One school of thought in time management is that if you get the right system in place, and if you follow it well enough, then you’ll be able to do all of the things that you’re supposed to do. You can get it all done.
This is not a school of thought that I subscribe to. I find tasks to be like rabbits: disarming in small numbers but so good at procreating that when you blink there are suddenly a million of them. As I clean up my work desk from a year of teaching, it’s amazing how many little checkbox-littered index cards I’m finding.
Systems are useful for getting stuff done, but as we said earlier the goal of time management isn’t to get as much done as we can — it’s to do as much good as we can. And you can only do this by becoming good at figuring out what the right stuff to get done is.
This is why the Time Management Course emphasizes ten disciplines for time management. The goal of each lesson and its exercises is to move you further into being the kind of person who makes good use of their time — not just in your work, but also in your home.
In fact, the first discipline we cover is deciding. Seth Godin famously quipped, “You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.” So in Lesson 1, I lay out the rationale for the discipline and then guide participants through the following reflective application exercises:
- Write down the value structure of your life.
- E.g., mine is 1) Faith, 2) Family (wife and kids), 3) Health, 4) Work (teaching and writing), and 5) Friends.
- Create an Everest statement for each of these areas.
- E.g., I want my children to be spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and socially mature when they leave my home at 18.
- Analyze how your current usage of time aligns with your value structure and your Everest statements. Share discrepancies with the group.
- E.g., I list Health as something above my work, but I've eaten whatever junk food I want during the past few months. There is really not an excuse for this.
- E.g., Youth sports sign-ups are right now, and we're thinking of enrolling the kids even though they're not begging us to. But when we calculate how many family dinners these sports will cost us, we wonder if youth sports are really the best way to promote social and intellectual maturation in our children.
Do you see how the discipline of deciding jolts us out of autopilot and starts to make us think? When we continuously revisit our value structures and Everest statements, using them as analytical lenses for assessing our lives, we make it more likely that we’ll make right decisions and use our time well. This is something deeper than a system to just help you get more done.
Of course, deciding isn’t some magical bullet — there is still the harder work of execution. As Morten Hansen writes in Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More, “Picking a few priorities is only half the equation. The other half is the harsh requirement that you must obsess over your chosen area of focus to excel” (p. 19).
And this is what the other disciplines in the course aim to help us with.
If you’d like to join colleagues from around the world in studying time management, you can register today for $69. Register here.