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Manage yourself, not your time

Manage yourself, not your time

As a professional training consultant, training provider, and resource speaker in the Philippines, it’s expected that corporate training and professional speech buyers come to me to request either a classroom training or a resource talk about time management.

While, of course, I never turn down a profitable opportunity, I always tell them that I don’t train on or speak about the topic. It’s not because I don’t want to or I don’t know how to, but simply because I don’t believe in it.

In my own opinion, which I never really force anyone to believe in, time can’t be managed.

All of us only have twenty-four hours a day. Tell me of a person who has more than that. I would love to live on the planet he’s on.

How can we manage something that’s constant? When I say constant, I mean to say fixed. Once it’s 12:01 AM, it’s already the following day. Nobody can stop it. It keeps on moving. It keeps on changing. New days keep on coming.

Try doing nothing at all and the clock will continue to tick moving us from one time to another until it’s the following day again and so on and so forth.

We can only use it. We can only take advantage of it. Everyday, we can make the best use of it but we can never extend it.

Therefore, it’s not really time that we’re supposed to be managing. It only sits there waiting for us to utilize. The real aspect of life and work productivity that we manage is not time as it is, but ourselves, our focus, our prioritized activities, and our discipline.

In other words, manage ourselves, not our time.

Some of us say we’re good at managing time but the reality is, we’re not. Let me give one for example.

Person X, upon arriving at work, had already scheduled himself the night before to read through his new emails and respond to each of them until all of them have been taken care of from 8 AM to 10 AM.

Unfortunately, he has a personal difficulty of or shortcoming with self-management, focus, discipline, and consistency. Instead of maximizing his only two hours and keeping his focus on reading and responding to each email, he allows himself to get distracted by unnecessary activities.

He decides to go to the pantry and grab something to eat. While at it, he notices a good show on TV and decides to sit through it for half an hour. Thinking he has to get back to work, he walks back fast to his cubicle to continue what he was doing.

Yet again, after fifteen minutes, he feels the urge to smoke a couple of cigarettes at the designated area. He consumes another half an hour doing so before running back to his work station.

While busy going through his emails, he allows himself to get distracted again this time by a very close colleague working in a different department who happens to drop by their room to chat with him. It eats up yet another half an hour of his time. Not being able to multi-task, another personal area for improvement, he chooses to stop what he’s doing and decides to satisfy the talkative co-worker before being able to focus back on the task at hand.

Afterwards, he then realizes he only has fifteen minutes left to finish responding to the rest of his emails before he gets on to his next to-do task on his agenda.

This guy really is good at time management, isn’t he?

Don’t get me wrong. While these distractions are normal in the workplace, let me just prove a point. In reality, it’s not really time that we manage. It won’t wait for us regardless what we decide to do first or next. It will just keep on moving and moving until we realize it’s already closing time and we’ve already run out of chances we just have to put things off until the following day.

Successful people are good at managing and leading themselves. That’s called Self-leadership or Self-management. They acknowledge the fact that time is fixed and that they’re better off managing themselves and what they do instead of focusing on managing time. As I said, there’s no time management; only time usage or utilization.

Ergo, let’s forget about Time Management. Let me share with you how you can manage yourself, your focus, your activities, and your discipline instead.

Just like the fundamentals of supervising people, we can also apply the Allen Management Wheel or the Basic Functions of Leadership or Management to ourselves. Let me explain them for you below.



Determine your goal and objectives and carry them out religiously


Not having any daily goal is like walking endlessly without any idea where to go. In managing yourself, it’s important that it’s written down what we want to accomplish every single day and how we are going to accomplish them. These ‘hows’ are our objectives or the activities with which we can make our goals a reality.

For as long as we have a destination and we know how to get there, we will never get lost. Our everyday stay at work will always be productive and geared towards our company and our individual bottom lines. Even if we only have twenty-four hours a day, it doesn’t matter. Since we know what to do, we can complete so many things even in so little time.



Categorize our activities and manage our priorities right

self organization

As I always tell my trainees, coachees, or mentees (so to speak) in training, coaching sessions, mentoring programs and even professional speeches,

The world’s greatest problem isn’t lack of time. It’s lack of DISCIPLINE.

We’re at a loss with what to do and what not to do plus what to do first, second, and last because we don’t know how to group our tasks or activities as Urgent and Important, Urgent but not Important, Not Urgent but Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important.

Sounds familiar? Although I don’t believe in Time Management, I’ve always been a big supporter and implementer of former US President, Dwight Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle or Matrix.

According to him, Important activities are those that if we do them, we will be able to achieve our daily goals. On the other hand, Urgent activities are those tasks that may not be as important as the important ones, but must be done immediately. Otherwise, lack of attention to them might lead to bad short-term and even long-term repercussions.

Therefore, we must use our better judgment to determine whether an activity is a combination of both (Urgent and Important), neither of the two (Not Urgent and Not Important), or one of the two (Not Urgent but Important or Urgent but Not Important).

Once we’re able to classify them, the ex-President recommends that we take different responses or actions to each of them.

For those that are Urgent and Important or High Urgency, High Importance, we simply have to just do them instantly. Not later nor tomorrow. It’s right away. Failure to do so might get back at us in forms we’d not appreciate and our supervisor’s reprimand could be one of them.

