Management Articles


Why Time Management Seminars Don’t Work – And What Does

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

Time Management Seminars don’t work, and here’s why: They are treating the symptom and not the cause.

They’re based on two assumptions that no longer work. The first is that you don’t know how to manage your time.

Let’s say you’re asked to attend a Time Management seminar at work. You’ll be given a method that’s designed to apply to as many people as possible, so it may have little to do with your type of job. Some jobs are routine, and we do the same thing every day. Other jobs feature constant variety

Coaching is the better method, because it’s individualized, and if it’s a good coach, they’ll be asking you lots of questions.

I would ask you things like this:
  1. When do you manage your time well.
  2. When you are in charge of the project, how do you manage your time?
  3. If you had 8 hours of uninterrupted time – no phone, no meetings, no knocks on the door – how do you think you would manage your time?
  4. When you are planning a vacation you’ve waited for all year, how good are you at managing your time and being organized?
  5. How would you tell someone else to manage their time?
Barring such things as ADHD, you’d probably discover that you know how to manage your time under certain circumstances, so it’s fallacy that you don’t know how to manage your time, and a group seminar is particularly unuseful to you because it will never bring this point to the surface. Nor will it tell you how to apply the strengths you have to the situations where your time becomes “unmanageable.” Bear in mind that your time become unmanageable not because of lack of skills on your part, which brings us to the second fallacy.

The second fallacy is that you can be taught to manage your time because it’s rests on the false assumption that your time can be managed.

In today’s world where change, communication and information are accelerated, and responsibilities are exponential, there is no one “way” to manage time.

The skills you will need to rely on are Emotional Intelligence competencies, and they will cure the problem, not treat the symptom.

Emotional Intelligence covers such competencies as flexibility, creativity, intuition and resilience. This means that what you are building is not “time management skills”, but the ability to function amidst chaos, inadequate data, imperfect human beings, uncertainty and pressure.

We are as much trapped by technology and people as we are assisted by them. On a good day, your computer, cell phone, airline, team plan, and project team will make things run more smoothly than in the past, and you will accomplish your goals for the day.

But on a bad day, your calendar will be of no use if your server goes down, and neither will your email. Even though you keep a meticulous day planner, you’ll have to rearrange your schedule if your cell phone battery goes dead in the middle of a client call. If your airplane is late arriving, it won’t matter how many people you called to the meeting, or how carefully you planned the details. And if Harry has to have emergency surgery and be out of work for two weeks, he won’t be fulfilling his part of the project, even if he’s prepared, knows how to do it and highly motivated and you are left to cope.

What will help you in these situations is:
  • Resilience – being able to bounce when confronted with obstacles;
  • Flexiblity – being able to relax when things change, so you can continue to think and function at top speed;
  • Creativity – so you can come up with a Plan B; and
  • Intuition – which can give you the an early-alert system to warn you when things are starting to fall apart, and how best to get them back together again.
When you have these competencies developed, your personal power increases greatly. You will no longer panic (anger or
fear) when things go wrong, or change. You will be able to move past blame, and start fixing the situation. And with highly developed Emotional Intelligence competencies, you will be able to access much more help from those around you because of your empathy, communication and interpersonal skills.

We can no more control time than we can control emotions. The best we can hope to do is manage our emotions and those of others, and manage ourselves and others when our well-laid plans go astray. This is Emotional Intelligence.

Next time you think about a Time Management Seminar, think about an Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Intelligence coaching instead. And ask your manager or employer for this learning tool. It will get to the root of the problem, and since it’s broadly applicable, it will help with a lot more than just time management.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2004

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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