Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern by Julie Morgenstern - Read Online

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Time Management from the Inside Out - Julie Morgenstern

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The first edition of Time Management from the Inside Out (2000) introduced readers to a new way of looking at time and showed how my foolproof three-step program—Analyze, Strategize, Attack—is as effective for managing time as it is for organizing space. In my role as professional organizer and time management coach, the three-step program has withstood the test of time. I have used it with my clients for almost two decades to help them create the lives of their dreams.

The core of the inside-out approach hasn’t changed. Working with your personality, instead of against it, ensures that the solutions you design will be a natural fit for you, and thus easy to maintain. So what, you’re probably asking yourself, is new?


In the four years since Time Management from the Inside Out was released I’ve traveled the country speaking to a wide range of audiences on this topic. Over the years I’ve learned that people who attend these talks fall neatly into one of two groups.

The first group consists of people who know they are the masters of their own destiny, but are unsure how to best organize their time or overcome certain obstacles to create the lives they desire. These people are ready to jump right into talking about their goals and dreams and work on improving their shortcomings.

The second group is hungry for help, too, but these folks come to my seminars feeling like anything but masters of their own destiny. Someone else seems to be in charge of their time (i.e., their boss, their company, their kids). When I start discussing big picture goals and dreams, their response is, You’ve got to be kidding! I don’t have time to think about that. I’m drowning in an endless list of to-dos. I’ve got to just get out from under! These people need me to throw them a lifeline. They need practical skills to get them back in charge of their schedules before they can consider diving into the deeper, more reflective aspects of managing their time from the inside out.

So I reorganized and added new material to accommodate those two very different perspectives.


This book is divided into five parts, so that you will be able to customize your program and zero in on your trouble spots.

Part 1: Laying the Foundation. This section helps you define your motivation, diagnose your specific challenges, and master the number-one gateway skill to good time management. A must-read for everyone.

Part 2: Quick-Start Program. For readers who are drowning under a huge backlog of to-dos and paper (or feel someone else is in charge of their time), this section teaches the basic skills you need to take charge, and provides the breathing room you need to approach the three-step program calmly and with confidence.

Part 3: Analyze: Tuning in to Who You Are. Here you will create a system that lasts, explore the best planner for your personality, study exactly where your time goes, and understand your unique relationship to time.

Part 4: Strategize: Designing the Life of Your Dreams. Learn to define your big-picture goals, create activities that will help you achieve those goals, and design a schedule that ensures the balance you desire.

Part 5: Attack: The SPACE Formula. Put it all together by connecting your daily tasks to your big-picture goals, overcoming psychological obstacles, and maintaining your balance while dealing with the realities of everyday living.

Each of the five parts was designed to be a self-contained unit that has value in and of itself. Yet they are all part of a comprehensive approach designed for lasting change. For most people, the most effective way to work the program is to study one section at a time and then move on to the next. Take your time, and enjoy the process.


There are many time management books on the market, and most of them contain useful information on prioritizing, avoiding procrastination, and achieving balance. Why is it so hard to follow through on the advice? Because most programs offer tips but gloss over the practical external and internal obstacles to implementation.

For example, they tell you not to overschedule your days, but don’t show you how to estimate how long tasks take to complete. Many stress the importance of creating balance in your life, yet offer no guidance on how to determine what the proper balance would be for you. They warn against the pitfalls of procrastination and chronic lateness, but fail to provide the psychological insight or practical tools you need to overcome these issues. Time Management from the Inside Out fills in those gaps so that you can overcome whatever’s been holding you back.

Most other time management books also have a particular point of view about what your life should look like. Some suggest you should increase your productivity by 2,000 percent and fill each moment with efficient activity. Others tell you the answer is to let go of the need to be busy and simplify, simplify, simplify.

What these books don’t acknowledge is that every reader is different. Some people like a fast pace; others like a slow, easy one. Some people are night owls; others are at their best in the morning. Some people love structure; others thrive on spontaneity and flexibility. And all of us have different needs at different points in our lives. The truth is there is no one right way to manage your time.

