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No Such Thing as Time Management

No Such Thing as Time Management
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This article was originally published on Coach U Insights on March 22, 2021.

Here is yet another example of a phrase created by the self-help industry. The first mention of time management appeared in the 1950's when Dwight Eisenhower made his famous quote: "The more important an item, the less likely it is urgent, and the more urgent an item, the less likely it is important." Sound familiar? It's called the Eisenhower Box. You can search for it like I did. The first time I ever saw it was in Stephen Covey's book, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". I was surprised to find that the term has been around for a long time.

Prior to this article I wrote "No Such Thing as Life Balance". This topic is no different. When things get difficult there is a lot of comfort that comes from labelling something. Until the 1950's no one thought of managing their time. So, what changed? Not much, other than the fact the self-help movement planted the seed that we need to manage something as intangible as time.

When people ask me to coach them on this topic, I warn them, I don't believe time can be managed. What I do believe in is prioritizing and focusing on creating what I feel is most important to me. Strangely enough that is what the Eisenhower box does and what Stephen Covey talks about. I like this quadrant very much and use it all the time. I also have an application where I have these quadrants set up inside. I've been using it for two years now and haven't found anything that I like more... at least for now.

So why do I like it? To even believe that we can manage something as ephemeral as time causes a smile to spread on my lips. When someone learns how to manage time, they will have created a time machine. Until such time what I do with my time is up to me. Choice. That is what time is all about: what we choose to do at any given moment.

It has always been that way and always will. How we FEEL about time is what we can manage. How we CHOOSE to use time is what we can manage. Time has never been anything more than an invisible bus with me on it. I can get off and on as I please. How long I'm on the bus depends on one thing and one thing only. What is most important to me.

What does that mean?

Well, the Eisenhower Box so elegantly and simply, takes care of both feelings and choice. By exploring the urgency around an item, we are prioritizing choices based on what we feel is important. By inserting them in each quadrant we are deciding on the level of importance each task has for us.

Would the results of one person be the same as another person? Maybe some things would be the same, but we would never match what is important or urgent to someone else.

This addresses the second unique feature of the Box. While it is a tool it's simplicity allows the tools to be used by anyone to suit their needs. I like this because it fits in perfectly with neuroplasticity. I shake my head when I see tools for time management sold as packages. If neuroplasticity makes everyone's brain as unique as a fingerprint, how could anyone possibly come up with a one size fits all kind of tool. The bottom line is that no one can. Eisenhower's Box works because it is simple enough to accommodate the uniqueness of every individual. Do I recommend this tool to anyone who deals with time issues? Yes, and I also believe that if they can create something that works for them then that is more powerful than any suggestion I could ever make.

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