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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Time Management is for Rookies

Last I heard, there are still only 24 hours in a day. Time management strategies acknowledge this and I'm thinking it is going to stay that way. There will always be exactly 24 hours in a day. To think that time management is all you need to increase productivity is, at best, naive. It's really not about time management at all.

To increase productivity, you have to manage your energy and intention.

I'm a very busy mother of three boys. My oldest son just went off to college and you would think that would lighten the load a bit. Nope. Each day I struggle, as everyone else does, to get it all done. But I stopped thinking in terms of time management a very long time ago. It's when I started to make decisions in terms of my energy and attention, that my productivity began to soar.

I was once a boy scout leader. I loved it! I was a rebel and wore the ceremonial scout uniform shirt but I was resistant to wear the designated scout pants because let's face it, it would have made my butt look big! As a scout leader, I planned ahead, made lists of my materials, RSVP'ed attendence for my scout meetings, and started on time and ended with a hard stop when meetings were suppose to end. You could say that I managed my time well. You could also say that, towards the end of my scout leader career, I didn't manage my energy and attention well. By the sixth year I was a leader in scouts, it drained my energy and I had severe trouble managing my attention. Still, I didn't want to give it up and the result.....I quit and stayed.

People do that in jobs all the time. They grow less interested in their professional identity. When they don't manage their energy and attention well, they make mistakes, lead poorly and disengage. They do this even though they may be using time management skills.

So what's the lesson? You have to be honest with yourself when you feel something sucking you dry. Ask yourself, "Is this something that drains me or is it something that gives me energy?" In scouting, I knew that it was time to pass the baton and give another parent the opportunity to take my den.

It didn't have to be my way or the highway anymore.

Once my replacement took over, I could feel a surge of renewed excitement because it meant that I could now have energy for other things I was responsible for in my life. It takes away energy, even from your reserves, when you are involved in something that sucks you dry.

Be honest with yourself. Could you do a better job of managing your energy and attention? You don't have to always resign to manage yourself better. You could just adjust the task and delegate a bit of it to a colleague to preserve yourself. I challenge you to do just that. Take inventory and identify one thing that takes all of your energy and ask yourself, "How can I adjust it or get rid of it all together?" While you are not able to get rid of some responsibilities very easily, you can be creative and adjust your energy so you can self preserve.

If you have ideas of ways to manage your energy and attention, post them below. We would all love to know fresh ways you stay away from being a rookie by using time management instead of a seasoned professional at managing your energy and attention.

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