Freedom for the Time Management System-aholic

Mar 29, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

I almost bought the book the Four Hour Work Week.  As a recovering Time Management System-aholic it has been so tempting.  Everyone is tweeting about it, blogging about it or mentioning it.  If Jesus could resist Satan in the desert then surely I can not fall prey to another system!

I changed my paradigm about time management ages ago.  When you can’t comply with the laws of nature or the rules of man, get a new paradigm!

I seriously went through many years in search of the perfect time management system…the Holy Grail of daytimers!

I would adopt a new one and become their spokesperson for about 30 days.  I would tell everyone how great it was and how it is different and better than any other!  The second 30 days the zeal began to wear off.  I still was using the system, but my sales spin was starting to wobble.

Probably because I was reading about the next system, or the new book, on how some tool or technique was the answer to getting more than 24 hours out of a day.

In my failure to maintain a system consistently, and after investing many dollars in shiny new systems, I needed a new way.

A new paradigm.

The Epiphany

This is where the psychology kicks in.

There are many ways to skin a cat and many paths that lead to a destination.

All of the systems have good points.  All of the books have great tips.

The epiphany for me was to use the system that best matched who I am. Rather than to force myself into the discipline of the system de jour, I needed to find tips, processes, tools that match me.

Here is an example.

I am a counselor and a coach.  That means lots of one on one hour long meetings.  Most people practicing good time management and efficiency will schedule these back to back.  This helps fit in more people or leave larger chunks of time available for other things in life.

If you’ve been to a counselor in the past 5 years you know that the hour long counseling session is no longer an hour.  It is 50 minutes.

Why?  So the counselor has transition time between clients.

What typically happens is that the counselor starts winding down the session just as you, the client, starts getting comfortable and opening up.

To maintain the carefully balanced schedule of back to back clients some counselors have a hard close if things aren’t wrapping up.

If you are in the middle of your most significant breakthrough….”Sorry, we are out of time, let’s pick this up right here next time”.  Ughh!

The other extreme is the counselor who can’t do that.  They don’t cut it off short or even wind down.  I am sort of this way.  I want a natural rhythm to the session.  However, if I have a client waiting, my compassion for the current client is read as disrespect for the client in the lobby.

I hate both sides of this coin.  I hate the abrupt end and I hate equally not honoring my commitment to the client waiting.

I tried many ways to better manage the sessions, but in the world of mental health we cannot always time our break throughs.

I even tried having the receptionist buzz me when the next client was here.  It was like fingers on the chalk board when the buzz came through.  I hated that too!

So my solution – I try to schedule a 30 minute gap in between each appointment.  It has taken so much pressure off of me and hopefully my clients.

Do What Works

This worked so well I started trying to think about how I can manage my time and activities in a way that fits well with my temperament and values.

My temperament is that I am a non-structured, flexible, Mary (versus Martha). I need tips, tricks, and tools that help me maintain structure, integrity to commitments, and productivity.

My Christian values drive the fact that I want to treat others how I want to be treated.  Keeping appointments and following through with plans is important to this value system.

Here are some ways I have learned to manage my time and be productive that matches me!

  • I set early morning appointments to get me out of the house and started on my day. Being an entrepreneur has its benefits, but if I want to be productive I have to get started.  I need the structure of a meeting with a person to keep me in line.  My values won’t allow me to blow off a person, but if it is just an appointment to get work done by myself, all the sudden sitting on the patio with the dogs takes priority.
  • I take thirty to forty five minutes on Monday morning to plan out my week. I schedule and check all of my appointments.  I may schedule in a few more things and then based on the time available, I make a short list of what I definitely need to get accomplished this week.  Whether I look at it daily or not, it is now in my head and I will be much more focused for the week.
  • If I find myself with a two hour block in the middle of a day I take a minute and write down detailed tasks that I just need to get done. I have the opposite personality than many.  I am easily drawn to the big picture…to the working on my business….to the Quadrant II (Important but not Urgent)…but paying the water bill is an act of sheer will power to me!  Seriously, my husband has had to learn to turn the water back on himself for an emergency shower.

What Works for Me May Not Work For You

These are just a couple of ideas of how I have matched traditional time management techniques to my particular set up time management issues.  These match me, so they have worked for quite awhile!  We are going on years now.

The message here is to master time management for you personally, the time management tip or tool needs to match you!  Don’t succumb to your addictive ways and try the latest craze just because it is a new system…only try it if it works with your temperament, habits and values!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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