The Myth of Time-Management*

The 40 hour workweek is a myth for the majority of people who work full-time for two reasons. First, sometimes we have to work more, and second, sometimes we want to. When I’m writing a book or working on a new project, I rarely notice the hours. I’m focused, engaged, and challenged. I’m working early, I’m working late, and I’m grabbing every minute I can. But when I have to do something I’m not interested in, it’s different.

It’s not always the number of hours we work that matters, it’s why we’re putting them in. Gallup researchers note: “Highly engaged workers who log well over 40 hours will still have better overall well-being than actively disengaged workers who clock out at 40 hours.”

It’s a myth to assume long hours means less well-being. Just like it’s a myth that we’re working longer hours than ever before, or that this generation is busier than the previous one. We may like to believe we have the biggest busy-badge–ever–but it’s not true. There are plenty of other myths about time, too. Here is a common one.

Myth: If you work harder or smarter you’ll get it all done. This is the myth of time-management: that you can do it all.

The promise is if we work harder and smarter we can control busyness, stop being overwhelmed, and catch-up to the speed of life. Advice is everywhere: do less multitasking (or do it better), work more efficiently, reduce device checking, utilize time tracking and productivity apps, prioritize more, and others. And, if the “average office worker can only focus for seven minutes at a time before they switch windows or check Facebook” according to research by neurologist Larry Rosen, there’s definitely room for improvement. But the premise is still wrong.

We can work harder and smarter, and we should. But that won’t change the fact that we live in a world with constant interruptions, internet rabbit holes to explore, mobile apps to try, more information than we can ever absorb, consider, or read, and enough activity options to fill multiple lifetimes.

Seduced by instant availability and constant connectivity, its self-managing, not time-managing, that enables you to be the curator of your own life; to find, choose, and bring to it the experiences, knowledge, and results you want. Self-managing isn’t about catching up to the pace of life; it’s about creating a pace right for you–one that enables you to thrive.

Where time-management was an essential success strategy for the 20th-century, self-management is its 21st-century equivalent. Some cling to the old belief if they only worked harder or smarter they’d make progress and get everything done, or the new belief that super-tasking is the answer.

But it’s time to face a new reality: there will never be enough time to get everything done that needs doing, you want to do, or would like to do. And there will never be enough time-management tips or approaches to offer solutions to your time problem. Accomplishing what you want for your life isn’t about better time-management; it’s about knowing how to to unlock results in yourself.

*Adapted from It’s Not About Time: How to Thrive and Get the Results You Want at Work and in Life! by Nan S.Russell; Download Chapter 1

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