“Time Management”: The Ultimate Snipe Hunt

by Annie

in ruthless productivity

Green Digital Clock Showing One Second to ZeroEvery single business owner I’ve ever worked with or talked to for any length of time has, at some point during the ongoing conversation, brought it up:

Time Management.

Better time management.

“I’ve got to start managing my time better.”

“I need better time management tools.”

“I’m just not getting my stuff done on time. It’s not like I’m a procrastinator or anything. I just need to improve my time management skills.”


No, you don’t.

Because there is no such thing as time management. 

Here’s the deal, kids: words matter. What you call a thing determines how you think about it. And how you think about a thing determines how you approach it — and how successfully you deal with it.

And let me repeat: there is no such thing as time management. 

It’s obvious once you think about it for even a few minutes: we all have the same amount of time we can work with in any given day. The same twenty-four hours. The same 1,440 minutes. The same 86,400 seconds.

Every revolution of the Earth is the same for us all.

And barring some cataclysmic celestial super-event (in which case we’re all gonna have bigger problems than completing next month’s editorial calendar to deal with, I suspect), it’s gonna stay that way, now and forever.

Words matter.

And when you use the words “time management” to describe the problem of not being able to accomplish in a day what you’d like to get accomplished, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’re telling yourself a lie, and you will never, ever succeed in conquering what you perceive as your obstacle. Because you’re calling your obstacle “time” and telling yourself you need to “manage” it, and that will never, ever lead to heightened productivity.

Because there is no such thing as time management. 

“OK, so if that’s true,” you say, crossing your arms defensively and giving me That Look through the computer screen, “then answer me these two questions, hot shot:”

  1. “How is it that there are all these super-achievers out there who get shit done so much faster and easier than the rest of us mere mortals, hmmm?”…and …
  2. “What the hell am I supposed to do, then?! I’ve GOT TO GET MY SHIT DONE!”
Yes. Those are excellent questions, sweet pea. And I’m gonna do my damnedest to answer them for you, right now.

The Myth of the Super-Achiever

There are, without doubt, Those People.

You know ’em. They’re the ones whose Facebook daily-to-do status updates exhaust you before you even get to 4 PM. The ones who get to the gym at 7 AM, get in a full workout, and somehow still seem to be able to get to the office fifteen minutes before the boss comes crawling in. The ones who have a few kazillion things going on at the same time, and always seem to be getting them done, on time, under budget, with nary a perfectly coiffed hair out of place.

(Yeah, I hate ’em, too.)

They are the Super-Achievers. And we’ve built up this mythos around them, a story that compels us ever-forward into greater stratospheres of more-ness: more information consumed and collated, more boxes checked off on the lists, more phone calls completed, more stuff, more apps, more money, more, more, more.

Because they make us feel like we’re wasting our lives in comparison.

But here’s the thing about Super-Achievers: they, too, are living and working with the same 24 hours (1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds) we all get. And then there’s this little secret about the Super-Achievers:

They have no special super-powers.

They don’t know some magic trick that you don’t — that if you could just get them to teach it to you, or share it with you, or sell it to you, you too would be Super Achiever material.

They do probably fully grasp a concept that you have yet to fully embrace, but there’s nothing super-secret about it.

And that incredible, fantastically empowering knowledge that the Super Achiever knows but you don’t?

They’ve learned how to manage themselves.

Stop Managing Time — Start Managing Yourself

This is the real goal. This is the thing you need to pull into yourself, let seep into every cell of your body, embrace emotionally and intellectually and psychologically.

The only thing you need to manage is you.

It’s our actions that determine our productivity. Can we all agree on that premise? What we do — what we get done, what we accomplish — this is all productivity really is. And there are a host of forces conspiring to rob you of your ability to perform those actions.

When we learn how to break down those forces, how to corral them to work for us instead of against us, we start to make some progress on the productivity trail.

But make no mistake: what we’re really working with, manipulating, and changing? It’s not time.

