3 Reasons Why Time Management Strategies Never Solve Your Time Famine Problem (…But This Will)

Time famine is a big challenge for leaders.

No matter how much your organization grows or declines, how many staff quit or join, how many upset people you have to deal with, or how insane the world gets, you only get 24 hours in a day to solve everything that comes your way as a leader.

Unfortunately, this leaves most leaders with a nagging sense that they can’t get it all done.

As a result, as things grow or problems escalate, most leaders respond by working more hours, usually at the cost of their health and the well-being of the people they love the most.

A natural and typical response to getting everything done is incorporating better time management practices, which is a really great idea.

However, the challenge most leaders discover is that time management alone won’t solve their time famine problem.

Here are three reasons why that’s true. Hopefully, they explain the current angst you’re feeling and the nagging dread you might feel as a new year approaches, and you have no idea how you’ll manage it all again. 

Then, I’ll share a concept that I hope will lead you to a breakthrough next year: Energy management. I’ll also outline three reasons why energy management is so powerful.

So why won’t time management alone (as valuable as it is) solve your time famine problems? Here are three reasons.

3 Reasons Time Management Won’t Solve Your Time Famine Issues

1. You’re Managing a Fixed Asset

The challenge with time management is that you’re managing a fixed commodity.

You get 24 hours in a day. No more. No less.

Time doesn’t grow. It won’t expand. It doesn’t even flex to help you out.

As a result, you’re managing a growing list of demands with a limited asset.

The challenge with time management is that you're managing a fixed commodity. Time doesn't grow. It won't expand. It doesn't even flex to help you out. Click To Tweet

The limit is this: No one will ever give you another hour in the day.

While you’re starving for more time, you know you’ll never get it. Nobody is going to hand you an extra hour in the day, or an eighth day in the week.

People think money is a limited commodity. Well, yes. But not more limited than time.

You can always make more money. You can never make more time.

People think money is a limited commodity. Well, yes. But not more limited than time. You can always make more money. You can never make more time. Click To Tweet

2. Time Management Will Make You More Efficient, But You’ll Hit A Wall In Effectiveness 

As a result, traditional time management will make you more efficient, but it doesn’t make you more effective over the long run.

Efficiency fails because there’s a fundamental limit—a wall you hit—with time management when all you’re trying to do is to become more efficient.

Traditional time management will make you more efficient, but it doesn’t make you more effective over the long run. Click To Tweet

You can get better at managing your 24 hours and become exceptionally efficient.

And that’s when you meet the wall.

Once you become highly efficient, time management becomes demotivating because you have to settle for small—sometimes microscopic—improvements. Meanwhile, the opportunities you have or the responsibilities you carry continue to expand. Then what do you do?

Managing a growing list of demands with limited time is a little like planning a dinner party for eight on a $100 budget.

You can do that if you shop for sales and get innovative. It’s more than possible.

But try to host a dinner party for 80 or 800 people on a $100 budget and suddenly everything falls apart.

That’s what leadership has felt like over the last few years. Then what do you do?

Once you become highly efficient, time management becomes demotivating because you have to settle for microscopic improvements. Meanwhile, the opportunities you have or the responsibilities you carry continue to expand. Click To Tweet

3. It’s Not Just The Hours, It’s the Weight

Leaders have always had to solve big problems. By the time a problem reaches the senior leader’s desk it’s usually because no one else could solve it.

Which is the third reason why traditional time management alone doesn’t solve your leadership problems: It’s not just the hours, it’s the weight of leadership that has you down.

The weight of leadership is something only a leader understands.

When you’re running from meeting to meeting and crisis to crisis the weight on leadership intrudes on your evenings and weekends.

It keeps you up at night, tossing and staring at the ceiling unsure of what to do next.

Time management alone only deals with the length of the hours you work. It has no idea how to tackle the weight of leadership,

Time management alone only deals with the length of the hours you work. It has no idea how to tackle the weight of leadership. Click To Tweet

So What Will Help You? Energy Management

If you’re counting on time management to get you through the stress of another year of crisis leadership, it’s time for a new strategy: Energy management. 

Most people concentrate on managing their time but never think about managing their energy.

Most leaders know that their energy level waxes and wanes over the course of the day.

By default, most people compete with their energy levels, trying to push through low ebbs or even denying that they’re struggling in a given moment.

Most people concentrate on managing their time but never think about managing their energy. Click To Tweet

Rather than competing with your energy levels, start cooperating with them.

