4 Ways We Undermine Our Efforts to Manage Time

Written by on March 21, 2016 in Accountability

How We Undermine Our Efforts to Manage Time

Whether or not we assign a price tag to it, most of us value it enough to make an effort to manage time, and yet there never seems to be enough of it to go around. Think about it. In a typical week, how often do you find yourself feeling stressed about not having enough time to finish a task, work on a goal, or manage all of your commitments?

More importantly, how often do you put off doing the things you really want to do, things that can contribute to your health, happiness and well-being, because you can’t say “no” or feel guilty about setting aside time for yourself?

When it comes to making the most of our time, attitude is far more important than any system, app or gadget. If you truly value yourself and the way in which you live your life, then you will value your time enough to create clear priorities and set healthy personal boundaries to protect those priorities. But of course, it’s rarely that simple, is it?

Take the time to reflect on what you do in your day. You may have never realized how some seemingly well-intentioned activities rob you of precious time. ~Vivek Naik

How We Undermine Our Efforts to Manage Time

Logically we understand that time is precious and often work hard to manage it, at the same time we continue to take for granted all the ways in which our behavior undermines those efforts.

We Fail to Look Beyond Systems and Gadgets

Time management can be as easy or as difficult as we want to make it. There are plenty of systems, techniques, and gadgets to help with the process, but YOU hold the key to making it all work. Without clear priorities and a strong purpose for wanting to make the most of your time, those gadgets and systems may be little more tools for busy work.

What you should be asking yourself regularly and often is, are the things you’re spending your time on actually contributing to creating the life you want and deserve?

We Fail to Make Time to Re-Energize

Ever felt like if you could just keep pushing a little harder you’ll be able to finally get ahead? We may temporarily feel virtuous for checking off a few more tasks, or putting the needs and demands of others first, but there is a cost to be paid for not getting enough rest, exercising or eating healthily and that cost is a loss of energy, enthusiasm, and productivity.

Making self-care a priority and managing your energy allows you to make the most of the time you do have and keeps you from falling victim to a reactionary cycle of running from one thing to the next, praying for a minute to last longer or a 25th hour in the day.

We Fail to Embrace Flexibility

As the Queen of Check Lists and Spreadsheets, I’d be lying if I didn’t agree with the value of effective planning, but it’s also important to keep in mind that life is unpredictable. A last minute work assignment, the school calls for you to pick up your sick child, or you have a flat on the way to an important meeting.

The simple way to plan for the inevitable unpredictability of life is to not over commit and create a buffer by leaving a little unscheduled time in every day. But no matter how well you plan, chances are that life will occasionally overwhelm you with unanticipated demands. So when this happens, instead of allowing stress to set in, take a few deep breaths, smile, try to find some humor in the situation and do the best that you can to make peace with it all.

We Fail to Set Healthy Personal Boundaries

You may be surprised to learn that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to effectively managing your time is a lack of healthy personal boundaries. Boundaries are the protective guidelines we set for ourselves as individuals, in relationships, and in the workplace. They give us that sense of self-determination we long for and help guard against being overwhelmed by the demands of others. They also create the personal space we need for confident decision-making and cultivating happiness and greater life satisfaction.

Despite all of the potential benefits, we resist setting boundaries because …

  • We fear others won’t like us if we stand up for ourselves.
  • We have to always keep the calendar full so we feel needed and valued.
  • We undervalue the need for time to re-energize.
  • We don’t want to face the consequences of saying “no” and all the guilt feelings that come with it.

Setting boundaries is taking personal responsibility for your well-being. This requires you to clearly speak up, and specifically ask for what you want. Anyone can learn to do it, and the first step is to decide you value your time and well-being.

You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it on the things and people that will help you to live a healthy and purpose-filled life or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you. ~Marquita Herald

The process of managing your time can be deceptively complex because it involves balancing the things you need and want to do, and the things you know you should do, with what others want you to do. And remember, even when you manage to fit all the pieces of this puzzle together just right, more time doesn’t always equal a happier or more pleasurable life if you don’t fill it with the things and people that matter most to you.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Psychic Nest says:

    Hi Marquita,

    I totally love your article. Time is precious but there is so much more we can do with that time, we haven’t even thought we could! For example, when we have no time to exercise, we can do housework while listening to music and dancing at the same time. If we have no time to go to the park and enjoy the beauty of nature, we can admire the beauty of the trees and be grateful that they are on our way to the store. This means that we have to walk to go there instead of using our car. There are so many examples, so many things we can do differently to give meaning to life when our time is restricted!

    Psychic Nest recently posted…Spiritual Education Prep-GuideMy Profile

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the article Zaria and I love your examples about making substitutes, especially getting outside. I love walking, especially with my dog.

