Stop Trying to Manage Time, and Manage This Instead

Jennifer Folz Photography for Amber Wallace

We live in an age of infinite possibilities. Our beautiful world is full of people to meet, places to travel, and experiences to explore.

As a creative entrepreneur, you have so many ideas. You see problems to solve and solutions to create, want to help people, want to do meaningful work that makes a difference in the world (without getting bogged down with wearing all the hats and managing all the tasks of running the business).

There’s just so much to do!

THE TRUTH ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT & PRODUCTIVITY

Time management is a misnomer. It’s an illusion to think that we can somehow control or manage time. You can’t turn back time, nor can you create more of it.

Productivity is also a bit of a misnomer, because deep down, you know that life isn’t about getting more stuff done. At the end of your life you’re not going to wish you had worked more.

Time management is about how you choose to invest the time you are given to do the things and be the person that you uniquely feel called to do and be in this world. It’s about doing the right “things” at the right time.

Managing time is really about living our best life by managing a few other components well:

1. MANAGE YOUR PRIORITIES

If everything is important, then nothing is. ~Patrick M. Lencioni

I remember complaining to one of my earliest mentors, “I don’t have enough time!” She called me out, saying, “Justine, you make time for what is important to you.” What she was really saying was that I wasn’t clear on what I really wanted to do, simply by trying to do it all without any discernment.

Hone in on the bigger picture.

I’m talking about the bigger picture of what you feel called to be and do with your life and business. Create a holistic vision of your life. Define what you feel fruitful time management means to you. Consider both quantity (what you want to accomplish or how much), and also quality (how you want to feel). Don’t just have a to-do list. Create a to-be list.

Tune in to your priorities.

Some of the most important work that you can do with your time is to continuously hone in on what priorities you feel called to focus on at any given time. Have a regular rhythm of planning time that allows you to clarify what’s most important for the season you currently find yourself in right now.

Running a business involves an ongoing dialogue with your own heart, with what your clients are saying they want, and what the world needs. Take time to tune in to that conversation so you can set your goals, curate and prioritize your to-do list accordingly.

2. MANAGE YOUR ENERGY

Picture this: You’ve super productive, maximizing tasks out of every minute of the day, from the moment you wake up. By the time you come home, you’re exhausted. You’ve got nothing left for your loved ones.

Sacrificing energy in the name of productivity robs you of your ability to be fully present. Recovering from deep burnout taught me the importance of gauging my energy levels and learning to respect my limits. It’s a challenge to learn in a world that glorifies hustle, where busyness is touted like a badge of honor.

Do a time and energy audit.

Not all tasks are created equal, especially when it comes to energy expended. Track where you are spending your time over a period that is typical for your schedule. What insights or patterns emerge?

  • How much energy does each task take? Which activities energize you or drain you? Depending on your natural strengths and passions, what is energizing and fun for you could be exhausting for someone else. Leave extra time to replenish after taxing tasks or seasons of extra hustle. Work on automating, delegating, or eliminating the tasks that most deplete you.
  • Look at your schedule in a visual way and from an energetic standpoint. Time block all your activities (remember to include transitions including travel time, getting focused, or winding down). Is there visually enough margin or white space to breathe throughout your schedule to fully recharge your tank (creative, mental, emotional, social)? Do you have too many things on your plate?
  • What are the optimal circumstances for you to engage in each task? Is your energy best in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Are you more motivated or distracted in a public space vs working at home alone?

Take care of your mental health.

This is especially important when you are doing creative work. Practice mindfulness, celebration, play, and rest. Be suspicious and do the inner work when you’re feeling resentful or obligated to say yes to something that doesn’t align with your priorities.

Manage your physical health.

Learn to listen to your body and respect its limits. Work on improving your quality of sleep, movement, and nutrition. Observe what food or activities make you feel good and improve your ability to focus when the time comes to work. These are all key ingredients in priming your body for productivity in an empowering way.

3. MANAGE YOUR ATTENTION

In an age of distraction, human attention is our most valuable currency. ~Derek Thompson

Even if you plan out your day beautifully, you may still struggle with implementing it. Getting focused seems like a gargantuan task because our attention spans are getting worse — 7 seconds short, in fact. No matter how much we are addicted to multi-tasking, it isn’t making us more efficient.

Multi-tasking is a lie that is actually training our brains to become good at not focusing.

The good news is, you can train your brain to focus better.

Concentration is like a muscle that can be strengthened. Engage in exercises that improve your focus. Revamp your technology habits to serve you instead of distract you. Turn off your notifications and use apps to help you create intentional boundaries. Explore and practice the concept of deep vs shallow work (by Cal Newport).

DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

The truth is there is no silver bullet time management approach that will work for everybody. What works well for you in one season may well change as you evolve or your circumstances change. Learning to embrace your unique makeup, your current season of life, and evolving sense of calling will improve your relationship with time, so that you’re free to enjoy all that this beautiful life of yours is meant to be.


Ready to finally master time management, ditch the overwhelm, and increase your productivity in life and business? Get our Ultimate Guide to Time Management.

Justine Hwang

Justine Hwang is a Social Impact Calligrapher who empowers compassionate souls to tap into creativity as a powerful form of self care, so they can impact their world from a full heart. After burning out from a life of saying yes to everything, she revisited her childhood love of calligraphy and discovered its therapeutic nature. Her workshops provide a collaborative and relaxed space for people to show up for themselves, to experience the peace and flow of calligraphy, and to create meaningful connections with their own heart, with others and the world.

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