For those that are Not Urgent but Important or Low Urgency, High Importance, there’s no harm just scheduling them on a date or at a time on the same day when we’ve already accomplished the more urgent and much more important things to do.

For those that are Urgent but Not Important or High Urgency, Low Importance, the best way to do is to either delegate them to a subordinate or a peer (on the same level) who doesn’t mind or who really has to do them. The rationale here is that most likely or more often than not, these are somebody else’s deadline.

Lastly, for those that are Not Urgent and Not Important or Low Urgency, Low Importance, it’s okay to simply not do them. It only means that they’re obviously just Time Wasters or Distractions that if we let them get in the way, we would end up unfocused and inconsistent.

Another way of categorizing which among our activities to prioritize is leveraging my self-conceptualized W.H.I.P. CRITERIA. When these bases are used as a guide for decision-making, we can be highly sure that what we are doing will lead us fast to our daily goals and objectives and even long-term vision and missions. These criteria are:

  1. If an activity contributes to our WELL-BEING
  2. If an activity contributes to HIGH PERFORMANCE based on our Key Result Areas
  3. If an activity contributes to our INCOME
  4. If an activity contributes to our PRODUCTIVITY

Now, if all activities fall in these aforementioned bases, all we need to do next is simply rank them in terms of the degree or level of importance and some other criteria.

Also, in determining how much time we allocate or spend for every activity, of which category we have already ascertained correctly, the following are very helpful and reliable criteria by which we can carefully decide on the duration of each task or activity.

  • Degree or Level of Importance and Urgency
  • Degree or Level of Difficulty
  • Degree or Level of Complexity
  • Realistic time it takes to finish them

Once we stick with these plus the W.H.I.P. Criteria in mind and we also back them up with personal discipline, consistency, and constant supply of motivation and inspiration, our productivity at work and even in our personal lives shouldn’t be an issue.


Self-Leadership or Self-Management

Lead and manage yourself as effectively as you should


There’s a saying that goes,

Before you can lead others, you must lead yourself.

True. How can we be a good leader or manager to others when we can’t even be a good leader or manager to ourselves?

It all starts with truly mastering our identity and our capabilities. If we know our thoughts, behaviors and actions, and attitudinal tendencies very well, self-leadership or self-management doesn’t have to be complicated.

What I personally recommend is knowing, acknowledging, understanding, appreciating, and applying our:

  • Communication Styles
  • Learning Styles
  • Working Styles

If we know our styles thoroughly, we can find out how our personal uniqueness or what sets us apart from others can help us become more effective or better yet, efficient in what we do.

We also have to find out what or who truly motivates and inspires us. When we know these people, like our loved ones and friends, or even material things, like our dream house, car, or vacation, use them to our advantage. We’ll never lose the drive to make our dreams a reality.

Just the same, we have to acknowledge the things, thoughts, and people that demotivate or fail to inspire us, because when we know what they are, be it a person or a thing, we are going to learn how to avoid them, control them, or even defeat them.



Develop high but realistic and achievable personal standards, monitor and evaluate your performance, and correct any shortcomings immediately.

self control

A wise man once said,

It’s okay to reach for the moon and hit the stars than to reach for the stars and hit your roof.

Dreaming is free so if you’re gonna dream, dream as high as you can. When you possess this mentality every day and you support your ambitions with observable and measurable productivity-oriented tasks and activities, it’s impossible you won’t achieve anything significant. I have a personal quotation I would like to add and that I love sharing with others. It goes like this.


Always match your daily goals with S.M.A.R.T. objectives and make sure these objectives really show in your activities and tasks. Otherwise, you may be busy but you’re not productive.

Also, as you convert to action the activities that you’ve prioritized in your very limited time, never forget to assess where you are and check if you’re still moving closer to the achievement of your long-term goals. If not, there must be something you’ve been doing that you’re not supposed to be doing, something that you’re not doing that you’re supposed to be doing, or something that you’re supposed to be doing but you’re doing incorrectly or that you’re doing too much of.

It also helps if you look at the big picture all the time. Are these personal areas for improvement an issue with knowledge, skills, attitude, the environment you’re working in, your own level of motivation or inspiration, or the compatibility between you and your chosen job and between you and the company you work for?

Find out what these deviations are and solve them. This way, you can coach and counsel yourself accurately.

Remember, once you can already lead and manage yourself on your own, then that’s the time you already have the right to oversee others.


Putting things in perspective

I never intend to oppose the believers of time management. I never will. I’m only speaking based on my personal experiences and personal realizations of things as well. I’ve discerned that what makes successful people successful is knowing what to do and determining how much time must be spent for their identified tasks and activities and matching this effectiveness with genuine self-management or self-leadership in terms of focus, discipline and consistency.

Therefore, it’s not really time that we’re managing. It’s what we do and how what we do  is distributed within our very limited every day. Also, it’s how these tasks and activities genuinely contribute to our productivity, earnings, personal value addition, and overall aspirations in life.

Again, manage yourself and not your time.

Would you love to convert this article into a customized in-house corporate training program on Self-Leadership, Self-Management, or Time Management for your employees? Just give us a call at (02) 919-2734 and let’s discuss it further.

To view our existing training outline for this program, just click the link below:

Time Management Training in the Philippines

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