  2. Mitch Mitchell

    My issue turns out to be the systems and gadgets. When I use them, such as my Franklin Planner and the weekly time scheduler on my phone, I’m very productive. When I don’t, I’m awful at all of it. You’d think the success would be something I’d willingly do every single day; nope, just like medication I guess.

    At least I have scheduled the alarms for the year to remember to take my medication in 2016; that’s a big step forward. 🙂
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…31 Big Mistakes People Make Blogging And In Social MediaMy Profile

  3. Rene says:

    Oh time has always seemed to be something I was always running behind (hoping I would eventually catch up).
    Some of the great thought leaders say that time cannot be managed. They say that all we can manage are our events. I like that because it makes me feel more in control.

  4. Mark

    So very well said as usual M!

    For me, you opening paragraph definitely put
    the cheese on the cracker so to speak!LOL!

    Always never seeming to have enough time,
    when truth told, it’s more a matter of properly managing & prioritizing
    the current time I have!

    And just coming to appreciate and realize, that by simply cutting out altogether, those non essential task, I’ve just gained a ton of
    time, to invest far more productively!LOL!

    Now there’s a revelation for you!LOL! Thanks M!

    Sometimes you simply can’t see the forest for the trees!LOL!
    Mark recently posted…When And How It Makes Perfect Sense For Small Business Owners To Work With National Companies!My Profile

  5. Wonderful post, Marquita! 🙂 “We fear others won’t like us if we stand up for ourselves.” This is SO true. Most people, myself included, are too generous with their time. At the same time, re-energizing and having those boundaries is necessary to “give away” meaningful time.

  6. This is just what I needed to read. I can be so very focused and other times I get so easily distracted. Love your quote right at the end. A timely reminder.
    Chantal Vanderhaeghen recently posted…gratitude guided meditationMy Profile

  7. Joyce Hansen

    I”m not a by-the-book schedule person. I love my time to be flexible. I do have a general plan that I work from. But, I play this mental trick when I have a lot to accomplish. I tell myself that I have all the time in the World right now to get this done. It seems to stretch time for me and I don’t feel so stressed or continue checking the clock.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…The 5 minute brain breakMy Profile

  8. Kimba

    One of my favorite quotes/life goals (it’s actually our company motto/tagline): “Know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and do what’s important first.”
    Kimba recently posted…Have You Seen the Signs of Spring?My Profile

  9. Roslyn Tanner Evans

    I was a full time working mom & had many personal interests so time management was essential. I still juggle a new business, community & personal interests & not thrilled with too much structure. I love wandering thru blogs and FB and connecting. My tasks get done without deadlines so I must be managing something right. I think it is having routines.

  10. Jeri

    Even when I feel myself freaking out and knowing I will need to put extra hours in to get something done, I’ve gotten pretty good about making downtime for myself. Otherwise, the work just drags out if you go into with a tired mind.
    Jeri recently posted…#GuestPost: Topics and Submission CriteriaMy Profile

  11. Suzie Cheel

    I love the flexibility that’s me, although with my new processes I am moving into more of a schedule that gets things done. i know I benefit when i have boundaries that i follow. Then I work within the time from I set for me and acknowledge my wins. Great points Marty xxoo
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Patience Uncovers My True PassionMy Profile

  12. W.A. Rusho

    For me and time, I am one that needs that deadline to approach to do anything, I put things off until that train heading at me before I am motivated to finish. I do like your analysis of time management, thanks for sharing this with us.

  13. Sue Kearney

    My first business coach taught me lessons that are foundational to the way I live and work today.

    “I schedule my life and I live my schedule and when shit happens (car won’t start, unexpected health thing has to be dealt with, etc.) I am accountable.” To leaving buffers of time in the schedule, I add letting anyone who may be affected by the unexpected change in my day know as soon as I can.

    She also had an interesting take that I love: She said that you cannot manage time, you can only manage your own energy as it relates to time. Time just is. You, I, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump — we all have the same 24 hours in each day. How we decide to use those 24 hours is the magic.
    Sue Kearney recently posted…Balance point and the fiery energy — how to use themMy Profile

  14. Millen

    Love your tips, Marquita! Fail to make time to re-energize resonated the most with me! Thank you for wonderful reminders!

  15. Summer Price

    Setting Personal Boundaries, that is a challenging one for me. I so see the importance of it though and I’m getting better. Thanks for a great article.

