Is Time-Management Really Your Problem?



I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was speaking with a client about their project. They claimed they found it difficult to find the time to write. They were spouting out the usual rhetoric: "I'm too busy," "I can't seem to catch a break," "I have this and that to do," etc. My advice to them was to practice better time-management skills.


I didn't realize it then, but time-management wasn't her problem; attention-management was.


I sat down with my client and we discussed their typical day from the time she went to work to the time she spent away from work. We looked at her activities during leisure time and more. I created an itemized chart showing her how much time she had at the end of the workday to devote to writing her book; this didn't change anything.


I had to examine the situation deeper. With some deep thought - and help from other coaches - I realized the problem my client was having was the ability to manage their attention. They struggled with staying engaged with the project at hand. They had a short-attention-span when it came to writing although they could devote hours of their time to social media looking at what someone else was doing and eating.


Time-management doesn't work in an age of mass distractions. Unlike in years past, people are inundated with a continuous flow of information - much of it useless. In the past, people would go to work for a few hours, then leave the office at the end of the workday and unplug from it all. They'd go home (or wherever) and engage in other activities. Today, people enjoy the convenience of being able to work from home while in their pajamas or sit in Starbucks and knock out a ton of work, but the workday never truly ends for them. Their smartphones, tablets, and laptops are their offices; therefore, they never leave the office; their shifts never end. Most people are overstimulated, being bombarded with more information than the mind can handle. Furthermore, the telephone calls won't stop coming, the pings sound off on their smartphones all throughout the day - a new tweet, new post, new message, a new email, etc.


Scientists have discovered that people are addicted to their smartphones in the same way drug addicts are addicted to drugs. They're stimulation addicts. The sound of the ping sends dopamine through their brains, giving them the same sensation as that of crack cocaine; this is their escape from reality. Sadly, the longer someone remains addicted to stimulation, the more their ability to be creative degenerates. It's like a kid who spends hours on video games daily, allowing his or her brain to turn to mush.


To concentrate on anything, your mind must be relaxed. The constant notifications, text messages, and pings hinder your ability to relax, and hence, to concentrate. In order to write, your brain must be relaxed enough to engage in the creative process required to drum-up a masterpiece.


With my new insight, I returned to my client and explained to her what her true issue was. The time she did have to write was constantly being hijacked by thieves (texts messages, notifications, and more). I then led her through a series of exercises designed to help her regain her focus and become more attentive in the moment.


Afterwards, she began accomplishing more in less time, whereas before, she had more time but was less productive.


If you find yourself complaining about having a lack of time to devote to your goals, then consider this: a lack of time may not be your problem. You might be suffering from an inability to be attentive. You have the time, but something is keeping you distracted. Learn to create a distraction-free environment and regain your ability to channel your attention where you want it to go.