Last week, at 1:00 pm on a Thursday, I had a 2-hr workshop on my schedule where I’d walk someone through the process of how to manage their time using their Google calendar.

I live for this stuff. Creating color-coded time blocks and walking people through the conscious choices they have about their time is something that energizes me.

But… half an hour before the call, at 12:30 pm, after a crazy morning of managing projects, I realized that I wasn’t sufficiently prepared for the workshop and was stressed out about it. I turned to my assistant with my head in my hands and exclaimed in frustration,

“I have a time management call in 30 minutes that I haven’t prepped for because, get this, I have a time management problem! Do you see the irony of this??? Gah!”

We both had a good laugh about it. I sighed, but instead of rushing back to my desk, I decided to pause and make myself a cup of tea, figuring that in the time it took for the water to boil, I’d come up with a way to not make myself look like a completely unprepared idiot on the call.

In that moment of pause I realized…

I wasn’t having time management issue at all. I was having a Standards and Boundaries and a People Pleaser issue.

The fact of the matter is that I had filled my calendar last week with client obligations that I had created for myself. None of the things I was working on was a requirement under any of my current client agreements. I had a choice. When they each engaged me in those additional projects, I could have said, “sorry, my schedule is full this week but here’s when I can start on that project”. But instead, being that I’m a people pleaser by nature, I got the emails and jumped right in to what needed to be done, thereby pushing out my other priorities and pushing me in to a state of overwhelm. I overstepped my own boundaries and took on the work.

With this insight, I now had material for my call and it served as the foundation for the rest of our training.

Next time you’re faced with a “time management issue”, in the time it takes to boil of a pot of water, I want you to breathe and review the following list of 12 “issues”. Because once you identify and solve the root of the issue, you’ll find that the “time management” issue will disappear automatically.

1. Standards and Boundaries Issues

Is this a project that you said “yes” to when you absolutely had a right to say “no” to? Are you sticking to the standards and boundaries that you already have in place or are you allowing yourself and others to overstep those?

2. People Pleasing Issues

Did you offer to help sell concessions at the school event on Wednesday (because you’re a good mom and that’s what moms do) and then you offered to help a friend price stuff for her garage sale on Friday night (because that’s what good friends do) even though you don’t have time for all this “extra” stuff right now? If so, you’ve facing a good ol’ people pleasing issue. If you’re already running a full schedule and there’s no solid reason why you have to be the one to help out this time around, you may want to revisit why you feel the need to people please. Trust me, the show will go on down at the school and that garage sale will likely still happen, with or without you. While there’s no need to justify why you can’t do something, if it’s truly hard to go with a standalone “no”, try “and”. Example: “I can’t help you out on Wednesday. And – I want you to know that even though I can’t right now, I do want to support you with this. Can you let me know what events you have coming up next month so I can see if I can work it in to my calendar?”

3. Self-Worth Issues

That good ol’ people pleasing issue might go a bit further and could actually be a self-worth issue. Did you pitch in because you truly want to do it or because you feel that others will think less of you if you don’t pitch in? Ask yourself… will people truly think less of you if you don’t sign up this time? If they will, you might want to assess your friendships.

4. Delegation Issues

At work, are you holding on to things that could and should otherwise be delegated? At home, are you the only person in your household that can pick up the dry cleaning, do the dishes, clean the countertops, mop the floor and clean the bathtub? Sure, if you live alone, you’re it (and if you do, you can choose whether you truly need to mop the floor this week). If you don’t live alone, what systems and agreements can you set up with those that live with you so that you’re not carrying the entire load?

5. Agreement Issues

Do you have a habit of showing up late to things or turning in paperwork and assignments late? While in some cultures, a 7pm party means that it actually starts at 9pm, that’s not how most of the world operates. If you agree to show up to a meeting at a certain time each week and you’re always late, you may need to re-assess how you’re living up to the agreements you have with your team (or, if the meeting prior keeps running long, you may need to enter in to an agreement before that meeting starts about it ending on time).

