Oh, how we all love to start fresh with a new year. We can let go of our past executive functioning challenges and imagine a new beginning, proclaiming: “This is the year I will master time management and meet all of my goals!”
While I love the optimism of that last sentence, that language may actually set you up for a year of disappointment.
“What?” You might be asking. “What could be negative about that?”
My answer comes in two parts. Let’s start by examining the phrase, “time management.”
Recently, a teacher in our professional course, Building Executive Functioning Skills in the Classroom, shared an insight that was rather profound. Paraphrasing, she said, “Time management is a lie. You can’t manage time. No one can manage time. Time is fixed. We can only manage the choices we make when using our time.” Genius. I wish I’d said that first.
Of course, debunking the myth that we can “manage” time means that we must face the more challenging truth that we have to manage our behavior, our choices. That can be tricky. You’ve just come up against the power of your emotional brain over your wise prefrontal cortex.
The second problem is the phrase: “reaching all my goals.” That is a very slippery and demanding expectation. ALL your goals? You are now officially in the realm of your emotional brain’s wishful thinking.
I recently asked two high-functioning professional clients to make a list of their goals for the coming year. They took this seriously and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote until I had to stop them. We had been working with future thinking skills using my Seeing My Time Adult Planner System to “see” available time for goals and projects.
Directing them to look at the annual calendar for 2023, I asked them, “Are all of those goals going to FIT around everything else you are doing for work, your vacation days and conferences you attend?”
Alas, as I teach in the Seeing My Time Program, time doesn’t stretch so you can do more. Time is fixed.
They spent the rest of our session shortening their goal lists, making them more realistic to fit the available open time in their busy lives.
If they’d kept that mass of unattainable goals, they would have concluded that they were bad at time management. Not true. They were just victims of wishful thinking.
So, as you open your own planners for the new year, ready to embrace your dreams for 2023, pause and accept that time is fixed, you don’t manage it. You manage your behavior and your expectations.
Set goals that are attainable, little by little. Your brain and your soul will feel accomplished, less defeated, and ready for a great year ahead.
Enjoy and may you have a very healthy new year.
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.