"It's all about to-do Lists" and other Myths about Time Management
Daily time is the one commodity all humans are granted with absolute equality—yet some people work frantically all day and never feel they get anything done, while others never seem in a hurry but accomplish a great deal. We all hear that “time management” makes the difference—yet many people have tried every time-management system in the library, without finding one that “works.”
And much of what we think we know about time management is pure misconception.
MYTH: If you want to finish everything that needs doing, the first step is to write it all down.
TRUTH: Written lists are helpful—putting high-priority tasks and goals into tangible form increases the odds these things will get done. But unless you appreciate the real meaning of “needs” (or are using a “brain dump” list as the first step in a larger time management program), you may fill the list with things that really don’t need doing—things that could easily be delegated, or are there for no better reason than that you’ve “always” done them. In which case, you’ll still be neglecting your real priorities for things that seem easier or more urgent.
MYTH: To prevent overload, always keep a set maximum number of tasks on your to-do list.
TRUTH: Again, this does work when used with discernment. But since not all “tasks” are created equal—some take fifteen minutes, some four hours—if you pick “no more than three” of the latter, you’ll still end the day in a mood of frustration and futility. Worse, you could choose three very short and not-particularly-important tasks, finish them quickly—and waste the rest of the day on whatever trivialities pop up. So have some (realistic!) awareness of the time needed for each item on your list, rather than counting strictly by number. And evaluate all planned tasks against “what’s really important” criteria.
MYTH: You need specific long-term goals in each of several categories: health, spiritual growth, relationships, etc.
TRUTH: Good for keeping your goals list from becoming lopsided, not so good as an unbreakable universal principle. Every individual doesn’t need goals in every category at every stage of life. Use your self-knowledge and personal values to periodically evaluate what deserves the greatest current focus, and don’t invent unimportant items just to fill a category slot.
MYTH: More time spent working equals more work done.
TRUTH: Only to a point—a point most people miss in a world of endless possibilities. Many people who are wearing themselves out working sixty hours a week could get more done in forty, if they’d just rest often enough to let their tired brains regain clarity for planning and prioritizing.
The One Great Truth about Time Management
If you’re willing, first and foremost, to think about your personal values and goals and what activities best support them, a time management system that works for you will make itself clear. If you aren’t willing—no time management system will ever compensate for that lack.