Why I Can’t Give You Five Simple Tips To Improve Your Time Management
To Do Lists for Time Management

My clients come to me with a multitude of different starting points, with different specific challenges and a huge variety of stressors and issues.

Whatever these starting points and issues may be, the majority of my clients ultimately want me to help them manage their time better and feel better as a result. When they can manage their time better, they will feel more in control , will get the things they don’t want to spend time on done more quickly and have more time for the things they really want to do.

Time Management Strategies

These really busy people have usually already been on Time Management Training 101 (and possibly multiple other time management training courses.) So they’ve heard the theory countless times:

  • Have everything written on a to do list
  • Understand your goals so you can prioritise effectively
  • Use a time management matrix to prioritise
  • Plan to do the big, high priority stuff first and then fill in the rest of your time with the less important stuff
  • Use time blocking to schedule stuff in
  • Batch together smaller tasks
  • Know what your deadlines are (and set false ones to help you get other things done)
  • Work in short bursts and take regular breaks (the Pomodoro method)
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate

“Work Smarter Not Harder”

And when you’re feeling overstretched and are working more hours than you can really cope with, you have usually already investigated or tried out or are at least aware of some of the perceived wisdom around “working smarter”. Things like:

  • Multitasking the heck out of things (it doesn’t work. Don’t do it)
  • Not taking breaks so you can fit more into your work day (it reduces your brainpower and performance. Don’t do it)
  • Using apps and technology (potentially helpful, but only if you don’t spend more time organising the bloody apps and information that actually doing important tasks)
  • Getting up earlier, meditating, instigating a morning routine (potentially useful for being in a calmer frame of mind, but unlikely to make any difference to the amount of things you attempt to do in the day, and at worst may be making things worse by robbing you of even more vital sleep)
  • Know what your deadlines are (and set false ones to help you get other things done)
  • Work in short bursts and take regular breaks (the Pomodoro method)
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate
It’s not about Time Management or about Working Smarter

The thing is, while having tools like to do lists, calendars, prioritisation matrices and people to delegate may be really useful, they do not actually hold the key to effective time management.

Because managing our time well is actually about managing ourselves. And that means managing our emotions, our preferences, our motivators, our fears, our thoughts and our boundaries.

Because it is managing those things that allows us to have a realistic number of things on our to do list in the first place, make a realistic plan and, crucially, be able to follow it through.

And so, I can’t actually give you five, nice, succinct tips or things to do now that will definitely solve your workload/time management problem, because the answer lies at a more personalised level.

It lies in understanding things like why you are not doing the things you know would, theoretically, be helpful. Why you don’t say no to meetings. What actually happens that means you haven’t done the most important thing even though you were sure at 9am you’d do it today. Whether you’re prepared to feel uncomfortable or bored in order to get through the things on your list. What it will take to be able to make yourself do something you don’t really want to do.

What I can tell you about is the best time management strategy I know: getting coaching that will help you to unpack what’s going on in the way you manage yourself, and work out how you can manage yourself in a way that will enable you to feel more in control of how you spend your time. Coaching helps you manage your time differently by enabling you to:

  • Find motivation or courage to do the things that need doing that you are avoiding
  • Create new planning strategies that actually work in the real world or curve balls and fluctuating energy levels, not just on the pages of a text book
  • Find ways of doing the things that are hard or uncomfortable that make them easier, more pleasant or more rewarding to do
  • Recognise and let go of fears, worries or beliefs that are leading to unhelpful ways of managing things
  • Become better at boundary management – imagine being able to say no to a meeting and mean it, and the other person accept that
  • Become less fearful of what could go wrong – when delegating, or if doing something that others might judge you for
  • Work out what’s really a problem, and what’s actually fine, so you know what you can let go of
  • Find the things you’re doing that you don’t need to do
  • Get new perspectives that allow you to see how to do things differently – for example, understanding that priorities are about context, and are not intrinsic to a thing, or that it’s not actually about completing the to do list, it’s about using the time you have as well as you can

I guess what I am saying then is this: I have only one tip for helping you to improve your time management, and that is to learn to manage yourself differently. And the way that I know to do that most effectively, is through coaching.

I’d love to help you get back in control of your time. If you’d like that too, let’s talk.


Jo Lee is a professional executive, career and life coach specialising in helping successful but over-stretched people get back in control of their workload, their time, their stress and their work life balance

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