I answered a question on a social media site this week requesting help dealing with wasting time. The writer described his time wasting activities as reading e-mail and online news. At first glance, I thought it was a silly question, but then I realized my own propensity to waste time. As I thought about this issue, I concluded:

Wasting time can be a symptom of a deeper problem; mainly, avoiding unpleasant responsibilities or tasks.

Since starting my own business, I experimented with different time management techniques. I enjoyed some successes and endured some failures. My first major conclusion is that I simply waste too much time avoiding things I do not want to do. In other words, I gain more pleasure from doing what is easy and natural rather than what feels disciplined or forced.

This problem can be approached multiple ways. The first solution most people employ is to purchase a time management system, or software, with the hopes this purchase will help them become better time managers. This works for some people, but others simply are not wired to run their life in this fashion.

The three basic tools to effectively manage your time have always been:

  1. A clear direction, or goals
  2. A calendar
  3. A task list

What I find is that the simplicity, or complexity, of these three tools depends upon your intrinsic motivations. The Intrinsic Motivation Model starts with the assumption that you will best manage time in a manner that is consistent with your intrinsic motivations. Without this alignment, any time management system has limited chance for success. You can follow this link to read more about intrinsic motivation.

Before you take any steps toward better managing your time, you should consider what responsibilities or tasks you are avoiding. Once you identify these demotivating duties, you can begin to come up with a strategy to deal with it more effectively and efficiently. Until you identify, and strategically deal with, those areas you try and avoid, you will continue to gravitate toward time wasting activities. Your continued avoidance will only increase your stress levels and lead to more problems.

What time management system or process have you found most helpful?

Is Wasting Time a Symptom of a Deeper Problem?