One of the biggest struggles all of us have in our modern world has to do with how to manage time. Most of us are so busy, and bombarded with demands on our time. We are overstimulated by choice, and even inventions designed to make us more effective and efficient often become time-stealers. (Think about computers and email, for instance). We struggle to be more productive to no avail. We struggle to find more time, all the while feeling that we have less and less of this precious resource.

The truth is that we all have a limited amount of time. We don't know exactly what those limits are, but eventually we know we will run out. Maybe that is why we get more and more harried as we begin to notice the passing years. We have so much to do, and so little time. We try to squeeze more things into our days. The result is less sleep, more stress and frustration with ourselves about not accomplishing what we had hoped.

The problem is that we cannot squeeze more time into the space we have each day. We each have 24 hours. That is all the space we have. We can't "make more time." Instead we need to allocate that space in a way that works for us. And we need to take charge of how we spend our time resource. No one else will do that for us.

The demands each of us has on our time, tend to fall into four main categories according to how important and how urgent they are. Tasks can be

• Important and urgent
• Important and not urgent
• Urgent but not important
• Not urgent and not important

An example of an "important and urgent" task might be paying bills that are due in a few days. Another example might be taking your sick child to the doctor. These are things that are probably quite important and must be attended to right away.

An example of a task that is "Important and Not Urgent" might be setting up a filing system to help you keep track of information for filing your taxes next year. The urgency isn't there, but the task is still very important.

Something that is "urgent but not important" might be that ringing telephone. It demands to be answered right now, but may turn out to be a telemarketer, or someone that just wants to chat.

Things that fall into the category of "not urgent and not important" may be things like watching YouTube videos, playing computer games or other time wasters.

But as you might suspect, each of these categories is highly subjective and changes over time. For example, if you have a big project to do for work or school, it might not be urgent to do it right away, but as time passes and the deadline nears, it will end up in the "important and urgent" category. And those so called "time wasters" may be your way of relaxing and winding down, which would move them into the "important and not urgent" category.

The real key to managing your limited time is first to recognize that you DO have only so much space in your day to use. Just as you cannot squeeze your foot into a shoe that is too small, you cannot squeeze more and more things into the space of 24 hours.

As a result, you must begin to figure out what is the most important use of your time. The key to doing this is to figure out what is really most important to you in your life. This is about your values and your big-picture, long term, lifestyle goals. If the most important thing in your life is your family, you had better have some time allocated to them. If your big picture goal is to retire when you are 55, then your time needs to be allocated to make that happen.

Each of the items on your "to do" list should reflect a value or big-picture goal that is really, really, really important to you. Linking up items on my "to do" list with what was important to me was one of the most valuable exercises I ever did. It actually changed my life. Those tasks that I had been avoiding now became very important, as I was able to see how they reflected my big picture goals and my values. Mundane things like returning phone calls and doing paperwork became essential—"important and urgent"—because they reflected the importance of "being an outstanding professional." Picking up clutter in my house became important and urgent when I realized it reflected my desire to have "a comfortable space that I love."

This isn't rocket science, and has nothing to do with having a really cool "time management system." It has to do with how you spend your resource of time. As long as time is limited, you may as well be investing it in things that are important to you. When you are clear about how the tasks in your life reflect those core values and long-term lifestyle goals, they become more important, more urgent, and more compelling.

The real key to time management is making sure that the things you choose to do (and yes, it IS a choice) reflect what is most important to you. When you do, you will discover that those things you'd been avoiding, those things you'd been struggling to get done become so important that you make time for them. You put aside those things that are less important, less urgent and attend to spending your time resource doing what counts!

(c) 2010 Linda S. Pucci, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Linda Pucci, Ph.D. is a psychologist, life coach, trainer and owner of Inner Resource Center, LLC. She has more than 30 years of experience helping people overcome obstacles, change their lives, and reach goals they had not thought possible using her solution focused approach. She specializes in helping people overcome their limitations and self sabotage. Get additional free tips and challenges for getting unstuck from her Inner Resources report . Or contact her for a free 20 minute consultation at .