The truth about time management that apps and hacks won’t fix (but I will)

“I’ve found a new app that’s eliminated my time management issues and I didn’t have to change a thing!”

Said nobody, ever.

Do time management hacks & software solutions tempt you whenever your inbox is running wild or you’re not getting to everything you’d like?

I know this because I used to be that person.

But I’ve stopped searching for a new and shiny solution, because if I’m struggling with time, or feel overwhelmed – I know exactly why it’s happening, and I know what to do.

What’s the magical solution and how did I figure it out? It came from a conversation with a leader who was seeking help with their biggest challenge. You guessed it: time management and focusing on key priorities.

He’s taken on a much bigger role and there are significantly more expectations of him.

This is what I said:

I think of Time Management like an iceberg.

The iceberg above the water are the bits of the time management issue you can see and feel, for example:

🫥 Long hours

🫥 Conflicting diary appointments

🫥 Missed deadlines

🫥 Disappointed people

🫥 Stress

And the bit under the surface are the reasons and deeper motivations that cause this issue:

  • I prioritise the loudest thing
  • My workload is excessive
  • The workplace has unwritten rules and norms
  • I’ve not been training properly
  • I perceive my boss expects this of me
  • I’m in the wrong role

This is not an exhaustive list, and you will have your own unique iceberg. You might like to create your own iceberg as you work through a typical week.

Here’s an example.

You’re staring at your laptop at 8pm, finishing ‘just one more thing’. Describe the behaviour:

🚫 Regularly working late.

And then think about what led you here.

“I need to hit a client deadline. I got distracted from completing this task because Joe in Design needed my opinion on a drawing. I dropped everything for Joe because I’m worried he doesn’t see how I contribute to the team.”

So in the top of the iceberg you’d have:

🚫I’m working long hours and risking client deadlines.

And in the submerged part of the iceberg:

  • I’m prioritising the wrong things
  • I’m anxious I’m not perceived as valuable by my colleagues

Now you have greater self-awareness about what’s really going on. Which means you can start doing something about it.

When I’ve noticed my own time management issues, in the top of my iceberg is the feeling that I don’t finish everything I set out to. Sometimes I find myself working at the weekend more than I want to.

And it doesn’t feel great – that’s not why I started my business.

This is what’s invariably in the bottom of my iceberg:

  • I’ve taken on too much because I don’t want to say no!
  • I’m unrealistic about what I think I can achieve
  • I’ve been distracted by something new and shiny

I know if this is happening for me, I need to prioritise (using KanBan Flow), put down what is new and shiny, and set myself some deadlines for what I CAN achieve.

What would you put in YOUR time management iceberg?