If you’re always late to your kid’s ball practice, you may need to re-assess your agreement with your kid about showing up and the importance that living up to that agreement plays in your life (I know – ouch! Someone had to say it).

6. Underestimating Issues

If you find yourself rushing from one appointment to the next, this could be caused by an underestimating issue. Are you building in how long it really takes to get from one place to another? You may keep estimating that it’s “10 minutes away”. However, in rush hour, that 10 minutes may turn in to 23. If your meeting is on site, are you building in basic human needs like going to the bathroom or grabbing a glass of water between meetings? It seems like a small thing, but all these “micro” blocks of time add up throughout the day.

7. Commitment Issues

You’re simply committed to too many things at the same time. You committed to being at your daughter’s recital on the same night you committed to the work event? Why? (see People-Pleasing, Self-Worth, Agreement Issues above).

8. Organization Issues

Perhaps you committed to the recital and work event at the same time because you have too many calendars – you’re one human with one body that can only be in one place at one time, so stop with the multiple calendars and merge them all in to one place! Or, maybe you’re not checking your calendar regularly enough and need to get back in to a habit with that.

9. Distraction Issues

You schedule your time out, but just can’t seem to stick to it. In that case, identify what’s distracting you. If it’s cellphone notifications, silence your cellphone and put it in another room until you’ve completed your tasks. If it’s email or Slack, log out for a while (no one is going to die if you step away for an hour). If it’s the construction workers outside, close the blinds. If Oprah asked you to submit a pitch by 5pm on Friday, you’d better believe you’d have the pitch in by 5pm and that distraction wouldn’t be an issue.

You might say, “well… Gayle… I did all those things and my mind still wonders”.  In that case, it’s possible that it has to do with…

10. Investment Issues

Think about that task or project that you’ll keep putting off until you’re scrambling against a deadline. Do you truly understand how it plays in to the bigger picture? If not, you’re likely putting it off because you’re not invested enough or there’s not a big enough consequence for not getting it done.

If you’re an employee and this task has been assigned to you by your boss, ask for more context around the project. Aim to understand the mission. It might help you to assess where this project falls in the realm of priorities.

If this is a consistent problem, it’s possible that you need to investigate a career change so that you can find something else that you’re interested in.  If that’s not an option, you just need to do the thing your boss is asking you to do so that you can pay your mortgage this month – there’s no way around that (unless, of course, you have an amazing boss who is willing to let you off the hook on the projects you don’t enjoy).

If you work for yourself, ask yourself, “am I truly invested in the task at hand? Will it produce tangible results that will uplevel me and my business?”. It might just be on your To Do list and you’re doing it because it’s there and you think you should do it, but it’s truly not a priority for you.

11. Motivation Issues

This plays closely with the Investment Issue. Sure, you know you need to reach out to new prospective clients in order to generate more business. But, perhaps you’ve never outlined how many prospective client calls you need to make or how much time you need to spend networking each week in order to generate a certain amount of revenue. Figure those numbers out, create a spreadsheet to track where you’re at and you’ll quickly get the motivation you need!

12. Decision Indecision Issues

Been going back and forth (and back and forth) on the new color palette for your new website? Yes, it’s a hard choice, but sometimes, you just have to decide already and move on before it sucks up any more of the time you could have spent doing other things.

Yep, I could go on and on and come up with other issues that could be causing the time management problem, but, I don’t want to get stuck in Decision Indecision myself and want to get this post out there.

Whenever you’re faced with what you think is a time management issue, take a step back and assess these 12 Steps to see where the real problem lies. Once you identify the real problem and deal with it, the time management issue surrounding it will automatically disappear and you’ll have more free time to create what you truly want in life.

If you want to dig deeper in to this type of thing, I highly recommend Steve Chandler’s Book – Time Warrior.

If you want a sit-down session so we can go through your specific calendar together and get you on track with accomplishing your goals without sacrificing the things that are truly important to you, please reach out to me at gayle@gaylebu.com