivating. Accomplishing an easy task that one either hates or is completely bored by usually takes longer than a difficult task that one is passionate about. When bored or resentful, the mind wanders. Simple mistakes are easy to make and create a cycle of frustration and repair rather than proactive progress. Engaging in an enjoyable task breeds creative thinking, focus, and hard work.
When people stop and think about the process leading up to their most profound accomplishments, it is not management of time that gets them there. It is their mindsets going into the tasks, the tenacity and creativity that push them through the toughest parts, and the people and resources they call upon for support. It is the management of self within those periods of time that matters most.