Coaching time management – Part 2

The truth is that most people would rather visit the dentist than really address their time management.

This is why we ask coaches to look at their own time management before they attempt to coach so one else in the subject.  The reason for this is that time management is an area where it is really easy to hand out ‘prescriptions’ for how to improve.  The problem is that most of them only work for a limited period if the client senses that you are not really seeing them and the difficulties they have in changing their personal patterns.

If you have done your own inventory of your time management you should have some idea of how difficult change can be and should be more tuned in to helping the client through their difficulties.  You might also have realized the importance of not being too prescriptive and being willing to learn as you go along.

I normally start the session by acknowledging that I find time management hard too and make an agreement that we will tell the truth to each other.  A great initial questions is ‘Do you really want to do something about your time management or is it something you think you should do but really you don’t want to make the effort and would prefer to stay with the status quo?

Listen carefully to the answer and try and determine the client’s willingness to really engage with the issue. Assuming they are willing to make changes you can move into the actual coaching.  As we mentioned in the first blog thinking about the client’s energy rather than rushing into actions is a great perspective on time management.

A good way to start is to ask the question ‘What items/tasks give you energy and which take it away.  In any role there is going to be an element of boring stuff that has to be done and items which the client likes to do.  The key is to understand how the client deals with each type.

You can prompt the client by asking what sort of issues they are avoiding.  Working with the client you could make a list of the type of issues they avoid and the commonalities between the different issues. Common avoidance issues include:

  • Anything that involves significant effort

  • Where there are new things to learn

  • Items that have a risk attached to them

  • Anything that seems ‘difficult’ or ‘boring’

  • A project/item where the client does not believe they will have a successful outcome

I think I have experienced all of these – sometimes combined – sometimes one at a time.  Often avoiding items can be an enormous drain on a client’s energy.  Ironically it often takes more energy to ‘not do’ something than it does to do it.  We have all experienced the satisfaction and energy we get when we finally complete an item we have been avoiding.  But sometimes the idea of a future reward is not enough to compensate for the immediate difficulty we know we will face!

When looking at individual items it is often useful to remember the four Ds.  That is for every item a client can ‘Do, Drop, Delegate, or Delay.  As it is inevitable that they will chose one of them it is far better to be conscious about which one they are choosing.

You should now have two lists of items/tasks.  One that give the client energy and one list of items that take energy away.  In the next blog we will be looking in more detail at how to select and use the lists and the energy principle to supercharge your client’s effective use of time.

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