Time management systems are all over the place these days… and with good reason. If you can maximize your time and focus on the right areas, you’ll hit your goals faster and have more time for your personal life.

Since the late 1990′s, I’ve read a shelf full of books on time management, listened to dozens of hours of time management audio learning, and read multiple articles on the subject. I’ve used a variety of time management systems including Franklin-Covey and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” I’ve used PC software like Microsoft Outlook, Smartphones, and paper-based planners.

And I met a man, let’s call him Brian, who was close to suicide because he had chosen the wrong career and he was miserable. He was good at science and liked animals and he thought being a veterinarian would bring him happiness, yet the more he realized something was missing the more unfulfilled he became. He suffered tremendously.

Ultimately he started asking “Why?” Why was he doing what he was doing? What was it in service of? What was MOST important to him? After answering those questions he discovered a new career that answered his “Why?” and his happiness skyrocketed just like that! I was blown away.

The point of all this is that as important as it is to have a good time management system, it was irrelevant to Brian in his previous career because his time and energy were focused on the WRONG THINGS.

It is vital that you start with your “WHY.”

You will double your success, income, happiness and life balance.

**The History of Time Management**

Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” has categorized the post-World War II modern-day evolution of time management into four generations:

1st generation: Traditional approach based on clock-based reminders and alerts.

2nd generation: Focuses on planning and preparation of work schedules and events, including setting time-based goals.

3rd generation: Prioritizing various tasks and events, and controlling tasks using schedulers.

4th generation: Aims at prioritizing various tasks and events, but aims at prioritization based on importance of the task rather than the urgency.

You can see that things have gone from looking externally (organizing your activities) to looking internally (starting with what’s important).

I’m suggesting we move to the 5th Generation – what is the “WHY” behind what we’re doing?

**What Is Time Management?**

Let’s strip away all this complexity and get back to basics for a moment. What is time management? The essence of time management is the following:

1. Decide what to do
2. Do it

These appear to be very simple steps at first glance. Even a child can do them. However, deciding what to do is the hard part because you have SO MANY friggin’ options!

If we boil it down, our question becomes, “What is the best action to take right now, and what is the best way to do it?” This is really about choosing your MOST important action, and then deciding how it will get done.

I use the word “choosing” here deliberately. At the end of the day, it is YOUR choice on what you’re doing with your life, how you show up and what kind of impact you make for your customers and your business.

**What Is Your “Why?”**

How do you choose the best action? The best place to start is with your “WHY” - Why are you dong it? As we discovered with Brian’s story, our beliefs, thoughts, and actions must all be in alignment.

And you want to understand context – What is the larger purpose for my action? Is it to make money? Is it so I look good? Or is it to make a positive difference in this industry and for our culture?

When you start to ask questions at that level, everything changes.

Before choosing an action or a project, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why is this action important to me?
2. Why is this action important to my company?
3. Why is this action important to my customer?
4. What is the larger purpose that this action will serve?

Allow yourself to go through this internal process before you go external. You will find a greater source of energy, clarity and alignment for your actions.

Symptoms of being out of alignment between your beliefs and your actions include chronic procrastination, mixed emotions, lying, self-sabotage, setting goals that fizzle, fear of failure, fear of rejection, timidity, depression, anger, frustration, and resentment.


Once you’ve chosen your most important actions, you ask the question, “What is the best way to do it?”

Can you delegate it? If so, get it off your plate ASAP and clearly communicate the desired outcome to the person to whom you delegate.

If it’s in your court, and it can be done in less than 2min, hammer it out right away. If you need to allocate more time to it, then write it down on a “Next Action” list that you review daily.

If you get stuck, you may be trying to bite off too much with a single action, and you’ll need to break it into smaller chunks.

Ultimately, It is vital that you get plugged into your “WHY” You will experience increased energy, focus and determination and get more stuff done!

“If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.”
– Lee Iacocca

Author's Bio: 

For over 15 years, Justin McSharry has worked with organizations in a variety of ways to make an impact. He founded EvoLeadership Academy from his passion for facilitating change in individuals and organizations who are ready to make a bigger impact in their business and with their stakeholders. Justin is a lifelong student of human potential and his multi-dimensional corporate background includes engineering, training and sales in the fast-paced and highly competitive Silicon Valley. He’s engineered multi-million dollar technology deals, facilitated and lead training, all while developing his peers through mentoring and coaching.

Justin brings a calming, realistic, and supportive presence to all of his engagements so that clients feel heard and inspired to take their next developmental leap. He’s happily married and enjoys practicing meditation, making music, and traveling.