“Oh man, I have so much to do today. I really need to learn to manage my time better.”

It’s a story as old as time itself. We look at a big list of things we need to accomplish and start divvying up the amount of time we have to get them done. We slice it and dice it and manage every little bit of it. We fret about how much time is passing while we’re trying to get everything organized. We make lists and schedules and then fret about whether we are ahead or behind. We tend to call that “time management.”But believe me, it’s an illusion. There is no such thing as “time management.”

For one thing, “time management” implies that there is something controllable about the passage of time. Unless you’re an experimental physicist with a DeLorean and a flux capacitor, there really isn’t anything you can do about how many hours are in the day. Your job isn’t to manage time, it’s to manage priorities.

Priority management, although possible, may seem daunting. Here are some ideas that can help you:

  1. Learn the difference between “urgentand “important.” Prioritizing what’s urgent seems like the right thing to do. I mean it will probably cut down on the noise in the short term to move the squeaky wheel to the top of the grease list. But in the long term, you’re letting higher priorities slip away. Let the wheel squeak a bit longer if it means the entire machine will run more smoothly tomorrow. Don’t fall victim to urgency when there are higher priorities at stake.
  2. Narrow your focus. When you get excited about big ideas and huge possibilities, you start doing a lot of math in your head as you’re playing out scenarios. Ironically, you’re taking focus away from your priorities. It becomes easy to lose sight of the short-term, obtainable goals that will get you where you want to be. It does no good to worry about how long your list is, especially if it keeps you from scratching through that first item.
    Try this: narrow your list of priorities for the quarter to three. Focus on three short-to-medium term goals every quarter, and you’ll see real progress toward those long-term goals each year.
  3. Schedule your work day. With your priorities in mind, block off chunks of your calendar to devote to them. Each day, spend time on tasks that inch you toward your overarching priorities. Don’t go over or under your allotment. These aren’t flexible blocks of time. They tick away whether you’re focused on what you need to do or not.
  4. Track your growth. Set obtainable goals and measure your progress. Seeing movement toward the finish line, no matter how small, will keep you motivated. Remember: what gets measured gets done.

Just remember: Time is a constant that can’t be managed. Focus on what you can manage – your priorities.

This story was originally published on AllBusiness.com.