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The Key to Time Management: Stop Wasting It

Your fancy day timer binder can’t help you manage your time. The time management classes you took can’t help you either (even though there is nothing wrong with the methodology they taught you). The books and magazine articles you pored over in search of the secret to time management revealed nothing new, nothing that made a difference. Neither did syncing your calendar to the Cloud.

The reason nothing you have tried has improved your time management is because, until now, no one has told you the truth: The key to time management is to stop wasting it.

Maybe It’s Just Wasted Time

It’s true: You waste a lot of time. Some of the time you waste is spent on the novelties and distractions that from time to time hook us all. Everyone could stand to claw back a little time from these easily identified time wasters, like email, the Internet, and mind-numbing television programs. But that isn’t the biggest area where you spend your time poorly.

You likely waste time on things that aren’t important to you, aren’t important to the life you really want, and aren’t important to the results you want. Ask yourself if what you are doing is really important to you.

If you could design your life, would you spend your time where you are spending it now? Is what you are doing driving the results you want from your business and your life?

I have always struggled to say “no.” When someone asks for my help, I want to say, “yes,” especially if I know I have the ability to make a difference. But by saying, “yes” to things that aren’t aligned with what’s most important to me, I am forced to say “no” to the things that are important.

This is true for you, too. Are you saying no enough?

What’s Truly Important?

If you want to stop wasting your time, you have to decide what is truly important to you. Then you have to stop spending your time on things that aren’t.

At work, twenty percent of the work you do produces eighty percent of your results. How much of what you do at work is really wasted time? How much of it feels like work, even though it contributes nothing to your results?

What are your real priorities? Are these priorities really yours, or did you somehow inherit them? Maybe you were infected with someone else’s priorities? How do you need to invest your time to ensure that you design the life that you really want?

The key to investing your time wisely and having the life you want is to learn to say “no” to small things so you can say “yes” to bigger things. To effectively manage your time you have to stop wasting it.


What’s your favorite way to waste time?

How much of the time you waste is legitimate work, just not work that produces the results you need?

How often do you say, “yes” to projects that really aren’t aligned with what you really want?

How do you say “no” and protect your relationships?



  • Kenna Griffin

    I just hate it when you tell me the truth and I don’t want to hear it. Thanks for helping my productivity!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Let it never be said that I deluded you, Kenna!


    Prioritizing helps me start work with the things that will bring me the most results. This makes me work on the best things for me to be doing, and if I have time for the little things later, I can do them; if not, at least I’ve gotten the most important things done.

    I’ve also heard this as the ‘Bucket of Frogs’ philosophy – if you have to eat a bucket of frogs, start with the biggest one.

    After that, each smaller frog seems easier. If you start with the small frogs, though, look at all those big frogs you still have to eat! It’s easier to feel daunted that way, and to give up.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Can we just agree to bread the legs and fry them in a pan with a lot of butter, Caelan? I’m good for a bucket that way.


        I don’t want to call it cheating, but it’s definitely tastier that way.

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  • Carrie Mamantov

    I am a people pleaser. I know this. And it is what runs me into the ground. But to say your needs aren’t important to me feels wrong. It sounds so selfish to say I have my own list to worry about. Got a 12 step program coming as a follow-up article to help me? Otherwise I don’t think I will be able to do this.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Your 12-step program for saying “no” is on my editorial calendar, Carrie.

  • Susan Silver

    One issue I have as a freelancer is keeping work to work hours and play to play hours. It is easy when you are sitting in front of a computer on your own time to get distracted. I’ve set strict boundaries as if I was working a 9 to 5 job. That means when it is quitting time, I can do as I please. That has cut out most of my time-wasting activities.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Most people struggle to work from home because they aren’t as disciplined as you are, Susan. That’s a solid approach.

  • Wanda Gail

    Time is as precious as every breath of life. You can not go back nor change things that are done. Be aware of what you do with your time and you will make the most of it.

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