Successful organizing systems work long-term only if they’re based around who you are. You can learn new skills and modify some behaviors, but you can’t really change your basic personality—and you shouldn’t. Your likes, dislikes, needs, and desires must be the foundation of your time-management system. You come first, the system follows, not vice versa.

Time Management from the Inside Out will help you discover who you are, what you want, and what your individual style is. My system offers you a process, not a prescription—so you can design a life that is a natural and comfortable fit for you.


If you haven’t yet read my first book, Organizing from the Inside Out, I encourage you to do so. It was designed to be a primer in the process of organizing, and as you regain order in your physical spaces, you will free up an enormous amount of time for yourself. In other words, once you organize your space, you will have much more time on your hands to manage.

However, just as many of my fans have told me that they preferred starting with Time Management from the Inside Out. Until they got a grip on their days, they couldn’t begin to find time to tackle the clutter in their lives.

My philosophy is this—go with what feels right to you. You basically can’t go wrong. If you picked this book up first, it’s probably because regaining control over your schedule is the more pressing need.

If you’ve read Organizing from the Inside Out you know that you can use the same Analyze, Strategize, Attack process to organize anything. Yet, I’ve written a separate book on time management because there are some distinct differences between time and space that make organizing time significantly trickier.

For starters, when you are working with physical clutter, once you have gotten organized, you have much more control over the objects that come into your space than you do over the tasks that invade your schedule. No matter how well you have organized your days or weeks, the outside world constantly imposes new demands and distractions and offers new opportunities. New stuff to sort through just keeps coming.

As a result, a distinction between organizing time and space is the time you’ll need to invest in each stage of the process. When organizing a physical space, it only takes about an hour to Analyze and Strategize. The bulk of your time is spent on Attack, taking one to three days per room to dig through the piles of junk. By contrast, when you are organizing your time, the Analyze and Strategize stages take longer because they require more internal reflection than outward observation. You need to spend a few weeks studying yourself to see how you operate in the world before you have the information you need to devise a working plan.

As a result, I’ve included a brand-new chapter called Where Does Your Time Go? to help you conduct that full analysis.

Applying the SPACE Formula to time only takes an instant, but you apply it all day long, every day, day in and day out, until it becomes second nature. In other words, the attack stage never stops. Why? We live in a fast-paced, complex world that presents us with a never-ending flow of options.

Finally, we face a slightly different set of obstacles with time management. When it comes to organizing space, most people assume what’s holding them back is a lack of ability (i.e., they just don’t know how to organize, or where to begin). They are surprised to discover the role psychology plays in keeping them stuck in their chaos. With time, the opposite is true. When people feel like they are bad time managers, they are quick to blame their own psychology (i.e., they must have a fear of failure or success). However, the more common culprits are technical errors and external factors. By mastering the practical skills of managing your time first, you may find that psychological issues disappear, ostensibly taking care of themselves.

When you use the time-management techniques discussed in this book, you will take control of your days. You’ll feel content and happy about how you spend your time. You will maintain a balance between work and love and play that energizes you and makes your life feel rewarding. You will learn how to tune in to yourself, and consistently spend your time in ways that are meaningful to you. Let’s get to it!





Do you ever feel like you are off by just a step? That no matter how well you plan your days, or how disciplined you try to be, one unexpected thing comes along and wham … you’re thrown completely off track?

Does this sound like your life?

The alarm goes off for the fifth time (after half an hour of hitting the snooze button) and the race begins. After speeding through your shower and throwing on some clothes (not the ones you wanted to wear, mind you, because you forgot to pick those up at the dry cleaner), you inhale a quick breakfast, kiss the kids good-bye (after some tense moments at the door about lost backpacks), and dash to the office. The minute you arrive you’re hit with one crisis after another. You never have time to look at your to-do list and end up staying late to catch up on tasks that were all due yesterday. By the time you finally get home, you’re feeling guilty, cranky, and starving. After a patchwork meal of leftovers, you yell at the kids to do their homework and clean up their rooms, then wander the house picking up dirty socks, that morning’s newspaper, and a dirty cereal bowl, while thinking about the bills you forgot to pay and the workout that you didn’t get to. Eventually, you tumble into bed, exhausted, only to start the race all over the next morning.

