Time Management Is Actually a Waste of Time

Here's how you should manage your efforts instead.
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7 min read
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A lot of us struggle with time management problems. Unfortunately, we believe that time management is a silver bullet. Merely manage your time correctly, and you’ll be a more productive business owner. You’ll finally be able to spend quality time with your family or start that hobby you’ve been putting off.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But, time management won’t solve all of your problems. It may be a waste of time for the following reasons. If time management isn't working for you — then you’ll want to try these four options instead.

Related: How Managing Your Time Is a Waste of Time

Time management is turning us into stressed-out and unproductive zombies.

“The quest for increased personal productivity — for making the best possible use of your limited time — is a dominant motif of our age,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian. “And yet the truth is that more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay,” continues Burkeman. “The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have.”

Burkeman has a point. Time management can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution. One interesting fact to note is that the same advice about time management hasn’t changed much since then. How people work has drastically changed. For example, the suggestion to wake up earlier (when you already are doing that) or closing your office door to prevent distractions can be counterproductive. Those little tidbits of information will only help if you’re a morning person or you have an office.

The point is this: When it comes to time management, we’re fed the same advice over and over again. Even worse, it's suggested that there’s a one-size-fits-all time management strategy. As a result, we blindly follow these time management tips that aren’t always effective, which causes stress and decreased productivity. 

The solution? Find your own way to work style.

Carson Tate, the author of the “Work Simply” strategy, recommends finding your own-personal-productivity style. You can then adjust your work style and find the right tools to fit your style. Tate says that there are four major styles:

  • Prioritizers. They want fact-based analysis and debate. They’re also goal-oriented, consistent, and decisive.
  • Planners. They thrive on details, as well as schedules and action plans.
  • Arrangers. They want to be appreciated, and they love acknowledgment. They also like discussing questions and concerns.
  • Visualizers. They are innovative and open-minded. But, they’re not fans of excessive details.

Time management is inhumane.

“Time management may be a great system for a machine, but for the rest of us who are emotionally driven human beings -- we need to take account for our energy levels,” writes Mayo Oshin. “Plus your willpower and self-control reduce with every choice you make throughout the day.”

Having your willpower or self-control reduce with the execution of many choices can be one of the main problems with time management. Time analysis and prioritization of tasks “fails to take into account these emotional, mental, and energetic factors that make us human,” adds Oshin.

The solution? Schedule around your energy levels and not your time.

We all have different times of the day when we have the most energy and concentration. For some of us, that could be the first thing in the morning. For others, however, it could be midmorning or early afternoon. It depends on your ultradian rhythm (that occur throughout the day).

Different than the circadian rhythm, the ultradian rhythm means that we should work on the right tasks at the right time of day. For example, I wrote this article in the morning, starting around 9 a.m. to be exact. The reason? That’s when I have the most creative energy. However, I’m in a lull after lunch. After lunch, I spend time on tasks or activities that require less brainpower, like conference calls, responding to emails and working other lighter jobs.

However, there are some ways that you can gain energy when you feel fatigued:

  • Get more than seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Eat nutritious foods and exercise to get the blood pumping.
  • Disconnect and unplug so that you can rest and recharge.
  • Lighten your cognitive load by making fewer decisions. For example, delegate and automate tedious tasks. 
  • Set realistic goals instead of wearing yourself thin, trying to achieve the impossible.

Related: 14 Effective Ways for Entrepreneurs to Boost Their Energy Throughout the Day

Time management isn’t interchangeable with productivity.

“Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste,” Adam Grant, a professor at The Wharton School of business and an organizational psychologist, writes in The New York Times.

“A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes,” he explains. “Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.”

“If productivity is your goal, you have to rely on willpower to push yourself to get a task done,” adds Grant. To motivate yourself, Grant recommends paying more considerable attention “as to why you’re excited about the project and who will benefit from it.”

If you need help with prioritization, Kayla Sloan in an article for Calendar has the following ideas you could try:

  • Start with a task list and then order them. “Assign numbers to each item listed starting with the most pressing duties first,” adds Sloan. “Conversely, the bottom of your list should include items that are less pressing or could be done another day.”
  • Everything is not a crisis. Stop that fearful, wearing thinking. Even if everything on your list is of equal importance, it doesn’t mean every task has to be all have to be done right now. Begin with the ones that will prevent a potential crisis.
  • Use a calendar app. You could schedule everything on your list into your calendar and then set reminders so that you won't forget.
  • Don’t take on other’s priorities. Protect your time and only accept time requests if you have the availability or it’s helping you move closer to your goals.

Related: 36 Insanely Useful Productivity Hacks

You commit to more and more.

With time management, you can find a technique or tool that will help you get more done in a day — you'll feel like a superhero. As a result, you take on additional work or RSVP to every social function that comes your way.

Again, this might work for a little while, but, it can’t last. Eventually, you’ll spread yourself too thin, and you'll be overworked and over-committed.

One of the easiest fixes is to simply say, “no.”

Don't take on a new project if you’re already working at full capacity. If a job is time-sensitive, refer the work to someone else. If you’re already attending a party on Saturday evening, then don’t accept an invite to a party that starts two hours earlier on the same day.

I get that you don’t want to offend anyone. But, as long as you’re honest and transparent, they’ll understand.

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