In the previous post we discussed the Principles of Time Management. In this edition we will continue exploring this topic, with a focus on psychological factors. Morgenstern (2005) describes psychological factors behind time wasting: 

  • Lack of clearly defined goals.
  • The enjoyment of being disorganised and being able to keep ‘rescuing’ the situation.
  • Fear of failure, or fear of success.
  • Fear of having spare time, perhaps due to the person being uncomfortable in their own space.
  • Attraction to the role of being ‘father’, ‘mother’ or ‘caretaker’ to everyone else’s problems, therefore adding to workload.
  • Fear of completion.
  • Perfectionism and/or fear of criticism. 
  • The idea that being organised and structured stifles creativity and spontaneity.

It is normal for people to be de-motivated through false or dysfunctional beliefs. They may be resisting any attempt to impose management on their lives because of past experiences with authority figures and the perception that they are trying to ‘control’ them.

Coaches can tackle these sorts of issues with any array of tools at their disposal; positive self talk, mental rehearsal and visualisation, acting the part, modelling, and being one’s own teacher. However, the following have been linked to a good time management program:

  • Clarification of values, goals, purposes and objectives so that clients are energized and motivated to be able to work through obstacles and ignore distractions while they pursue what it is that they wish to attain. 
  • Alignment and prioritisation of activities. 
  • Examination of false or dysfunctional beliefs, and ideas and considerations about time or life management that are blocking the individual. 
  • Assumption of responsibility for managing one’s life and time correctly. 
  • Relaxation, meditation and mental rehearsal exercises to help the person to cope with stress.

Personal Congruence

Time management is largely a question of efficiency. The efficiency of a person is largely a factor of their ‘congruence’; or the extent to which the person has their values, goals and activities in alignment (Tracy, 2004). Someone who is internally out of alignment is someone who is going to be prone to stress and easily distracted when following a given course of action. When someone is distracted and unable to progress, they can take a long time finding the motivation and resuming the course of action.

Asking clients where they want to have more time in their life leads to an examination of their values. Often a client will present with an imbalance in their life. A client involved in work or business may be seeking to have more personal or family time. Parents may be looking to have more personal time or time to develop a career.

Looking at the domains of life is one way to start to clarify values. The main domains of life are Health, Personal Learning and Education, Work, Career Development, Relaxation, Sleep, Spouse/partner, Family, Children, Community, and Spiritual Life. Which of these domains have importance in the person’s life? Which are currently neglected?

Robbins (1992) states that “moving toward values” leads to positives in a person’s life and “moving away from values” is associated with pain (for more on this topic, read our article Are You Moving Toward Or Away?). There are values seen as positive that predominate with people including Love, Success, Freedom, Intimacy, Security, Adventure, Power, Passion, Comfort, and Health.

Of the values that are seen to be negative, the common ones are Rejection, Anger, Frustration, Loneliness, Depression, Failure, Humiliation, and Guilt. Using these domains and lists of values as the basis for discussions with a client can be very informative. It is important to note that values at different stages of the lifespan may change.

Overall, working with clients to become more congruent with their values is a step in helping them manage their time.

Goals and Motivation

Addressing the motivation of a client is relevant to time management. Panella (2002) found that using time management techniques without any motivational help, 80 to 90 percent went back to their old time wasting behaviours within one month. The will to improve must be there if any results are to be achieved.

Time management is an area where clients need to maintain motivation to get through the barriers and obstacles they encounter. The best way to motivate someone is to clarify, revive and reinvigorate their goals. There are many ways of doing this.

A recent innovation in this area is the “Passion Test” (Attwood & Attwood, 2007) which examines a person’s ideals and what he or she is passionate about. The test follows five steps:

  1. Invite the client to consider what would give them a life of joy, passion and fulfilment.
  2. Invite them to imagine this “ideal” life and complete the question, “When my life is ideal, I am.” Answers generally include things that they are doing, being or having and should result in a list of approximately ten or more items.
  3. This list can then be culled to the five things that a client is most passionate at that time.
  4. The most important item is then compared to all other items in the list and replaced if something more important is encountered.
  5. The most important item from the first run through is circled; the remaining items are then culled in the same way.

This test helps clients gain clarity and insight about what their passions are. Another way of creating goals is to incorporate the following questions (Kovess, 1997):

  • What would you do if you had ten million dollars in the bank?
  • What do you hate in the world? What makes you angry? 
  • What part of your present work is most enjoyable?
  • What part of your work comes most easily to you?

Talking a client through their ideals in the life domains listed above and getting them to visualise their ideal life will also lead to an expression of goals.

Setting Objectives

Goals should not remain vague however motivated a person may be towards them. Goals should be prioritised and objectives set in order to achieve the goals. When are they going to achieve these things? What is the deadline?

