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Time Management

Change How You View Your Time Before You Start to Manage It

By Fairuz Abdullah and Drew Amoroso

After a recent presentation, an attendee shared with us that she has been struggling with time management for years. No matter what tools or methods she tried, they just didn’t work for her.

Why is it that some people find time management systems and methods so frustrating? For many of us, the tools don’t work because their design presumes that the person using them has a baseline skill set.

To illustrate, let’s assume you buy a race car, a helmet, and a fireproof racing suit. Does that make you a Formula 1 race car driver? You have all the elements of one but jumping into a car and driving at high speeds around a winding track is probably not the best move until you have some baseline skills.

Change your relationship with time before using a project management software program or a digital calendar to organize your time.

Change your relationship with time before using a project management software program or a digital calendar to organize your time.

AndreyPopov |

Similarly, using a time management app or system without a baseline skill set may end up being a frustrating experience. You try it once, maybe twice before it enters the dustbin of forgotten apps.

Develop Your Baseline Skill Set

How do we develop a baseline skill set? By using three concepts that work together.

Concept 1: Relationship to Time

Realize that your time is finite.

Concept 2: Modify

Track your time and modify how you use it based on shifting objectives.

Concept 3: Method

Brainstorm and develop your objectives, projects, calendars, and to-do lists. 

Developing your baseline begins with your relationship to time. Most of us want a pre-packed system that we can plug ourselves into. Tools, however, are not helpful unless we understand how we view time. 

Becoming attentive to how much time you have makes you conscious of how you are spending it. Are you procrastinating, avoiding tasks, or spending too much time on a task? This is valuable data because your goal is to assess whether you are being impactful with your time.

Once you see where you’re spending your time, you can modify how you spend your time based on how your priorities change. Track how long it takes to complete a project. How important is the project? Who are the stakeholders? Don’t just write a to-do list but rate your projects and tasks by importance. Understand what your distractions are and minimize them. Find your best time of day to focus and schedule the quiet time to work on projects.

Once you have those pieces in place, you will understand yourself better, and your method will work better with how you think and process. You will recognize the tools and systems that will help you rather than being drawn to a make-shift solution.

Each of us is unique in how our brain processes systems. Spending time evaluating your use of time while adjusting task focus and projects based on what works for your brain will make it easier for you to find that online tool or system that will help you rather than frustrate you.

Adjust Your Mindset

At the heart of utilizing time management tools is your mindset around why and how you’re using them. While tools can be incredibly effective, the tool is only as good as the intention and thought we put behind how we use them.

Here are three mindset approaches to apply as you go about revamping your use of old tools or searching for new ones.

Mindset 1: What’s the “Why” Behind this Tool?

If you’re struggling with your use of a time management tool, consider getting back to basics by asking: What’s my purpose behind using this tool? This may sound simple, but it turns out that a lot of our frustrations center around wanting a tool to work a certain way — instead of whether it has the ability to accomplish our end goal.

In other words, instead of being focused on whether the tool does it the way we want, what we should be focused on is whether it helps us do what we need it to do.

Remember that time management tools and concepts are vehicles that help us get from one place to another — they help us get our “real” work done. Understanding the end goal of why we’re using them can take the focus off of our grievances with the tool itself and put it back on the end goal — whether it’s helping us get our most important work done.

Mindset 2: Try Not to Get Caught Up in an “All or Nothing” Way of Thinking.

When it comes to time management tools, the measure of success we should use is whether they help us to make progress, not whether they always work perfectly. We can easily get discouraged when we don’t always use or rely on a tool in the way we intended to. Or we’ll abandon using a tool if we haven’t kept up with it for a few days.

Remember to keep your focus on the net benefit that your use of the tool brings you. Even if you’re only using it 60% of the time, or only half the way it was intended to be used, that still may mean it’s working well for you. In fast-paced busy environments, it’s natural for us to stray from, deviate, or altogether forget to use tools. Don’t let this lack of perfection impede the value you can gain from the tools you have at your disposal.

Mindset 3: Is the Technique Not Working – or Am I Avoiding Something?

If you’re constantly searching for new time management techniques without much luck, consider whether an underlying emotional or mental block — and not the tool itself — might be the root cause.

Trying to learn new techniques (or shifting blame to our current ones) is a great way to avoid doing work we don’t actually want to do. We can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to manage our time because, frankly, we’re not that excited about our work, we have an underlying fear related to it, or we’re flat out avoiding it altogether.

If you feel like you’re constantly behind and barely making deadlines, take a close look at whether you’re mismanaging your time or whether there’s a root issue that’s lurking beneath the surface. If you notice that you might be avoiding projects, take steps to discuss this with your co-workers, friends, or others in your circle who might be able to offer you some advice.

Fairuz Abdullah

Director of Employer Relations, UC Hastings Law, San Francisco

Fairuz Abdullah ([email protected]) is Director of Employer Relations at UC Hastings Law in San Francisco.

Drew Amoroso

Founder, DueCourse

Drew Amoroso ([email protected]) is Founder of DueCourse, a learning and professional development platform for lawyers. DueCourse is a member of LexLab, a legal tech incubator and innovation hub for emerging legal technologies at UCHastings.

This article is reproduced with the permission of NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, Inc. from September 2021 issue of NALP Bulletin at