How to manage your time ‘properly’?

‘How to manage my time properly is what I want to explore in my coaching session today’ – said one of my  clients.

Self-reflecting on the flow of time she realised that it was far from nice to catch herself thinking about unfinished work and a deadline approaching while spending what meant to be a relaxing weekend with her family.

The symptoms included worrying, lack of focus, inability to be present and a general sense of instability, and feeling like ‘I wasn’t there’. Then, almost at the same time, a friend texted me saying ‘I can’t relax’…

Has that ever happened to you? Not being present where you wanted to be, not being there for your loved ones, not being able to relax? If you are a busy professional or a working parent, you are quite at risk, I suppose. Children are masters of noticing that you are not there and they are brilliant at identifying your ‘yeah’ and ‘ mhmm’ as indicators of you not listening and not being fully there for them.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a great Zen master of our times, has quite clearly addressed the situation in his book, ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’, showing that through awareness and practising being present no division of time to ‘my time only’ and ‘my time with someone’ is needed. However, before we can even realise the above, it could be useful to revisit our thinking habits as well as look at the way we tend to plan and arrange our time.

It takes us back to how much we respect and value ourselves in the first place. A lot of how we perceive ourselves is reflected in the way we manage our time every day.

For example, if you compared yourself to a car, what would you look like now? Would you be shiny, clean, well taken care of, the petrol indicator on ‘full’? Or would you be rusty, stained, gear shift not working properly, the petrol indicator towards ‘empty’? Would you be a car which is constantly being driven with no car park break or one that is safely deposited in a garage in the evening?

Is your car a space you want to be really comfortable in or is it just a means of transportation, something to use for as long as it runs, without offering it any care or maintenance and simply choosing to buy a new car when the old one becomes unreliable? Most of the above applies to you and your body, but obviously the body (and you) cannot be replaced as easily as a car, and no, this article is not sponsored by car manufacturers.

To keep your car in a good shape you need to offer it maintenance, cleaning and fuel on the regular basis.

To manage your time properly, define what ‘proper time management’ means for you. We are all quite different, so there is no one-size-fit-all here. Do you perceive time as a scarce or plentiful resource? Do you prefer to concentrate on one activity or interpersonal interaction at a time or are you more polychronic and can tackle multiple tasks or interactions simultaneously? Philippe Rosinski writes more about how your culture influences your perception and management of time in his book 'Coaching Across Cultures' which could be particularly helpful if you work in a multi-cultural environment where a collision of views can lead to a misunderstanding and conflicts.

So what is meaningful to you? What do you want to achieve in one day/week/month/year? What do you really need time for in your day? What would give you a sense of a day well lived?

A few further questions for your personal exploration could be:

  • Do you pile activities in your diary to fill every single minute of your official work time? If yes, what is your most basic need behind it? What do you want to prove and to whom? At what price?
  • Do you ACKNOWLEDGE your personal needs, such as eating, drinking, taking loo breaks, stretching, having enough sleep and play time etc. in addition to work tasks and your regular house chores?
  • Do you feel it is OK to relax? A strong NO here can be culturally/socially imposed on you, so make sure you really check the answer with yourself, not only in the mind, but also in the body. Your body is a very powerful indicator because, unlike the mind, it lives in the NOW, not in the past or in the future, so it responds to your questions immediately. Learn to understand your own body reactions.
  • Do you accept that you can have weaker days with low energy? Or do you expect yourself to display the same level of performance every day, no matter what?

If any of the above questions has resonated with you quite strongly, this is where you could start your personal exploration with. Fingers crossed for managing your time in a way that would be friendly to your well-being.

Kasia Weiss

author of your tailor-made Better Communication and Deep Dive Personal Transformation 90-day Coaching and Training Programme