  16. Reba Linker

    Lovely post, Marquita (and a fabulous picture of ‘you’ drinking coffee from the pot!). I’m glad I read this. I think your point about staying focussed on your purpose and goals is the key, as well as, for me, knowing the types of time I need for various tasks and projects. xo, Reba
    Reba Linker recently posted…Can You Wear the Crown?My Profile

  17. I fall into most of these pitfalls, especially setting personal boundaries. Then say to myself “I work best under pressure” when I have to take care of things at the last minute.
    Thanks for letting me see how I can change that – take care of myself first and not constantly being pressed for time.
    Betty Eitner recently posted…30 Fascinating and Fun Facts for Women’s History MonthMy Profile

  18. Diane Topkis says:

    Good post on what I’ve struggled with – and then let go. Since I left the corporate world 7 years ago where my every bit of my time was scheduled, I’ve never been able to keep to a scheduled day. Maybe it was an allergic reaction to the over-scheduled world I left! I have tried all the productivity tools and failed. Finally came up with a simple method – at least for me – writing out the 3 things I had to get done the next day. Usually it didn’t matter when they got done, just that they did get done. As for self-care, that one I learned the hard way early on. Hours off to just read, garden or walk, facials, massage, lunch with girlfriends. Couldn’t get through life without them.
    Diane Topkis recently posted…Is your money mindset of scarcity or abundance?My Profile

  19. Erica says:

    I’m most guilty of not taking the time to re-energize. I’m dealing with that quite a bit right now. I pushed myself for so long and now I’m feeling like I just can’t push myself to that level right now. Thanks for the reminder that taking time to re–energize is just as important as scheduling time to work. I always forget that lesson.
    Erica recently posted…Zoodles: The Magical, Healthy PastaMy Profile

  20. Excellent post, Marty. I have a friend who is into martyrdom and you bullet list of points fits her completely.

    I feel sorry for people who determine their self worth by how much they’re doing for others, and who are driven by guilt.

    I value the importance of self-care, and make a conscious effort to include that buffer time you mention. It is my secret to doing as much as I do without becoming TOO overwhelmed.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…rediscovering cacao with AMO CacaoMy Profile

  21. Kristina Rylova

    Great post, Marquita. I am also passionate about planning and time management and the same as you I spend a lot of time in my spreadsheets 🙂
    You made me think about unpredictability of the world. Indeed, recently I learnt a lesson that you should always be more flexible and you should alays have a second option, because otherwise people who plan everything in details and try to follow it are hurt the most, when something goes wrong. and it often does.

    • I hear you Kristina and I am a big believer in having a Plan B. This was a very important lesson I learned when I used to work in the travel industry. Man, there are few things that will spike your stress levels faster than the sudden realization that you are about to miss a flight – especially if you happen to be in a foreign country! Even so, there really are very few things that can’t be managed with an effective workaround, and the truth is it’s kind of fun pulling something like that off. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation!

  22. Dave

    I used to be in one of those hyper-focused states where I thought that if I could find the right “system”, everything would fall into place. It might be difficult, but if I stuck to it and persevered, I’d be able to push through that which was blocking me and become more efficient with my time.

    Guess what? I did become more efficient with my time. But, I still felt like something was missing. And that’s because there was – something missing, that is. I had become more efficient at the expense of being effective. I was doing all these “things”. They just weren’t necessarily the things that helped me move in the right direction for me.

    I still struggle with this from time to time, but you make a very good point in a very clear and convincing way. How well or efficiently you accomplish certain things inside of whatever “system” you choose to use is secondary to making sure that those things you are doing are in line with what’s most important to you. As always, as you say in the last paragraph, it’s a matter of balance.

    Very well done, Marty. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week!
    Dave recently posted…Politically Correct – Part IMy Profile

    • We do love our systems, huh Dave? I can definitely relate to your story and I think this is a lesson we all have to be reminded of from time to time. I remember a couple of years ago when this was brought home to me in a very big way when I did my usual month end review and realized that, despite all the long days of work, I hadn’t checked off a single goal for the month! What a humbling shocker that was! Well, all we can do is to hopefully learn from these experiences. Thanks, Dave!

  23. Lea Bullen

    Hi Marquita,

    I’m still learning to remember to be a bit more flexible with scheduling. I always want to do as much as I can in a day. And when I get on a roll I forget how life can throw you a curve ball.

    I usually make a pretty good effort to adapt and recover. But sometimes planning in that cushion would take the stress off.

    Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    Lea Bullen recently posted…10 Startling Reasons You’re Still Not HappyMy Profile

    • It’s a habit that is well worth taking the time to cultivate Lea. I think a big part of making it work is self-awareness and knowing your triggers – what grabs your attention and keeps you from remaining focused. The other thing that works really well for me is having 3 BIG goals that are my priority for each day – if I can fit in other things, great! Thanks so much for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  24. Phoenicia

    In the UK, there are a brand of products advertised as a healthy range by the name of “Be good to yourself”. Whenever I spot one of these products, I often think;
    “Yes, I must be good to myself!”