As mentioned earlier, tasks tend to take up the available or allotted time. Better to set tough targets and push for them. This will increase efficiency and raise a person’s morale, because attainment of goals will seem more real and less distant.

Taking Responsibility

One key aim of the coach should be working with a client to assume responsibility for their own part in managing time in their lives. Many people assume that their use of time is largely outside of their control. Stack (2004) found that reasons given for inefficient use of time consisted of things such as unimportant meetings, dealing with emergencies, understaffing, interruptions, and unnecessary incoming emails.

When participants were informed that these were all external factors, participants devised a new list where they named the reasons: interruption of others, seeking out meetings to have a mental break from work, procrastination, creating emergencies, and sending inappropriate emails.


The following should be considered in terms of procrastination:

  • What are the pay offs for procrastination? From a behavioural point of view procrastination may have been reinforced by clients finding other tasks pleasurable rather than the task at hand.
  • Is something being avoided? There may be some fear that is holding a person back. For example, if they complete their assignment and do a good job might they be asked to stand up and talk to their class mates about it?
  • Does your client have an aversion to hard work? Perhaps they have not fully explored the rewards that can come from hard work. The idea of work being “hard” is something that can be broken down into its elements – persistent, energetic, focused, and so on.

A simple remedy can be to think “Just do it”; don’t wait for feelings of motivation to arrive.  Simply start the task and the intrinsic motivation will be found in the task itself. It has also been suggested that you should reward yourself for completing tasks.

Again, rather than go off on a tangent looking for some reward, the reward may be found in the task itself. Encourage clients to look for things that are interesting in the task or look for more knowledge from the completion of a task.  Finally, the simple remedy for an unwanted task is to simply do it and it will go away.


Indecision is a time waster as people have to make decisions before they can take decisive action. This can be a fruitful area for the coach. Has the client suffered through their past decisions? Is there or was there someone in their life who is/was standing over them and judging them for various things they decided to do? Rubin (1985) states that the following should be considered when trying to decipher indecision.

  • Is the person in tune with their own priorities? 
  • Do they have realistic goals and expectations?
  • Are they willing to pay the price that making the decision will involve?
  • Is the person self confident and have good self esteem?
  • Are they unnecessarily afraid of rejection and failure? 
  • Is the person willing to recognise that life will always contain imperfections?
  • Are they aware of the influence of their moods? 
  • Can the person accept that doubt may linger even after a decision has been made?

Being In the Moment

Clients who are not using their time well may have slipped into a mode of ‘rushing’ through things resulting in the perpetuation of a number of situations in their life. They may complain that they have to do things over a number of times, or that they have to explain things to people time and time again.

If they were able to slow down, be more ‘in the moment’, they might complete actions they are attempting to a more satisfactory result. They could also find themselves working at a better pace and expending energy in a more efficient way. In fact, it could be that their perception of time could be changed.

One strategy for overcoming this concern is meditation. They might complain that they really don’t have time for such a strategy however it is beneficial to them in the long run to make a small amount of time each day. Meditation generally involves building concentration, deep breathing and positive thinking.

A recommended approach to basic meditation is as follows (Lawrence, 1999):

  1. Sit on a hard backed chair.
  2. Breathe deeply and evenly.
  3. Tune in to a particular sense to the exclusion of the other senses.
  4. Allow thoughts to play themselves out, neither guiding or resisting them, but focusing one’s attention as much as possible on the chosen sense. 
  5. Take time to tune into that sense and to fully appreciate it. After a while, choose to stop tuning in to it and resume deep breathing. 
  6. Each time meditation is done, tune in to a different sense. 
  7. When sight is done, open your eyes and take in everything that is in one’s field of vision.
  8. After some practice with senses, allow yourself to tune into emotions and feelings. 
  9. Notice if a feeling or emotion seems to be located in or stemming from some part of the body. 
  10. Focus on the feelings being experienced now, and resist the urge to start thinking about the past or the future.
  11. Notice anything that changes in relation to the feelings and emotions.


  • Attwood, J.B., & Attwood, C. (2007). The passion test. Australia: Hachette.
  • Kovess, C. (1997). Passionate people produce. Australia: Griffin Press.
  • Lawrence, R. (1999). The meditation plan. London: Piatkus Books.
  • Morgenstern, J. (2005). Time management from the inside out. Australia: Hodder.
  • Panella, V. (2002). The 26 hour day. USA: Career Press. 
  • Robbins, A. (1992). Awaken the giant within. New York, NY: Fireside.
  • Tracy, B. (2004). Goals! San Francisco: Berret-Koehler.
  • Tracy, B. (2007). Time power. USA: Amacom Books.

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