Leveraging your energy is where you start to see exponential results. When you leverage your energy, you’ll realize you’re capable of producing not just more work but much better work than you thought possible.

Here are three keys to managing your energy, not just your time.

Leveraging your energy is where you start to see exponential results. When you leverage your energy, you’ll realize you’re capable of producing not just more work but much better work than you thought possible. Click To Tweet

1. Realize You Only Have 3-5 Deeply Productive Hours in a Day

How many productive hours a day do you have in you?

It’s a more important question than you might think. When I was starting out in leadership, I might have answered that by saying eight, or ten. Or twelve.

What about you? How many productive hours do you think you have in you?

Like many driven leaders, I thought I was superhuman. Pushing the pedal all the way to the floor worked for a while until it didn’t.

Then—also like a growing number of leaders—I hit the wall. I burned out.

When I rebuilt my leadership in the years that followed, I started to manage my energy, not just my time.

Here’s what I learned.

As driven and determined as I was, I really only had three to five peak hours in me every day during which my energy was high, focus was clear, and my mind was sharp.

Most people have only three to five deeply productive hours in a day when their energy is at its peak. That’s it.

Most people have only three to five deeply productive hours in a day when their energy is at its peak. That’s it. Click To Tweet

2. Leverage Those Hours Like They Were Your Lifeline (Because They Are)

The reason you take your stress home, work ridiculous hours and feel like you’re never finished is usually because your most important work didn’t get done when you were working.

When your most important work never gets done, you never feel done. Which, in turn, causes you to work all the time.

Ask any preacher whose sermon is still ‘in development’ Friday afternoon, any CEO who is not clear on strategy for the next quarter, or any manager who hasn’t dealt with their toughest team issues, whether they can relax, and they’ll look at you like you have three heads.

When you realize you’ve basically got three to five hours to accomplish your most significant work, and you focus deeply enough to do it, everything else becomes so much easier.

Think of those hours as your Green Zone: Your best hours in the day when you’re sharp, clear, focused, and able to tackle your work with energy. For morning people, that happens in the morning. For night owls, it might happen after 10 p.m. Or, maybe your energy peaks mid-day.

Protecting your Green Zone and leveraging it to do your most important work five days a week means you’ll not only catch up, but you’ll also likely get ahead.

I know when I get my major content done I almost feel like I can call it a day. I don’t – I have meetings and other things that are less important to do. But the big stuff is done.

Which, as a morning person, means that when I’m in a meeting later in the day, I’m focused on the meeting, not thinking about other things. It means when I’m relaxing, I can relax. When I’m home, I’m home.

Having only three to five productive hours in a day might make you feel like you’re losing, but when you leverage them, you’ll start winning in ways you never imagined.

I outline the strategy in detail in my online, on-demand resource, the Complete At Your Best Course.  It unlocks everything you need to get thousands of productive hours back next year that will help you get your life and your leadership back. You can check it out here.

3. Don’t Compete With Your Energy Levels, Cooperate With Them

Having accomplished your most important work during your Green Zone, you’re then free to do other things as your energy dips to other zones—your Yellow Zone and your Red Zone.

As you might guess from the colors yellow and red, these are the zones where your energy is somewhere between average and, well, dismal. That’s perfectly fine and very natural.

When I’m exhausted and in my Red Zone (usually around 4 p.m. most days), I have about three brain cells left.

So, what should you do?

Rather than trying to tackle that massive report, cooperate with the fact that you’re exhausted.

Do some low-demand tasks, like filing your expense report, emptying your inbox, or reviewing your calendar.

Or hit the gym. Or maybe even take a nap. 

No one gets points for staring at a blinking cursor for an hour until it’s time to go home. Just go home.

Call it a day.

Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re exhausted is to call it a day. You’ll live to see another day, and after a good night’s sleep and some recreation, you’ll come back with so much more energy.

And here’s the rewarding upside: practicing energy management, you’ll get far more accomplished in far less time.

Sometimes the best thing you can do when you're exhausted is to call it a day. You'll live to see another day, and after a good night's sleep and some recreation, you'll come back with so much more energy. Click To Tweet

What’s Your Biggest Time Management Challenge?

What’s your biggest time management challenge as 2022 begins?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

3 Reasons Why Time Management Strategies Never Solve Your Time Famine Problem (…But This Will)

6 Comments

  1. Kimberly on January 18, 2022 at 3:30 pm

    Interesting insights.

