Time management doesn’t work!

by Terry Monaghan, August 29, 2012

Have you ever wondered why time management doesn’t stick?  You know what I mean… You try this course, read that book, get this app, make lists, use the calendar (digital or paper), schedule, prioritize – and still feel frustrated, overwhelmed and have no time!

Why is that?

I have a theory. I think most books, courses and systems are working on the pieces of the puzzle. But they are only working on the 10% of that iceberg that is above the water line!

And the 90% of the issue that is below the surface is exactly why the pieces don’t seem to fit together, no matter what you do.

We have all had the experience of committing to something – scheduling the time to take care of it – and then completely ignoring our plan. We forget. We get busy with something else. Some emergency is way more pressing in the moment. Our alarm didn’t go off. We got distracted online. Our errands ran long. The phone rang. The kids got sick. We got sick. It rained. The dog ate a sock. Blah, blah, blah.

And then we feel bad. We wonder what is wrong with us that we can’t get a simple task done. We can’t follow a simple plan. We can’t stick to a schedule.

So we stop trying. We decide that ‘it just doesn’t work for us.’

What if it isn’t us? What if it isn’t even the system or structure we are using?

Clearly, there is something else at play here. Some other unexamined commitment is in control of our time and our actions. And until we distinguish what that competing commitment is, whatever we try will have limited impact.

Something to think about: You can’t manage time anyway. If you can, go ahead, manage the next minute and tell me how it goes.

So, if you can’t manage time – what can you manage?

You can manage your energy, and you can manage your actions. And that’s where the next post will start!


©  Terry Monaghan, 2012, All Rights Reserved

Want to use this article in your ezine or website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, an ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.


  1. Jane says:

    Looking forward to your next post!

  2. Sue Painter says:

    I agree so much that you can manage your own actions, not so much the time. The more we try, the harder it gets.

  3. Interesting – I like the iceberg analogy – and look forward to hearing more about energy (and focus?) and actions

  4. Ooo! Very tantalizing! I can’t wait to see your distinction between time and actions. Here’s what I find about time. I’m a strict scheduler when I have projects. I’ll allocate a specific amount of time to something and 99% of the time I am able to get it done in that amount of time — if I am clear with myself. It is amazing how much I can fit into a day that way. I find that time is elastic, the more you expect from it, the more it stretchs to accomodate. I coach my clients on this technique of “elastic time,” and it works for them, too! I call my calendar my “best friend,” and it certainly is my most powerful productivity tool. XO, Katherine.

  5. Ellen Martin says:

    Great points, Terry. I have been studying this a lot in the last few weeks as I have a very challenging situation to coach someone through. One of my challenges is trying to get them to understand that they can’t manage time and that processes and systems only get you so far.

  6. Love this shift in mindset. It is definitely not about managing time – but what we do in that time and what/how we think about it!

  7. YES! it is definitely about managing your energy!

  8. kiylafenell says:

    I agree in that the concept of “managing time” is not the core issue. Managing ourselves and our energy should be our primary focus.

    Kiyla Fenell

  9. Phil Dyer says:

    Terry –

    This is a very thought-provoking concept. Kinds of along the lines of “we can’t necessarily control events, but we can choose how we react”…

    I will have to noodle on this a bit!


    Phil Dyer
    Chief Visionary | Broughton Advisory

  10. Phil Dyer says:

    Terry –

    Very interesting take on things. Very similar to “we can’t control events…but we can control our reaction to them”…

    Going to have to noodle on this a bit.


    Phil Dyer
    Chief Visionary | Broughton Advisory

  11. Thanks for a great reminder that in fact I can’t manage my time. Still, I do love being in charge of my schedule 😉


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