For better or worse, how we spend or misspend our time is our own choice. While you might already know that you procrastinate, or that you’re always late, or that you’re a little flaky, you might not recognize how much of that behavior is rooted in your own unique and possibly dysfunctional relationship with time.
You also might not realize how much power you have to change this relationship. Doing so simply requires that you take an honest inventory of your own behaviors and beliefs, and admit where you fall short. Telling the truth about how you treat your time gives you perspective, clarity, and the opportunity to adopt a different mindset if you wish.
Twenty years of life coaching has familiarized me with a few time-related personality traits that show up in even the smartest and most successful people I meet. I call these traits “time bandits,” because they are lawless thieves of our most precious natural resource! I like to give these thieves humorous names to make them easier to approach and dismantle. See if you can spot your own brand of time mismanagement in these characters.
1. The Time Martyrs
Although they constantly lament that there’s “never enough time,” these people-pleasers fill their schedules with commitments to others instead of focusing on what’s truly important to them. They gain respect and validation this way, but they neglect the list of things that would actually build self-respect, because being accountable to those things is scary. They’ll leap at a chance to say “yes” to any request that pulls their attention away from the task at hand — a neighbor’s yard sale, a child’s last minute homework assignment, or a friend in need of advice.
The Truth: Everybody in the world has the same amount of time — 24 hours, every day. If you feel overcommitted or underserved, you’re not prioritizing it properly. Take a closer look at the personal tasks you put off to help others. Ask yourself, “Why am I avoiding this?” Yes, you’re avoiding. Why?
2. The Wild Procrastinators
Whether fueled by adrenaline or paralyzed by indecision, these thrill seekers love working against the clock, down to the wire. Some even claim that their best work is done under pressure, but is it really? Is that lightning moment worth all the missed opportunities, the damaged relationships, and the constant stress, anxiety, and guilt?
The Truth: Procrastination is the exact opposite of productivity. On a deeper level, it’s also an ever-present distraction you carry with you when you agree to “deal with it later.” Until then, you’re shouldered with a nagging, unfulfilled responsibility that keeps you from being fully present.
3. The Underestimators
With feigned assurance that “this will only take a minute,” underestimators get lost in an activity and blame the hours for passing by while they weren't paying attention. Each commitment thereafter gets postponed and compromised because they didn’t accurately gauge their time. These people load their schedules with a hundred brilliant ideas, then wish upon a star that they will all get done … somehow.
The Truth: Things take time, and that’s OK. Playing dumb about that fact does not get you off the hook for being an adult about it and managing it maturely! Inefficiency with time creates workaholics are who are blind to the traps they set for themselves.
4. The Do-It-Alls
It’s almost enviable how much these productive busy bees seem to accomplish in a single day. They treat time like a game that is won by doing as much as humanly possible. They value quantity over quality, and getting it done over doing it well or enjoying it. Girls’ night, laundry day, dentist appointment, or dinner plans are all treated the same — like an endless round of whack-a-mole. Do-It-Alls feel frazzled and unfulfilled no matter what’s on the calendar.
The Truth: Simply put, it’s impossible to experience joy in the present moment when your mind is already racing to the next thing on the list. No one can “do it all” forever — it’s an unsustainable and dangerous practice. This behavior causes burnout, health problems, relationship woes, and personal regrets.
5. The Commitment-Phobes
Alternately called “flaky” or “free-spirited,” these types want to play it by ear before committing to anything. They fear being locked into a reasonable schedule because they might lose their spontaneity or miss out when something better comes their way. Stifled by concrete plans, commitment-phobes wait until they’re “in the mood” to do something — which leaves a great many things undone.
The Truth: Successful people don’t live their days according to their moods; they conduct their mood to suit the plan. Commitment-phobes are slaves to their moodiness, which is a recipe for confusion, discontentment, and ultimately, failure to launch.
If you can admit to being one, some, or even all of these time bandits, you’ve already made a step in the right direction! Mastering time begins when you know yourself well enough to design a plan that works for you and makes you happy. Given that every other aspect of life is affected by your relationship with time, it can either become your Achilles’ heel or the secret to your success.
No matter who you are or what you do, the choices you make about how you spend your time determine the kind of life you have. Choose wisely!
Lauren Zander is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.
Register here for a free seminar June 25 at 7:00 pm EST to learn how to master your time.