What is Time Management?

In answering "what is time management?" people always think of the strict definition of time management - managing your time to get things done. However, when you consider that time is finite for everyone, the idea of time management takes on a different spin.

Confused? Read on to see this concept explained further!


Out of interest, I looked up the dictionary definition for "what is time management?". Guess what happened when I started reading it? Yes, my eyes glazed over, my head drooped... I lost interest. Lucky for you, there's no need to go racing to any dictionary because I think I can put it much simpler.

Time Management is managing your time so that you can get more done.

Getting more stuff done, that's great! Now, hands up who, upon reading this definition immediately starts applying the concept of getting more done to achieving more in a day? Maybe some of you thought about getting more tasks ticked off your weekly list, maybe a few more that monthly or even yearly checklist.

Time is Limited

We forget sometimes to think about time in a lifetime concept. I like the way the late Randy Pausch put it "Time is the only commodity that matters". When he gave that lecture he was dying of pancreatic cancer so he was speaking from experience. Unlike money, oil or any other commodity on the market - you can't live without time. Once it has run out, it's gone.

The Real Question?

To me, therefore, the first step in understanding "what is time management" is not to talk about efficiency, effectiveness and productivity nor to restrict your concept to that of achieving more in a short time period such as a day or a month. Rather, the first step is to answer:

What is it you want to get done with your limited time?

You can manage your time to the nth degree you can manage your time so well that you work your way through your daily "to do" list checking of tasks BUT I'm here to remind you that we need to question whether we have the right tasks on that list?

Can you answer - how does your daily task list fit in with your weekly, monthly and yearly lists? More importantly, how does each one fit in with your lifetime check list or your lifetime goals?

I can - I'll show you.

One of my lifetime goals is to be a fun mother. So, I make sure that I either have tasks on my daily action list which are orientated around the kids or if an opportunity comes up, I can evaluate the opportunity against the other stuff that I have on my list and decide which activity is more in keeping with my lifetime goal.

Sometimes when the kids come home from school they want to go to the beach. Which activity is more in keeping with my lifetime goal of fun mum? The laundry or the beach. Hmmm, you guessed it, the beach trumps chores – to be honest, it's probably not the best example really because pretty much everything trumps household chores!

But at least with my example, you can see what I'm getting at. Knowing your lifetime goals helps you to focus on what's important on a daily basis, it helps you to immediately pick out whether those tasks on your "to do" list are the right ones.

Usually the comments on this proposition is that this is fine in theory but in reality, people have small stuff to do which doesn't fit in with their lifetime goals - posting a letter, doing the shopping, having a deadline for a project or having to get to a meeting on time.

Let's be clear. I'm not saying that you shouldn't do this stuff but that you need to understand within yourself why you're doing it. Who knows, maybe once you've assessed it, you truly don't need to go to that meeting anyway!

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What now?

Limited time is a universal truth for everyone. Obviously if you're reading this website, you are here looking for the answer to "what is time management" as well as tips and techniques for managing your time.

Happily, there are time management tools and tips contained within these pages and if you keep reading on I'm sure you will find them as useful as I have found them.

I'm just cautioning you that before you start learning to be more efficient, effective and productive and getting more done, you need to make sure that what is getting done on your daily "to do" list is that which ultimately helps you tick the boxes on that lifetime "to do" list.

Stephen Covey put it as "Begin with the end in mind", find out what is important to you, what goals you have and start taking action to manage your precious resource so that you achieve those goals.

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