It’s ourselves. 

Because there is no such thing as time management. 

What there is, though — what turbo-boosts us past/over/around/through those roadblock-forces — is self management. 

Productivity School at Pajama Productivity

I’ve been listening to a lot of friends, clients, and colleagues complain in the last few months, reaching a fever pitch on social networks. Twitter, Facebook, phone calls, emails, blog posts, blog post comments … the vast majority of ’em are talking about three things:

  1. The Occupy Wall Street protests;
  2. A perceived breakdown in ethical and courteous customer service in businesses large and small;
  3. A growing inability to get shit done.

Since this is Pajama Productivity — and not Pajama Politics or Pajama Manners — I figured it was probably better to focus on #3.

So October’s gonna see some serious productivity p0rn goin’ on here at PJP. Everything else is back-burnered. No WordPress hacks. No SEO Saturdays. No Hack Your Brain (well, I guess in one sense it’s all gonna be “Hack Your Brain”). All productivity, all the time.

It’s all leading up to something spectacular that I’ve been cooking up for the last few months, which will be revealed on October 26th (mark your calendars!) which also happens to coincide with this month’s Word Carnival, which also happens this month to be all about — TA DA! — business productivity: how to get all that business-owner crap done.

I may be paraphrasing a bit here from Word Chef Tea Silvestre’s original concept… (Note: if you wanna get a sneak peek, well, that’s pretty simple, ’cause I’m tipping my hand to the folks who’ve subscribed to Fuzzy Slippers, the free Pajama Productivity weekly email newsletter.) But the gist is the same. Bookmark this site; add October 26th to your calendar; and then, if you’re really serious about this productivity thing — about conquering the productivity-robbing obstacles once and for all — then do one more thing:

Start keeping a log of your time. 

Pencil and paper, some awesome iPhone app, a plain text file, a jazzy $80 piece of software on your hard drive, I do not care how it’s done. Just do it. Doesn’t have to be super-annotated or even very specific beyond “9:00 – 9:52: worked on blog.” You can even round up the minutes if you like.

All you need is a general idea of where your time’s going. (That includes bathroom breaks, TV breaks, smoke breaks, house-work breaks, getting-the-kids-from-the-bus-stop breaks, phone calls, email … every bleepin’ thing you do in a day.) Don’t try to change it, modify it, make it look better than it really is … just write it all down.

And not just for one day. For a whole week.

And one week from today, bring that list back here, and I’ll show you how to do something super-cool with it.

‘Til then, rock on, my fellow couch warriors.




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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tea Silvestre October 10, 2011 at 1:36 am

Simply can’t wait for all of this important wisdom to come tumbling out of you! Great start Oh Queen of the Fuzzy Slippers.
Tea Silvestre recently posted..Finding and Working with Your Ideal Customers: 11 Perspectives


Annie October 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm

::mwah:: In the immortal words of Barney Stinson, “SUIT UP, PEEPS!” (Metaphorically. ‘Cause I don’t do suits, y’know…)


Ash October 10, 2011 at 2:10 am

I have to wait a week? That’s so much time! I guess I’ll actually write out everything I do then…


Annie October 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

LOL – yes, Ash, one whole week … I could do it now but it would be so totally unhelpful without the week’s worth of info! (“Leave ’em wanting more… CHECK!”)


Michelle Church October 12, 2011 at 2:10 am

Wow….I loved this and ok I agree…No such thing at time management…I am good with letting that go because if it does exist I suck at it…but you are soo right, I do need to manage myself better…after all it boils down to “my” abilities and execution right…Aalllrriigght…I’ll follow directions and start a log for one whole week. Love this!
Michelle Church recently posted..It’s hard to delegate


Annie October 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Thanks Michelle! That’s both the beauty and the hell of being in business for yourself, right? It’s ALL up to YOU. (Shit! It’s all up to ME, too! EEP!)


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