I recently listened to show #108 (yes I know it’s an old show) of The Engaging Brand Podcast: Thinking Outside the Clock.

In the show, Ann Rusnak talks about time management. A lot of time management articles have similar tips, such as only checking your email at scheduled times, turning off your phone at certain times, etc. Basically to remove yourself from distractions. And those were mentioned in this podcast as well. But what really struck me was how she said time management was about priorities, knowing what your priority is and living according to that (that’s a paraphrase, of course).

Thinking about it, that’s partly why I never managed to follow the standard “time management tips” that most places provide. They talk about cutting yourself from distractions. While this in itself, is a good point, very often, the distractions they mention come in the form of other people intruding when you’re doing something (email, IM, phone, etc). But personally, my phone is on (and with me) almost 24/7. I’m keep my email open as much as possible. I’m on IM as much as I can. I stay on Twitter whenever I’m online. And I let people know this. Why do I do this? Because my priority in life is relationships and the connections formed.

And that’s why I make myself available as much as possible. All the time, if possible. Especially to my friends, the people who matter to me. I want my life to be about the people I touch, the conversations I’ve been part of, the connections and friendships I’ve built. So I spend a lot of time making myself available for conversation and community-building. Things like phone calls and Twitter and IM aren’t distractions to me, they are what life is all about. Things like going traveling half an hour to buy lunch for a friend because she forgot her wallet, to me it isn’t that much a distraction or annoyance. It’s something I don’t mind doing, because it’s important.

What does this have to do with you? Well, I just wanted to show how there are no standard tips and suggestions for time management. It really all depends on your priorities. I admit that my priorities, and the extent to which I pursue them, might not be the same for everyone, but the most important point is to customize your schedule to your priorities. So don’t just blindly take the words of the experts (you shouldn’t ever do that, in any case), but think about how they apply to your life. If you’re struggling to manage your time, don’t just google “time management tips” and apply them (a tip from the first google result already suggests “For one week, for example, set a goal that you’re not going to take personal phone calls while you’re working.”). Think about what matters the most to you.

That’s the most effective form of time management. Priorities. And that’s very much a personalized thing.

Where do your priorities lie – and how much time are you putting into them?