After many years of attempting to “manage time,” I have come to the realization that it is not time that needs management!

Time moves on—a second, a minute, an hour comes and goes. It never stops—it is very consistent. In one day, 86,400 seconds. So what is all this about time management then? Well, it is really about self-management. Let us get clear—we are really talking about how we manage what we do, while time moves on.

What Does This Mean?

First, by getting clear that the focus is on self-management, we accept responsibility. We can then recognize that we cannot manage time, but we can manage ourselves! This is a challenging thought. When we think from a framework of managing time, it is like thinking about training a dog. We do it to something else, and if the results do not come, well, “the dog” was hard to train.

Time Is Impossible to Manage: It Will Not Stop

Once we have “reframed” our thinking from time management to self-management, we can truly become responsible for being more productive and improving our outcomes. I believe there are two key self-management factors that impact your outcomes. They are clarity and desire. When you are really clear about what you want to achieve and you have the desire, your actions will be more productive.

So how do you get clarity and desire? Developing clarity and desire uses emotional intelligence skills and abilities. Relying on purely rational, logical thinking processes will only get you part of the way.

Let us talk a little more about these.


Clarity is about knowing exactly what outcome you want. The clearer you are about your outcome, the more productive you are. When you know exactly what outcome you want to achieve, you are much more focused. You become aware of all the possible actions to move you toward your desired outcome.

Truly knowing what you want your outcome to be includes how you want to feel. In fact, how you want to feel is usually the most important outcome you need to be clear about. Clearly knowing how you want to feel uses your skills of emotional self-awareness.

There are two key ways clarity impacts outcomes. The first is knowing whether an activity is productive or unproductive. I define productive in terms of moving me closer to a desired outcome (unproductive is not moving closer to a desired outcome). When planning or starting a task, ask yourself if the activity will help you progress toward achieving your goal. Lack of clarity makes answering this question hard and therefore decreases productivity.

Once we are able to determine whether an activity moves us toward our outcomes, then we look which of the possible actions will be the most productive. For example, if my desired outcome was to travel to New York from London, the following travel methods would move me closer to my destination—walking, taking a boat, driving, and getting a flight.

The most productive of these in terms of time used would be to fly. To develop ways to improve self-management and become more personally productive, here are some questions I suggest you could ask yourself.

• If I were going on a vacation tomorrow for two or more weeks, what would I want to complete today?
• What is the highest value-added action I can do?
• What can I, and only I, do?
• Why am I on the payroll? What is my purpose here?

To know if a task is productive or the most productive, you need to clearly know your outcome.

The cloudy confusion that descends on most of us when we lack clarity comes from how we feel. This is where we need to be skilled in emotional self-awareness, emotional self-expression, and emotional awareness of others. To clear the fog, we need to know how we really feel and be prepared to express that in an appropriate way. We also need to recognize the emotions (or potential emotions) of others and how much impact they are having on us.


When we are clear about the outcome and the activities that will generate the outcome, then the only thing that can stop us is a lack of desire. In simple terms, if you do not do the actions, then you do not want it enough. You let something get in the way. You decide (consciously or subconsciously) that something else is more desirable at that point in time.

This is where many of us get caught up in the day-to-day. Often, you do not consciously decide something else is more important, but you might as well have. In fact, I suggest you would be better off if you did consciously decide not to do something—at least that way you would be clearer about which direction you are heading.

Do you get caught in the day-to-day? Do you find yourself busy reacting to things, rather than consciously choosing the actions and direction you want to move in? If you were a ship, would you stay on your charted course, or are you sailing without a rudder, at the mercy of every change of wind and tide?

A lack of desire is usually associated with a lack of connection to the goal. The connection comes from within and is heavily influenced by how you feel. Do you lack passion because it is not really your goal (“it’s what Dad wanted me to do”)? Do you feel more fear than excitement? Maybe you feel like you should have the goal rather than feeling inspired by your goal.

An emotionally intelligent individual is usually more aware of how he feels about his goals. This enables him to create goals he is emotionally connected to, and this increases the action, progress, and success. You achieve more in less time with what seems like less effort.

In summary, there is no such thing as time management because time rolls on exactly the same for everyone. So you must take responsibility for self-management. A key part of self-management is knowing how you, and others, feel—the skills of emotional intelligence. Becoming more emotionally intelligent will help you develop clarity about your outcomes and will help you to really connect to the goals with great desire. When you apply these, I guarantee you will achieve more in less time with less effort.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Michael Erwin is a transformational coach and coaching director of DIY LifeCoach. DIY LifeCoach enables you to coach yourself to greater success in life. DIY LifeCoach uses a unique, purpose-designed approach to coaching that enables you to “achieve more in less time with less effort.” Contact Michael at