Don’t Just Manage Your Time, Manage Yourself

The best piece of time management advice I have for members of my career management site is found in tweet 92 in Success Tweets.  “Determine your peak energy times.  Schedule high brain tasks when your energy is high and low brain tasks when it is low.”

A long time ago I learned that my energy is high at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day.  My energy is lowest mid day.  I schedule myself accordingly.

I reserve the morning for my important and urgent tasks – like writing and posting this blog.  I use late afternoons and early evenings to work on my important but not urgent tasks – like writing my books and other thought pieces.  Mid-day, I catch up on correspondence, return phone calls, exercise and run errands.

This works for me.  I think best and most clearly in the morning and have a bit of a sinker mid-day.  My energy and mental acuity picks up again late in the day.  This is really helpful, as I get a lot done late in the day when many people are biding their time getting ready to go home.

This schedule works for me.  It may or may not work for you.  You have to determine your peak energy times and schedule yourself accordingly.

However, no matter how well you plan your day, surprises and interruptions will come along.  A couple of years ago, I saw a great article on by David Allen called, “It’s Not About Time.”  He suggests that too often we focus on managing our time when we should, in fact, be focused on managing ourselves.

“The savvy know that self management is really an issue of what we do with ourselves during the time we have.  Self-management encompasses managing our thoughts and emotions, and dealing effectively with our work, family and community relationships.  It’s about gaining dynamic balance of control and perspective to achieve more successful outcomes and feel more relaxed along the way.

“It’s about knowing what to do at any given moment.  It’s dealing effectively with the things we have to do to achieve our goals and fulfill our purpose.  It’s also about deciding the importance of the varied and constant information coming at us.”

What do you think about David Allen’s ideas on self management?  I like them.  Even though I try to schedule my high brain tasks at the beginning and end of the day, I sometimes end up doing them mid-day when my energy is lowest.  I have found that, no matter my preference, sometimes I have to deviate from my preferred schedule to handle matters that are out of my control.

As David Allen says, “self-management is about knowing what to do at any given moment.”  This means that you cannot become a slave to your to-do list or your personal preferences.  No matter how well you plan, you will be faced with new problems and opportunities every day.  Sometimes, what I want to do is different from what I need to do.  I bet you find this to be true too.  My best career advice is to do what you need to, not what you want to, as you go through your day.

Do your best to schedule yourself so that you can deal with high brain tasks when your energy is highest.  But when circumstances create different demands, suck it up and do the best you can every moment you have.  The problems and opportunities on which you focus at any given moment in time will have a big impact on the level of your performance and, ultimately, your success.  Don’t be so focused on managing your time that you miss opportunities because they fall outside of your plan for the day.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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  1. Thanks Bud! I am a big fan of David Allen, although sometimes I find the GTD system to be overly detailed. On the other hand, he’s accomplishing a lot more than me. Plus, just the general philosophies in his book are very useful, including your reminder from him that it’s what you could be doing at any moment.

    My version of this is “What is the most useful thing I could be doing right now?”

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Beth

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