  2. David C Royer on December 30, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    This is probably the best leadership advice I’ve heard this year! It sure answers a lot of questions!!!

    God bless you in 2022!

  3. Brian Majerus on December 29, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    For me, it is a strange sense of pressure to “get to the next thing” that often robs things I enjoy of being enjoyable. Similarly I desire to have a richer sense of God’s presence in all elements of my day, even the mundane ones. I have a couple ideas for next steps in these but they have a real sense of “deeper need” for 2022. Thanks for your tips on energy (which will help with these things.)

  4. Mark on December 29, 2021 at 9:31 am

    “The weight of leadership is something only a leader understands.” Unless you are the only person doing the leading, stop trying to do everything. This is why you have people under you. They aren’t there to need hours of your time and be micromanaged. If that is who you have working for you, get rid of them or move them to independence quickly. Also, talk to the people under you, but please don’t be vindictive. I can’t tell you how many leaders I know who are completely isolated yet still complain about having to do and decide everything.

  5. Justin Klatt on December 29, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Couple things…

    1) Carey, love all that you said here. So good.

    2) i had to learn this the hard way. After 10 years of ministry I went from 300 pounds of a ton of muscle, young and strong 21 year old to a 31 year old, flabby 445 pound blob. AND my marriage and 1st daughter was suffering because of it.

    It happened because “Church was more important then my family and my own health/weight”. I would work my BUTT of for ministry and neglect my first priorities.

    3) I had to hit this wall of burnout and realize this was SIN and embrace the fact that my body and marriage and daughter was MORE important then ministry. This was so hard. God gave me a mission, people were getting saved, my ministry was growing. I felt accomplished…. BUT the rest of my life suffered. So backwards.

    4) so I had to take a year and put ministry on the back burner. i did not stop doing ministry, but I put it out of focus all together to focus on my family and my body.

    5) I got counseling, sought out the Holy Spirit, rekindled my marriage, spent time with my daughter, started a journey that eventually led to losing 200 pounds.

    6) the last 10 years of ministry since then has been awesome, marriage is awesome, I’ve kept the weight off and the church that I have been senior pastoring for the last 5 years knows that “My Family and my health is more important then ministry”.

    I had to do what you are saying, but I did not have the words for it until reading this article. I shifted from being time and results based to being Energy based. I use my energy to accomplish things, but I don’t make phone calls or max my day out when I need rest or my family needs me or I need to get some physical activity.

    Growing up as a teen in the nineties, my basketball player was Michael Jordan. The man, the legend. And he made a shift and talked about it. In is first career 1984-1993, he just went balls out and crushed everything in sight and left it all on the court with no regard for energy. He was young and could recover and he just played his butt off. But his second (1995-1999) and 3rd (2001-2003ish) come backs he played smarter. He saved energy for big moments, he focused on using his energy is the best ways. He was less flashy, you made more jump shots to save his body and energy instead of crashing the rim every chance he had.

    Even when we slow down to prioritize our energy we do not lose effectiveness. Air Jordan was still the best, he still accomplished his goals, even when he played smarter. He was not a failure because he was not as flashy or dunked as much. We are the same. When we put our selves our family and energy first we will not lose our effectiveness.

    Last thing… If I look back at my last 7-8 years of ministry (5 of those planting and senior pastoring my church) i have been way more effective (way more fruit to show) prioritizing my energy and focusing on my family and myself then that first 10 years of LONG hours and running myself into the ground. Dragging my family with me.

    Now I get to pastor my own church and get to be a Regional Supervisor for all of our denominations churches in all of Arizona and Southern California (40 churches) and I still don’t have to “Work” as many hours as I did those first 10 years of youth and assistant pastoring. It is glorious. The weight of leadership is still there, but my body and family and energy is more important.

    Carey, sorry this was so long. Just felt like I should share this for someone out there.

  6. WR Beatty on December 29, 2021 at 8:22 am

    “Ask any preacher whose sermon is still ‘in development’ Friday afternoon, any CEO who is not clear on strategy for the next quarter, or any manager who hasn’t dealt with their toughest team issues, whether they can relax, and they’ll look at you like you have three heads.”

    Here’s the time/energy dilemma that I (and many pastors of small/mid-sized churches) face… we have the stress of all three of those people – Sunday comes with alarming regularity, the church HAS to have a strategy for the next quarter and if you have staff, you have issues… I agree 100% with what you are saying here, but I guess I just need to note that it’s much, much messier in practice than it seems to be on paper…

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