If everyone agrees that excellent time management is a desirable skill, why is it that so few people can be described as “well organised, effective and efficient”?

Over the years, I have found that many people have ideas about time management that are simply not true. But if you believe something to be true, it becomes true for you.

Your beliefs cause you to see yourself and the world, and your relationship to time management, in a particular way.

If you have negative beliefs in any area, these beliefs will affect your thinking and actions, and will eventually become your reality.

You are not what you think you are; but what you think, you become.

Listed below are three mental barriers to effective time management, and why you should strive to remove them:

1 Fear of being organised

The first myth about the negative side of time management is that if you are too well organised, you become cold, calculating and unemotional.

Some people feel that they will lose their spontaneity and freedom if they are extremely effective and efficient.

Many people hide behind this false idea and use it as an excuse for not disciplining themselves the way they know they should.

The fact is that people who are disorganised are not spontaneous; they are merely confused, and often frantic.

The key is structuring and organising everything that you possibly can: Thinking ahead, planning for contingencies, preparing thoroughly and focusing on specific results. Only then can you be completely relaxed and spontaneous when the situation changes.

The better organised you are in the factors that are under your control, the greater freedom and flexibility you have to quickly make changes whenever they are necessary. 

2 Negative mental programming

The second mental barrier to developing excellent time management skills is negative programming, which is often picked up from your parents, but also from other influential people as you were growing up.

If your parents or other significant people in your life told you that you were a messy person, were always late or never finished anything you started, chances are that as an adult, you may still be operating unconsciously to obey these perceptions.

Time management and personal efficiency skills are disciplines that you learn and develop with practice and repetition.

If you have developed bad time management habits, you can unlearn them. You can replace them with good habits over time.

Self-limiting beliefs

The third mental barrier to good time management skills is a negative self-concept, or “self-limiting beliefs”.

Many people believe that they don’t have the ability to be good at time management. They often believe that it is an inborn part of their background.

But there is no gene or chromosome for poor time management, or good time management, for that matter. Your personal behaviours are very much under your own control.

Try this exercise

Imagine someone is offering you a big reward if you can manage your time superbly for the next 30 days.

Imagine an efficiency expert is going to follow you around with a clipboard and a video camera for one month.

To put this exercise into practice, try improving on one aspect first.

For example, if you always leave home in the morning 20 minutes later that you should, set yourself the goal of getting out the door punctually for the next 30 days.

Rope in a friend to hold you accountable, and reward yourself if you successfully meet your goal.

Celebrate your victory and then start off on another quest for better time management.

After two or three months, not only will you be more organised, disciplined and motivated (especially after “collecting” your reward), you will find that you can get so much more out of every day.

Article by Chong Soon Onn, managing director of Brian Tracy, which conducts sales and leadership training for companies throughout the Asia-Pacific to achieve increased sales and productivity. For details, visit www.briantracy.com.sg