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My number one time management tip

My top ten time management tips

To celebrate the revised and updated new edition of The Small Steps Guide to Goal Setting and Time Management, I’m going to share my top ten time management techniques, plus some exercises and resources from the book, so stay tuned.

My number one time management tip

Here’s number one, and this is a biggy! Ready?

You can’t manage time. Yes, you read that right. Time management, literally-speaking, is impossible. Unless you’re Doctor Who.

When I wasn’t wishing I had a TARDIS, I’ve recently spent at least some of my 168 hours a week reading and researching goal setting and time management advice, for my students, for my own personal journey, and for the revised edition of the book and here’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

Time management is a euphemism, not for productivity, but for managing – or organising – yourself.

Effective, value-focused time management

Actually, I’d go a step further than that and say effective, value-focused time management involves knowing your values and organising yourself accordingly, at least some of the time. For instance:

  • building in time for yourself,
  • getting your space organised enough,
  • working out how to take small steps towards your goals,
  • knowing what’s important to you,
  • taking time out with the people that matter most,
  • skill sharing, delegating, and task bundling (like batch cooking),
  • and scheduling the important stuff as well as what has to get done.

Time management is a euphemism because time itself simply passes, all the time. We can’t create it, store it or capture it – or kill it thank goodness! We all have the same amount of time in a week (168 hours).

Think SOC

As well as how much time we spend on an activity, there are at least three other facets of time management – or organising yourself:

  • Space – where we do the thing often matters as much as when and for how long,
  • Other people – acknowledging that our lives overlap with those of others,
  • Context – social, political, cultural, plus our immediate environment.

Without these crucial aspects, you can learn some quick tricks to get more efficient, but that’s not the most important part of the process.

When I wrote the first draft of this post, I didn’t deliberately write space, other people and context in that order make them spell out SOC, but I do love a mnemonic (hence the socks in the image for these posts), and to prove it, here are the key aspects of value-focused time management, taking space, other people and context into account as well as time, and they spell out ‘yourself’:

  • You-time – at the start of each day, for instance
  • Organising your day / week / year enough (see below)
  • Understanding the small steps you can take towards your goals
  • Reflection – e.g., deciding what’s important and acting accordingly (however you define important)
  • Space – decluttering or setting up your workspace.
  • Enoughness – get your space organised enough, not perfectly, for instance.
  • Living your values
  • Friends and family – spending special time with them

So, there you have it. My number one time management tip is that you can’t manage time. Ironic, I know.


If you’re interested in a deeper dive, I recommend:


Try doing something (anything) differently! Go a different way, order or cook a different meal, wear a bright colour, take the bus, draw instead of taking notes, read a book by an author you don’t know, visit somewhere new, try sudoku instead of the crossword, swim at a different pool, talk to a new person, go to a live show instead of the cinema, switch brands, switch flavours or drinks, write in a notebook instead of using a laptop or phone. Any or all of these will give you a new perspective, often just enough of a chink to enable you to reflect on how you’re using your time.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. Wondering how this applies to the writing life? Go here.

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