Leaders want a lot of good soft skills from the people they work with and need to be able to demonstrate those skills themselves. And so just about everybody considers great time management to be an asset. Personally, however, I can't help but see this as perhaps a little backwards.

To be clear, I recognize that an awareness of how long tasks are going to take and the ability to plan accordingly allows for efficiency, as well as consideration of others and their needs and goals. That's not a bad thing. But to me, what's even more important to focus on is the ability to prioritize.

Much of the time, when people try to get better at time management, it's because they are very--perhaps even excruciatingly--busy. They believe that if they just learn more ways not to be wasteful or to align the stars, that they'll be able to accomplish more. But from my experience, they don't have too little time--they have too much they've said yes to. That means they always feel rushed running from thing to thing, and that the anxiety about not being able to finish is always on their heels.

When you intentionally get pickier about what you take on, however, the items that don't truly invigorate or grow you naturally get the axe. Jobs that stole minutes from your true goals suddenly are gone, and you can transfer those precious minutes back to what really matters to you. That doesn't necessarily mean you're suddenly going to have eight hours for a task instead of four, per se, but you'll at least get breathing room. Time to relax. To think. To make decisions you're proud of. Maybe even not skip lunch.

And here's the key. We tend to say yes to as much as possible because we get so worried about being seen as incompetent or not a team player. We want friends. But respect is earned not by doing a ton of things half-arsed, but by doing a few things with as much excellence and integrity as you can muster. By sticking with something and seeing it through. By considering and helping others without allowing them to morph you into something you aren't.

So good prioritization that frees the clock means being willing to make a clear distinction about what culture expects from you and what you expect from yourself. It means being confident enough to not let someone else pull you onto the path of their dream, and being willing to hand off deserving projects to others who can do them justice. It means being realistic enough to accept that too much air in the stretched-too-thin balloon will make the balloon explode.

So it's time to answer the question.

What do you want for you?

Published on: Aug 8, 2019
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