Here’s the thing about productivity: we only have a certain amount of time on our hands, and yet we have an ever-growing number of tasks to complete.

We all try at one time or another to “beat the clock” and get as much done as we can in our workday…which often stretches out said workday beyond what some would call “normal office hours”. And the circle begins anew the next day, until we run out of time again.

The reason we try to manage time is because we know exactly how much of it we have. It’s finite. Yet the number of tasks we have to complete isn’t.

And that’s the problem.

The good news? It’s one that has a solution: we have to stop managing time and start managing tasks. There’s a difference between time management and task management – and when we really compare the two it isn’t too difficult to spot it.

Time

Time is defined as “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.” By virtue of it being “measurable”, it gives us something to hold on to – something to grasp. It’s far easier to look at a calendar and put tasks on the calendar than it is to look at a to-do list and assign dates and times to those, isn’t it? That’s because you run out of time when you do the latter. It’s inevitable.

Peter Bregman, author of the book 18 Minutes, has said that we “shouldn’t try to get everything done” – and he’s absolutely right. Yet we still try. We think that the more we do in the time we have will make us more productive by default.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We need to stop focusing on over-scheduling our time, which leads to overwhelm. We need to take the time to create space for yourself – because if you do then you’ll create the space to make time for yourself. And with that time you will be more efficient and effective instead of just having work possessing one of those qualities. Or even worse…none of those qualities.

Task

A task is defined as “a usually assigned piece of work often to be finished within a certain time”. But the thing that’s most important to notice here is that I referred to the word “task” as a singular item as opposed to how I referred to time as being something much larger, something multiplicative in nature.

If you focus on that, then you’ll understand that managing a task is far more – well, manageable – than managing time. You end up managing one thing at a time rather than something that is far greater in size – something that that no one has ever really mastered a battle with.

You can take on a task time and time again and expect you have a chance to come out on top; you can’t take on time in the same manner and expect the same result nearly as often.

I’m not suggesting that understanding how tasks fit into your time isn’t important. What I am suggesting is that we place too much importance and – pardon the irony here – time on that notion. what we need to do is worry about figuring out how to do a great job with the tasks we’re given rather than with the time we’re given.

That’s how you can really become not just more productive – but a better kind of productive in the process.

(Photo credit: Clock on Dried Soil via Shutterstock)

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