Why Can’t I Manage My Time Better?

As I go around to companies and help them manage their changes to success, I have found some underlying issues that concern me.  One is this whole idea that time is something to be managed and when you can’t, it is a character or skill flaw that must be fixed.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that this strikes a chord with me, because you also know that I don’t think change can be managed.  Time is in the same category.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I’ll quickly reiterate my core philosophy.  Change cannot be managed.  You can manage yourself and others through change, but change itself is not manageable.  It’s the reason I don’t like the term “change management”.  It’s why I can myself a change architect, (which has its own set of issues I know) someone who helps you architect your change – building the roadmap and plans that are executable.

Time is the same way.  We can’t manage our time.  We can plan our time, we can make plans and estimate how much time it will take.  But we can only manage ourselves and others through that time and through those plans. Yet, wherever I go people are stressed about time.  There is never enough of it, it seems.  And more and more of it is spent working.  With the advent of email and texting and smartphones, the lines between work and personal time have blurred, and the blur never seems to favor the personal time.

I recently did a search on Amazon looking for books on “time management”.  I got 40,000 suggestions.  40,000.  No one has time management figured out – because we can’t manage time.

Maybe this isn’t about time at all.  Certainly not time management.  Maybe this is about energy.  Maybe if you used all three parts of your mind, instead of just two, you might find that the time problem solves itself.

What do I mean by this?  Simply that you think intelligence or emotions are all there is.

Throughout history, scholars believed that there were three parts of the mind – cognitive or knowledge and intelligence; affective including emotion and motivation; and conative – volition or instinctive action.  As far back as Plato and Aristotle, there was a recognition of these three ways we think, feel and act.  Unfortunately, during the age of Enlightenment philosophers claimed that reason was the sole basis for human action.  Freud, Jung, and others in the field of psychology rejected that notion, but they were pretty much ignored.

And that has continued, especially in our school systems and businesses today.  Yet, each of the three parts of the mind is essential for problem-solving.  You’ve been taught only to focus on the cognitive and affective parts of the mind, completely ignoring the conative part.  When you do this, as you sit down to solve a business problem, you ignore your instinct to take action in some way and therefore miss an essential part of the process.

You may take action in a way you’ve been taught, rather than the way your mind instinctively wants you to go.  This drains your energy.  You may use a method that is in the exact opposite way of the way your mind wants to instinctively go.  This causes (and it has been shown scientifically) your mind to become frazzled, and you are less efficient and it drains your energy.

Kathy Kolbe “rediscovered” this third part of the mind over 30 years ago and began researching it.  I put “rediscovered” in quotes because it was never really lost, just ignored.  Her research remains the most definitive and has resulted in the Kolbe Indexes which helps people understand their MO – their modus operandi – their way of operating that is most true for them.  Check out her work at

One of Kathy Kolbe’s first rules is to Act before you Think.  This is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the way we’ve been taught, right?  You’ve been taught to Think before you Act.  To think things out, look at things rationally, gather data, think before you act.  You fear looking foolish, so you think and think and think and your acting is delayed.  You’ve been socialized to believe that if you don’t follow logic and intellectual reason you will fail.

Thinking before Acting is something we’ve learned, but our mind knows there is a different way.  And our mind is often telling us to do something different, and we ignore it – one more source of stress and draining energy.

If you Act before you Think, you can quickly come to a decision and keep going.  That doesn’t mean you keep going down a wrong path, but it means you get to that conclusion faster without expending as much energy.  Thinking before you Act can kill your momentum. How many times have you know in your gut the right direction to take, but instead of taking action you, or someone else on your team, puts the breaks on by wanting to review all the data?  And by the time you get to action you are too tired.  According to Kathy Kolbe’s research when you feel strongly about something, that triggers our instincts into action and then you think about what you are doing and can improve upon it.  I’m not talking about acting without thinking, just reversing the order.

There is always so much turmoil and uncertainty in our work lives (or so it seems).  As humans, you and I are hard-wired to seek stability.  Yet, according to Kathy Kolbe, the one thing you can count on – your intrinsic drive – you ignore.  If you ignore how you are best suited to contribute, in favor of how you are supposed to act – you are ignoring your intrinsic drive.  And in turn, you are expending unnecessary energy and wasting time.

So being short on time isn’t necessarily about not having enough of it, but about using all of your mind in the most efficient way possible.  There is way more to learn about this than I’ve been able to include in this blog, but it is a topic worth exploring.  Learning to use all three parts of your mind will boost your productivity, your energy and relieve stress by at least a third.  Don’t buy another time management book, learn your MO and how to work with it.

Want to learn more about this?  Leave me a note below with your email and I’ll be in touch.


Beth Banks Cohn
Beth Banks Cohn
BETH is dedicated to helping individuals and companies implement business changes that actually work. Beth believes in the ripple effect – that change handled well benefits everyone in an organization, over and over again. As a recognized expert in change as well as corporate culture, Beth consults domestically and internationally with a wide range of disciplines and businesses. Beth is the author of two books: ChangeSmart™: Implementing Change Without Lowering your Bottom Line and Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times…and Beyond (with Roz Usheroff).

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