Want to know the ultimate secret to time management?  This is, hands-down, the best time management tip I give as a coach:

Time management is mind management.

The best time management tip is a well-kept secret:  Introduction

The single most important lesson you can learn about managing your time effectively:  Managing your time actually means managing your mind.  That means managing your mindset – the cognitive, emotional, and neurological processes that drive your decision-making engine.

Today, I’m going to talk more about my best time management tip, and explain why mind management is so important.

The truth about time management

First, I should probably explain why I teach that time management = mind management.

Here’s the thing about time:  It’s linear, immutable, and continuous (unless you’re Marty McFly).  The clock keeps ticking, regardless of what we, as humans, think, say, or do.

What that means is, we can’t “manage time.”  Time keeps ticking, or marching, or whatever cliché you choose.

What we CAN do:  Manage ourselves in the context of time.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you have some marketing copy to write, and you’ve scheduled yourself an hour to complete it.  Are you managing the clock?  Um, not unless you’re on the field, calling the shots in the NFL.

Instead, you’re managing YOURSELF in relation to the clock.  You know how much time you have to complete the task.  Hopefully, you’ll work to keep your mindset in a focused and motivated state, so you finish the task in or before the allotted time.

See?  You aren’t managing TIME itself.  You’re really managing your MIND based on the amount of time you have.

So, “time management” is a myth.  Time management is actually mind(set) management, in disguise.  But, because we’re all so familiar with the term “time management,” I’ll continue to use it here.

Time management issues are often mind management issues in disguise

As a time management and productivity coach, I’ve helped tons of small business owners and solopreneurs overcome time management struggles.  Here’s a stat that supports my best time management tip:

More than 90% of the people I talk to are struggling with time management because of mindset issues.

Less than 10% of the people I encounter JUST need help with the logistics of managing their time.  That means things like:

  • Creating and implementing a time management system
  • Managing distractions and interruptions
  • Setting and planning for goals
  • Organizing to-do’s and action items
  • Scheduling their time effectively

Do my clients need help with that stuff, too?  Most of them do, to varying degrees.  And I help them with those things, because systems, strategies, and tactics are an important part of managing yourself in the context of time.

But… a schedule or plan is only as good as your ability to execute it.  And execution comes down to mindset.  Here are a few of the mindset issues that can impact your ability to manage yourself effectively in the context of time:

  • Overwhelm
  • Procrastination
  • Perfectionism
  • Self-doubt
  • Fear of failure
  • Indecision
  • Overthinking
  • People-pleasing
  • Low motivation

See?  These are all cognitive/emotional (mindset) issues that impact your ability to execute on your schedule or plan.  Getting yourself to consistently use a planner, calendar, schedule, etc.?  Also a mindset issue.  …Which further reinforces my best time management tip:  Time management is mind management.

Mindset challenges are normal

Some people are aware of the mindset factors that are holding them back.  Often, they feel badly because they know that they’re not getting important things done due to what’s going on in their head.  That awareness is great, but the part about feeling badly?  It adds another layer of unnecessary suffering (guilt, shame, self-criticism) onto the situation.

In other words, they know they’re struggling, and they punish themselves for struggling.

Here’s the thing about all those mindset factors listed above:  They’re totally normal.  They’re often a result of normal processes in your brain that are designed to keep you safe, maintain the status quo, and conserve energy.

If you experience any of the factors above, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.  It doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out to be a business owner, or that you should have figured things out by now.

All it means, more than likely, is that you have a normal brain that is running on autopilot.  It doesn’t have to become something to criticize yourself over.  After all, we don’t receive a user’s manual for our brains!

For now, just know that mindset challenges are normal, and they’re also possible to overcome – something I help clients do all the time.

It’s possible to overcome mindset management challenges

Speaking of overcoming, I can’t emphasize enough that whatever mindset challenges are impacting your time management, there is hope.

Like I said earlier, many of the mind management issues that inhibit effective time management come from a specific force in your brain.  You might hear it referred to as the survival brain, primitive brain, Cro-Magnon brain, or (my favorite) the toddler brain.

This part of your brain has 3 objectives:

  • Keep you safe
  • Maintain the status quo
  • Expend as little energy as possible

The wild thing about this part of your brain is that it can’t distinguish between actual, imminent danger (i.e., being chased by a bear) and perceived danger (i.e., public speaking).

If your mindset runs on autopilot, the “toddler” part of your brain takes over, and starts making decisions.  It throws up overwhelm in the face of a big project, throttles motivation when confronted with a difficult task, urges you toward perfectionistic tendencies when you’re afraid that your work won’t be good enough.  I could go on, but as you can probably see, these are all mindset issues that impact your ability to execute, and thereby your time management.

As I said before, it is possible to manage and evolve your mindset – to train your brain away from these patterns of thinking, feeling, and believing.  How?  By using your prefrontal cortex… but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, know that it’s totally possible to take your brain off of autopilot, and cultivate a mindset that will help you get things done.

The Best Time Management Tip Is A Well-Kept Secret:  Conclusion

My best time management tip is, and always has been:  Time management = mind management.  We can manage many aspects of our lives, but we can’t manage time itself.  Just to recap, here’s a summary of what I covered today:

  • Time management is a myth.  Rather than managing time, we can manage ourselves in the context of time.
  • Time management issues are often mind management issues in disguise.
  • It’s normal to have mindset challenges.
  • It’s possible to overcome mindset challenges.

Developing the skills to manage your mindset is truly the best thing you can do to manage your time more effectively.  If you’d like to learn more about mindset management, let’s talk!

About the Author Amy Schield


Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

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