I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start. I feel as though my wheels are spinning at one hundred miles an hour and I’m getting nowhere fast.

—Liz S.

I spend more time writing lists than actually getting anything done. I have little notes to myself everywhere, and still I forget things!

—Susan E.

I am good at starting projects but get sidetracked easily. Before I know it, the day is gone and I am left with a million and one unfinished projects.

—Bill B.

Balancing my life is so hard. I’m constantly changing hats between roles: wife, mother, employee, friend, boss. I always feel guilty taking time for myself because there’s so much everyone else needs. But, I am soooooo tired at night.

—Catalina F.

When life becomes about the million and one things on your to-do list instead of getting to what is most important, and actually enjoying yourself, something is wrong. You don’t need to end each day exhausted, depleted, and unfulfilled instead of satisfied. You can get back in balance.


Why are you reading this book? You picked it up for a reason—because there are meaningful activities you are not getting to. Something essential is missing from your life. What is it? Quality time for your family and friends? Time for a hobby? Time to grow your business? An overall sense of balance?

Before writing this book, I conducted an informal Internet survey and asked my Web site visitors why they wanted to become better time managers. More than 70 percent of fifteen hundred respondents said they wanted to find more time. What varied was what they wanted that extra time for. What do you want?

I want more time to spend with my friends, to work on craft projects, to have fun.

—Jenna B.

I want more time to talk one-on-one with my kids.

—Frank R.

To gain time for personal enjoyment—reading, listening to music.

—Lance L.

To be able to accomplish things. My bad time management is stopping me from accomplishing my goals in life, especially finishing my Ph.D., so I can be gainfully employed as a psychologist.

—Paula H.

To stop and smell the flowers, instead of trampling over them in a mad rush to be somewhere I should have been an hour ago.

—Stanley R.

I want peace internally—a sense of satisfaction at my accomplishments rather than constant frustration.

—Becca G.

To be able to feel like I can take time to do things I know I need to be doing for me everyday (spiritually).

—Kylie A.

Right now, at the beginning of this book, write down your own compelling reason. If there were one thing you could add to your life to make you happier and more fulfilled, what would it be? Jot that down on a piece of paper and keep it close by—paper-clip it to your daily planner, pin it to your refrigerator, or place it in your wallet.

I guarantee you that if you follow even one third of the strategies contained in this book, you will be able to add that activity (as well as many other fulfilling activities) back into your life. This one little statement will provide a starting point for your journey to becoming a better time manager, and will help you stay motivated as you learn new skills that may feel awkward at first. It can be a struggle to change ingrained behaviors, but when you focus on what you have to gain, it’s easier to succeed.


Time Management from the Inside Out is based on the belief that you have the power to make choices, take ownership, and influence the course of your days—instead of feeling victimized.

Good time management is not about buying a great calendar or planner. It is not about learning tricks to move faster, or about doing everything with mechanical efficiency. It’s about creating days that are meaningful and rewarding to you, and feeling a sense of satisfaction in each and every one of your tasks.

Time Management from the Inside Out is about designing a life that is a custom fit for you, based on your unique personality and goals. It’s about identifying what’s important to you and giving those activities a place in your schedule, and helping you feel deeply satisfied at the end of each day.

There is no right way to live your life. I won’t tell you to live a simple, calm life, or try to convince you to fill every waking moment with intense, productive activity. This book doesn’t contain truisms like The early bird catches the worm, or impose value systems urging you to either work less or play less, or encourage you to be anything other than exactly who you are. What’s offered here is a process, not a prescription.

Time Management from the Inside Out honors and celebrates the fact that you are an individual. It allows for the expression of your unique and personal relationship to time, and the fulfillment of your own personal goals. We each have different needs at different points in our lives. There may be a time in your life when work takes precedence over everything else; another period when family becomes your priority. The tools here allow you to adapt your schedule and days to the changes in your own priorities. The strategies in this book are skills for