    As you wrote, we can feel guilty saying no without giving a valid reason (my next blog post will touch on this!) We can keep on pushing despite having little energy because we think we must.

    Good on you for taking a “day off”. I really should follow suit.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Patience – do you desire it?My Profile

    • So glad you found value in the post Phoenicia and I’m looking forward to reading your post on saying “no” – something we all have problems with from time to time. 🙂

  25. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    No matter how much I use my calendar, checklists and even a timer, I do fall into the trap myself.

    The best advice here that you have given is to give ourselves some flexible time every day. When I wasn’t doing that, I fell into “overwhelm” and started to beat myself up. Silly isn’t it?

    When I read that it reminded me of my “miscellaneous” color code on my calendar he he he. Life happens and we need to be at peace with our time.

    What a lovely image!


    • So true Donna! As someone pointed out earlier, there is a fine line between flexibility and boundaries. That’s where things can get tricky because we have to be alert to all the ways in which we accommodate people and the demands of others so that we don’t lose track of ourselves and our own priorities. Thanks so much for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  26. Arleen

    I have just started setting boundaries. Not everyone in my family is happy about it. They do not love me less but I am doing something that they have never seen before. Taking the time for me and not doing what everyone expects me to do. It also comes with some tough love. I am starting to realize as I am getting older time is precious to me. I can’t please everyone and now it is my turn.

    • Yes, it can be quite a shock for those on the receiving end of new boundaries, but good for you for sticking to your plan Arleen! It will take time, but you will be so glad you made this decision!

  27. As a person who works a full time job, has a side business, runs a blog, and is writing a book, I agree time management is so important. I love the quote “What gets scheduled gets done.” I have found that to be very true for me. I work off a to do list based on priorities from my life plan and it makes a huge difference in how productive I am. If I don’t schedule it and write it down I find it too easy to put it off to do something that is more fun.

    I love your reminder about making self-care a priority. I’m always very busy and there is ALWAYS something else I could be doing. In the past I’ve gotten overwhelmed and stressed and finally given up on my goals. I think this has really derailed my progress. Or totally stopped it in some cases! It seems counter intuitive to take a day off when there is so much work to be done, but in reality, it makes you more productive, less stressed, and less likely to give up. I’ve made Sundays my day off no matter how much work I have to do. It also takes the guilt away when you schedule a day to rest and relax.

    Thanks for the reminders!
    Dana Lynn Thompson recently posted…Is fear robbing you of your dreams?My Profile

    • Yep, I am definitely a strong proponent of self-care. Admittedly I’m also a workaholic, but the beauty of working for myself is that I can indulge myself when it comes to my schedule. So when I start feeling tired or have difficulting focusing I know it’s time for a break and take off for some quality time outside with my dog Lucy. Good for you for setting aside Sundays as ‘me’ time Dana and congratulations on all of the exciting things happening with your blog!

  28. Sabrina Quairoli

    As a Professional Organizer working with small business owners and individuals, I see the struggle of time management often and how it affects people. I agree that creating boundaries and planning goes hand in hand to deal with this struggle. I planning on sharing this with all my clients. Thank you for sharing!

    • Yep, the boundary issue is one we all share and that’s a topic I plan to cover in depth in April for National Stress Awareness month. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation Sabrina!

  29. lenie

    I was the classic “Let me finish this first” person when I was working and to an extent I’m still that way. I find it easier to say No to others than to say No to myself. Reading your post I know that is so wrong.
    “You can either spend it on the things and people that will help you to live a healthy and purpose-filled life or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide.” This quote is great and I’m going to tack it on my bulletin board – maybe it will help to smarten me up.
    lenie recently posted…Save the Bees – Those Little Buzzers Keep Us Fed.My Profile

  30. Ramona McKean

    “You may have never realized how some seemingly well-intentioned activities rob you of precious time. ~Vivek Naik”
    Yes, I understand. Like many people, I frustrate myself regularly with poor habits of time management. I’m retired now and not needing to “answer to anyone” in terms of an employer. Still I have many things I’m involved with.

    One of my biggest issues is trying to create a system that actually works for me. (You’d think I’d have it by now!) I make lists and more lists of what needs to be done in an attempt to keep myself on track, then let myself get side-tracked by something not even on my list. I’m also guilty of getting so caught up with a task that I even forget to go to the bathroom, eat or drink. You highlight self-care, rightly so. When I do take the time to walk around the block, my energy level at least doubles.

