By Mark Rounds, VP of Corporate Development

“Why didn’t you ________ (fill in the blank)?” The answer is usually “I didn’t have enough time.” How often have you heard this? Nobody seems to ever have enough time. We all want more time, yet we all have all the time there is! That is the paradox of time. Everyone has 1440 minutes each day. It is the one gift that is given to every person, every day, equally. So if each of us has all the time there is, why do we keep running out of time? Because just maybe we are trying to fit too much stuff into a day…

If you Google “time management” you get 80 million hits in half a second. Who has time to read all those documents? Yet most of those documents have one thing in common: they fail to recognize the true essence of time. It is not about managing time, it is about managing one’s self. The thought is to teach people how to be better mangers of themselves. This self-reflection takes a little bit to get used to. It is human nature to blame something or someone else than to take responsibility for one’s shortcomings. It is not “time’s fault” that you ran out of time, it is “your fault.” I teach a seminar on this topic and I call it “Level 4 Time Management” and it seems to draw more attention than if I called it what it really is. (If I called it “Personal Responsibility,” I doubt anyone would show up!)

Time is nothing more than a ruler. It is a way to measure an activity. We created this ruler and now it seems that the creation is ruling the creator. It is time for us to take back control and realize it is not time, but our choices that determine how we use the time we are given. Most people use a schedule and prioritize their schedules. But the real key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. Do you know what your priorities are? Identify the most important thing you need to do today, determine how long it will take, and put it on your schedule. In this way you will schedule your priorities. Block out the time you need to make sure you get the most important thing done.

The next step is how to handle the items that come to you each day. You need to know if it is urgent and if it is important. Urgency is what you make it. And here is a tip – most emails and most texts are NOT URGENT. Once you identify the difference between urgency and importance, do the important thing first. If it is urgent and important, it moves to the top of the list. Too many of us think everything is urgent and important, so our day is consumed. Yet at the end of the day, we feel as though we haven’t completed anything. Knowing your priorities will aid in indicating whether or not an activity is important.

So, I challenge you to take back control of that tyrant ruler: time. Your decisions on what to do and when to do it is completely up to you. You have a choice, so choose wisely. And when needed, use the most effective word in personal time management: “NO.” The better you get at saying no to the unimportant things in life, the more time you will have to do the things that are important to you.