Give up trying to manage time, embrace stress instead

How often have you heard someone say, ‘I am so stressed – because I just don’t have enough time?’

When it comes to growing your social impact, we couldn’t agree more. For the busy 4th Sector Entrepreneur, time is usually the crucial thing that’s in short supply. Too many things to do, and never enough time to do them.

Result? Pressure, opportunities lost, corners cut (maybe). And stress (definitely).

So, if time really is your most valuable commodity, it makes sense to reflect on how you might go about using it in the most productive ways possible. Specifically, this means reviewing the time you spend working on your business rather than in it; working on the systems that guide and enable growth, rather than on fire-fighting.

Why You Need To Give Up Trying To Manage Time

Isn’t the obvious solution simply to manage your time better? No. Alistair Lobo – a specialist in helping leaders increase their productivity – recommends another approach, developed from a best-selling book called The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz.

“While Jules Verne and Marty and Doc in Back to the Future could manage time, the reality is that we mere humans can’t,” says Lobo.

“Being personally productive is not about managing time but about managing the energy that comes from stress. Key to this is being able to differentiate between healthy or eustress and unhealthy distress.’’

As we discussed in our last blog – Commitment: The Secret Ingredient of a Successful 4th Sector Entrepreneur – stress is vital for the creative process. But it’s also vital to avoid over-stress, as that’s when your energy disappears and you stop getting things done. Lobo used the metaphor of a bodybuilder to illustrate his point.

“No-one walks into a gym and immediately bench-presses twice their bodyweight. If they try, at best they will not even move the bar and at worst they will do themselves some damage. Once they commit to a goal, they start with a much smaller weight that puts their muscles under stress but which they can lift and then every few days add another 5lbs.

In between sessions in the gym they rejuvenate, they sleep, they consider their nutrition and then, when their body has healed, come back. After many cycles the weight they couldn’t move can now be lifted with ease.

The same principle holds true when it comes to being more productive in managing your life. You can’t expect to juggle everything without a plan to manage the stress.”

And so, give up even thinking about trying to manage time. The key to personal productivity is to embrace that old enemy stress as a friend, celebrating its benefits but also managing it systematically and incrementally, in a positive way, to ensure you maximise your energy.