“Maybe I just need to do a course to improve my poor time management”, says the small business owner reflecting on working back late again after their staff had gone home. The thing that scared them was that they could not remember what they had achieved after such a long day. They just knew they had been running from morning til night responding to demands from a whole range of sources. The time passes so quickly and the ‘to do’ list just seems to get longer. Their greatest fear is that things will spin right out of control if they stop even for a few hours. .

Poor time management is not the main issue

One of the issues I come across all the time mentoring small business owners is the deeply rooted fears around being rejected – by clients, their team, and their colleagues. If the phone rings when they are in the midst of an important task, they find it really hard to let it go to voicemail and call back later. They resist shutting off the email alert on their phone and computer because they fear missing something important and the possibility of letting an important client down. They are quick to complain about interruptions from staff, but they will not close their door or set up a time each day when they can get things done undisturbed. Usually that peaceful time is after their staff leave for the day. They can somehow justify to themselves that missing dinner with the family is just what it takes to be a small business owner.

Fixing poor time management starts with you

Doing a time management or email management course will not fix these issues. I would venture that such courses are a complete waste of time and money until you deal with the deeper underlying root cause of this problem. The problem is NOT poor time management. The problem is NOT a lack of personal organisational skills. The real problem is the inability to set firm boundaries and stick to clear priorities. The voices fuelled by fears and insecurities have been allowed to become too loud inside your head. This means you have significant problems saying ‘No’ without guilt or ‘Yes’ without obligation. It means you are quick to respond to other people’s demands and way too slow to make time for the important activities required to grow your business.

Fixing poor time management starts with ‘self-respect’

Self-respect is a gift you give yourself. No-one can give it to you. It comes from knowing and becoming confident in who you are. Knowing what you stand for. What your values are. It is all about knowing and celebrating your strengths, accepting and being okay with your weaknesses. It is becoming comfortable in your own skin. Enjoying being you. More about being than doing. Self-respect is an inner quality that each individual must build and rebuild throughout their life.

The pressure of running a small business can do strange things to people. It is easy to be tricked into thinking that the way to be successful in business is to be really nice to everyone. E.g. really good customer service is important; but it does not mean you are at the beck and call of everyone in your world. Self-respect is more important than always being seen as a really nice person. Sometimes having self-respect means you do things that risk losing the respect of others.

What do I mean by ‘self-respect’?

Self-respect will enable you to turn off your phone, shut off your emails, close the door and ask your staff to guard you while you work on important business goals in an uninterrupted way. It helps you know that what you do is important to the business. Self-respect helps you make and keep appointments with yourself to go for a walk, to take a break, to spend time at the gym, or to work on your longer range plans. Self-respect is what helps you to focus on the important and not just the urgent matters of the day. That is why I believe you will not fix your poor time management until you build healthy self-respect. Self-respect means facing down your fears – of being rejected and of not being good enough. All of us have these fears. Those who have become successful have faced them down and learned to do the most important things that make their life and business grow strong.

Healthy ‘self-respect’ checklist:

  • You make and keep appointments with yourself
  • You have become clear about what it is you want to achieve from your business or career
  • You know your strengths and are confident in what you can do well
  • You know and accept your weaknesses and know how to guard them
  • You know your values and have decided to live true to yourself no matter what
  • You have a pride in being well presented and being present in every situation
  • Your ‘Yes’ means Yes, and your ‘No’ means No.
  • You expect others to respect you and they usually do.

If you are feeling out of control like the business owner referenced at the start of this article, then it is time to do some work on you. Nothing will change until you do. The good news is that developing self-respect is within your power. In fact no-one can do it for you. A mentor can assist you with understanding and a process. However, self-respect is the gift you have to give yourself.

Self-respect is the starting point for effective self-leadership. It is the key to overcoming poor time management.

You will learn more about this subject by reading my book, INTEGRATE – why work-life balance is a myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle’. It is available in shops within Australia, or from my website. Click here for the kindle version.


INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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