Common Sense Time Management Learned The Hard Way
Bill Cottringer

“Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn. ~Delmore Schwartz.

Today, given the tons and miles of information overload that the Internet and other technology has produced and the shortage of time to get through it all, managing our time better is the challenge of our generation. There is certainly no shortage of good programs to teach useful and valuable principles about better time management available. Type in “time management” on a Google Search and you will get nearly 600 million hits. That is enough reading to last several lifetimes, in doing nothing else but reading about time management.

In the interest of preparing a way to simplify time management self-help information for easier consumption, the best starting point is this: Getting the right attitude about time and the good management of it. Here are four simple suggestions on how to get a better attitude towards the whole idea of time management. This in turn will facilitate a much better mental state to receive and apply all the wealth of good time management tips in the and other soft technological or hard bookshelf libraries:

1. Read a Good Book. If you haven’t read the little book “Einstein’s Dreams” do so right away. It will only take two hours, unless you get caught up in your imagination, which is highly likely. The whole concept of time is the biggest one in the universe because it involves two of the three fundamental things in the universe—the interaction between time, space and matter, resulting in everything that is. Most physicists describe time and “a direction in space” which is very foreign to most people’s traditional thinking about time.

“Einstein’s Dreams” will tease you out of any seemingly sensible idea you have about time—from the simple sequential mechanical version of past, present and future, to the fluid psychological perception of time flying when you are having fun and dragging when you are bored, to the eternal now moment that involves everything. The simple point to consider is that your idea of time and how you think about it helps determine how much of it there is to use (or not have to use) according to the way you choose to use it. That is an awesome power of choice.

2. Confess Something. We are all master time wasters and when we deny this common unproductive habit, it just accumulates more wasted time to correct. A very valuable honest self-assessment is required to get into the right attitude. You can an AA type public confession (at least to yourself!). Accept that you waste considerable time doing things you like to do, regardless to their real value, ahead of the important and urgent things that need to be done at work and home which really give you the biggest bang for your buck.

The purpose of good time management is to do the things which yield the most cost-effective return on the effort, and when not done, end up requiring more time to eventually complete; then a disaster is created which will require more time to resolve than you have. The odd thing about this is that if you work faster and smarter on real priorities, you get these unwanted and un-fun things done quicker and more effectively, leaving more time for doing the fun things and enjoying them.

3. Give Up The Myth of Multi-tasking. Realize that multi-tasking may be a fun challenge, but it is really a myth. When doing five things simultaneously, all you are really doing is five things mediocrity and getting nothing done correctly. The normal conscious brain simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time that requires thinking and acting. Now sequential multitasking—doing five different things within an hour by going back and forth until each is completed, is quite possible. In fact most of the time the things we need to do require this approach to maximize dead time in between and get maximum results.

This aspect of the right time management attitude involves the principle of “one quality being better than four quantities.” Being highly focused for five minutes each on doing five separate tasks, will always get more done that multi-tasking all five things in an hour, with less individual project focus and attention.

4. Keep an Open Mind. We are all swimming in rough waters in this “Information Age,” with the human knowledge base doubling every two years. I am not even sure how one could scientifically measure or prove that reality, but I accept the basic idea that information and knowledge are being spit out quicker than most people can keep up with. The real point here is that we really don’t know what we are capable of doing or how long it will take in dealing with information, which is what the majority of the world is dealing with these days. It is all experimental.

Oddly we generally overestimate what we can get done in one day and underestimate what we can do in a year. Why is that so? Because we don’t really know until we give it an honest try without set expectations, in a more tentative, wait and see trial attitude. Keeping an open mind about time and what we can do with it, is the right attitude to have. It will get you the most from your efforts and the time you have. And, as a friend once commented to me, if you can’t have an open mind, are you sure you even have one?

Consider how these four simple suggestions can open your mind about time management and help you apply the abundance of good time management wisdom that is available from all the authors who have learned about it the hard way.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations at Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), and Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or