    Time management really is a big deal. Thanks for sharing your great ideas.

    • It really all comes down to a combination of focus and self-discipline Ramona. I have always found it far too easy to become distracted by things – it’s one of the reasons my favorite vacation is a road trip. I will just take off in a direction and explore. But, for so many reasons, that doesn’t work well in day-to-day life, so I do rely heavily on my lists but the key to making it work are the self-discipline rituals I’ve created for myself. In fact, my next post is all about self-discipline rituals so maybe you’ll be able to pick up a few helpful ideas. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  31. Donna Janke

    You’ve hit on the key things that undermine time management for most of us. Re-evaluating priorities on a regular basis is important – we often spend a lot of our time on things that may seem urgent or important but aren’t our real priorities. Building in flexibility is a key one for me – I tend to over commit or think I can do more in my than I can. I’m learning to allow more space for the unexpected, but haven’t quite mastered that yet.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Thousand Polleras ParadeMy Profile

    • I think over committing is a common problem for women in particular, Donna and yes, regularly reviewing our priorities is so very important. Otherwise it’s awfully easy to find day after day flying by with nothing to show for our time busy work and putting out fires. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – always appreciated!

  32. Marquita — I was always the one to raise my hand when someone asked for a volunteer and, before you know it, I was running the association or the committee or the project. With my move to Florida, I vowed to be more selective in my volunteer activities. I’m proud that I resisted the entreaties of a social group I joined to be the social director, arranging fun events during the course of the year. I know how much work that would have entailed. I felt guilty — for about a minute. I’m so glad I said no. I would have been kicking myself all year long.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…In Celebration of Women Who Paved the Way For UsMy Profile

    • I was shaking my head the whole time reading your comment Jeannette because it sounded SO familiar! I used to volunteer at our local food bank and chaired the county food drive 3 years running, served on the board and handled public relations. After that, it was the Hawaii Federation of Business & Professional Women where I served as the local chapter Vice President, program chair, AND the State PR Chair. Then there was the United Way, Women Helping Woman, et al. Burnout was inevitable. Good for you for saying ‘no’ without beating yourself up over it.

  33. Ken Dowell

    So full speed ahead might not be the fastest way to get there. Good post.
    Ken Dowell recently posted…The Lovers: A News StoryMy Profile

  34. Another insightful post, Marquita. You are so right about how we can better manage our time. I love your quote: “You can either spend it on the things and people that will help you to live a healthy and purpose-filled life or you can spend it putting out fires.”
    I do pretty well saying No and saying Yes to the wrong and right things. But I’m guilty of trying to do too much in a day and not getting it all done. Thinking more about my purpose certainly helps with the prioritizing of what I want to accomplish.
    I think it is often very hard for women to take the breaks we need to rejuvenate. After lots of failures, I’ve learned to recognize when those days hit and just go with the flow. The next day I’m better and back on track. It’s wonderful.
    So are you!
    Rose Mary Griffith recently posted…Blaming Your Evil Twin & Other Fun EscapesMy Profile

    • I hear you Rose, and thank you for your kind words. You certainly are not alone when it comes to overloading your schedule. What helps me is using the 3 BIG Rocks rule. At the end of each day, I set 3 BIG goals for the next day and at least one of those has to support a high priority goal. Then I create a list of lesser tasks and the idea is my primary focus going into a new day is to tackle those 3 big goals – if possible first thing in the morning. Then if I can fit any of the things on my task list it’s a bonus. I thought it would be hard to do this because I’ve always been a multi-tasker at heart, but there is a real sense of accomplishment when you can actually finish something and that’s made a huge difference at the end of each day. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and contributing to the conversation Rose, always appreciated!

  35. Stella Chiu

    Hi, Marquita
    This topic can relate almost to everybody. “Time management” is the struggle for every blogger. I score low grade point in time management. I seriously want to improve myself in this area. There are many activities robbing away my focus.
    You are right that altitude is more important than the system. It is outstanding to point out we should allow ourselves to recuperate our energy.
    There is a fine line between flexibility and boundaries. We will better in time management when we get hold of this fine line between flexibility abd boundaries

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

    Stella Chiu
    Stella Chiu recently posted…Tax Lien Certificate is the Safest Profitable InvestmentMy Profile

    • You are so right Stella about the fine line between flexibility and boundaries, and this is particularly challenging when setting boundaries with people we especially care about. There will always be exceptions, but each of us has to decide how far we are willing to go to be accommodating because people – no matter how wonderful they are – will test you. It’s simply human nature. So glad you found value in the post, and thanks for sharing your thoughts – always appreciated!

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