Time Management Issues – are they real or just in your head?

Do you find yourself dropping everything when a text, phone call, social media notification, instant message, slack message or any other notification comes in? I’m not judging you if you do, because I do this all the time. As a society we have developed a culture where all communication, regardless of the subject or source, carries the same level of high urgency and is expected to produce an immediate response. We have so many things pulling at us, how can we possibly focus our attention on something for an extended period of time?

Time management issues many times can be attributed to managing our attention, not necessarily our time. Distraction is one of the biggest hurdles to high-quality work, costing almost 1 trillion dollars annually, according to the Harvard Business Review.

We also have something I call “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome” (BSOS) and it is something that our mind does on purpose to distract us from moving forward, in order to keep us small and safe. Most people are not as afraid of failure as they are of success.  Think about that for a moment. It actually stops us from stepping into our own greatness. There is also fear around saying “no” or “not right now” in terms of setting boundaries around your valuable time.

Let’s assume you have defined goals for the day, week, month, quarter, etc. and now you are working diligently towards those goals. Suddenly something amazing catches your attention, and then maybe something else after that. You then realize that you’ve strayed very far from your original plan. You’ve gotten all tangled up with some other stuff that seemed absolutely brilliant in the moment; but now you just feel overwhelmed and confused. What happened? Your mind distracted you with one or many new shiny objects. It happens to me, too. Distraction is a form of resistance.

According to Entrepreneur.com, at its core, Bright Shiny Object Syndrome (BSOS) is a disease of distraction and it affects highly motivated people. Ordinarily, these are great characteristics, but when BSOS sets in, it forces you to chase project after project, and change after change, never settling with one option.

It’s called Bright Shiny Object Syndrome because it is the equivalent of a small child chasing after shiny objects. Once they get there and see what the object is, they immediately lose interest and start chasing the next thing. Did you ever notice how a baby wants to play with a set of keys or a cell phone, while they have a whole crib full of toys? Same concept.

Here are a couple of things you may be experiencing from BSOS:

  • Inability to finish projects. When you get excited about a new project before your first one is complete, you may jump ship before you can see any meaningful results.
  • Poorly planning your ideas and directives. People with BSOS tend to focus on the novelty of pursuing a given strategy, or making a specific change, rather than the strategy or change itself.

A simple guideline to find out if you have this syndrome is to ask yourself, “Is this action moving me closer to my goals or further away from my goals?”

What can you do? Recognize that your mind is taking you on a wild goose chase to nowhere. Observe each time your mind tries to distract you with something new and important and when it has you putting your main priorities aside for something else that is ultimately not as important. If the rest of the items on your list are indeed moving you towards your vision, then prioritize. Ask yourself which are the most important to do first.

According to the Harvard Business Review, time management is defined as the decision-making process that structures, protects and adjusts a person’s time to changing environmental conditions. Three particular skills separate time management success from failure:

  • Awareness: thinking realistically about your time by understanding it is a limited resource
  • Arrangement: designing and organizing your goals, plans, schedules and tasks to effectively use time
  • Adaptation: monitoring your use of time while performing activities, including adjusting to interruptions or changing priorities

There is a productivity mindset vs. time management mindset. A productivity mindset is about the volume of work and a time management mindset focuses more on the work and progress that is made towards key goals and objectives. When you have a time management mindset you realize there is no point in filling your day with extra work if it is adding little value.

How do you create this mindset?

  • Have clear vision for your strategic goals and priorities. When you are unclear it is easy to get distracted by those shiny objects. You will flip between tasks without ever completing them. Get crystal clear on your priorities.
  • Focus on value. Tasks will always be coming your way – this will never stop. When you focus on the tasks that add value you get closer to your goals much faster.
  • Purge the waste. Can you eliminate, shorten or delegate some of your items? I had a client who was an Executive Director from a big bio-tech company and he told me he could never get to the most important items he needed to do. I asked him what was taking up his time. We discovered that he was spending his energy on small “check the box” tasks that were “easy wins” instead of taking the time to sit down and work on bigger strategic goals. The mind prefers easy wins. But it also keeps us small. We reframed his workload so that he was delegating the smaller tasks and projects so he could focus on strategic goals. It took some time for the mind to get used to this new way of working, but it was a game changer for him.

We have a cup of energy each day and I call this energic time of day your “power hour.” It will be different for each person. My power hour is the first couple of hours of the morning and early in the day. That’s when I can create. All the things that I really don’t like to do, I save for the end of the day because they drain my energy and are the least important items to growing my business. When it comes to delegation, I ask myself, “Can I bring in more income in an hour than it costs an expert to do this per hour?” If the answer is ”yes” then I hire someone to do it, rather than spending hours on a DIY project.

I encourage you to take a look at what is taking up your time and use the tools above to create a plan of action to focus on the things that are going to move you closer to your goals more rapidly. Also make a plan for the other items – what can you delegate or eliminate?

Remember it is ok to say, “Can I call you back later?” or have a 24-hour return email policy. These are your ground rules to create – take charge of your time! Wishing you a productive day and year!

joanne newborn
Joanne Newborn is CEO & Founder of Newborn Evolution LLC. She is an Executive Leadership Coach, Trainer and Strategic Advisor working with Organizations around the globe. Her Superpower is interpreting Senior Leadership’s vision and strategy and translating it to achievable goals to ALL levels of an organization from C-Suite to Middle Management to Individual Contributors. She and her team are transforming organizations’ visions into results by using a unique blend of Eastern & Western Methodologies. She has her MBA from Penn State, her ACC from the International Coaching Federation, is a DiSC Certified Practitioner and a DEI Certified Coach. Her company is a Certified Women-Owned Small Business and a Silver Associate Member of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association. She can be seen speaking on Leadership and Building High-Performance Teams around the US and at Conferences and Universities. You can connect with Joanne on LinkedIn or visit her website.

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