Time management is a hot topic in our busy society. Brian Tracy writes, “Your ability to manage your time, as much as any other practice in your career, will determine your success or failure.”

I agree that time is one of the most indispensable and irreplaceable resources. However, at the risk of disagreeing with one of the most respected authorities on time management and productivity, I don’t think you truly manage time. What you manage is yourself and what you do with the time that you have been given. Everybody has the same number of hours in the day, days in a week and weeks in a year.

Your ability to control yourself, and your time in particular, is a major determinant of what you can accomplish in life. Those who feel “out-of-control” of their time often experience stress, anxiety and depression. Those individuals who are in control of how they spend their time tend to have better mental well-being, productivity and a sense of peace.

The secret to managing how you spend your time comes down to one word: discipline. You must be able to discipline yourself on a daily basis and make it a lifelong practice. This habit is critical for success. Winners in life use their time well. Those who are poor performers tend to use their time poorly. It was true in college. It was true in medical school. It is just as true now.

If you succeed at creating good life management habits, you’ll find that your time is used much more efficiently. You will reclaim more of your time for yourself. You can then use that time to spend with family, take up an enjoyable hobby, or just sit on the beach reading good books. The choice is yours. My goal is to help you develop the right habits to free up more of your time. By creating the discipline you need now, you will have more flexibility to do what you would like in the future.

Fortunately, like any other skill, discipline can be learned. It is something that you must practice on a daily basis, and like any other skill it is mastered with repetition. Discipline is what sets elite athletes apart from the weekend warrior. It sets elite businesses apart from the competition. It sets elite physicians and practices above all those who are struggling to get by.

Use discipline to set a limit on how much time you spend watching TV, streaming movies or surfing the internet. Practice discipline when it comes to rejecting unnecessary intrusions on your time from outside sources. Industry dinners or pharma rep lunches may seem like a good idea, but is a free meal really worth two hours of your time? I decided a long time ago it wasn’t for me. I would rather eat in my office and catch up on dictations than sit through a commercial. I would rather get home early than pretend to listen to some hired speaker read their slides to me.

I know how valuable my time is. Do you know? If you have an idea of how much you earn per hour, and start looking at your activities through that lens, your perspective on how you use your time will change. Is watching that show really worth $200 an hour? Is reading all those e-mail newsletters worth $500 an hour? I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t enjoy some down-time occasionally, but if you realize how much time you waste doing activities that are neither profitable nor productive I can guarantee the value you place on those activities will change.

It has been over a year since I unplugged Netflix, and I found much more time for writing. I started unsubscribing from most of the e-mail newsletters I would get, and I found much more time for reading things that mattered. You can start eliminating some of those time-wasters in your life too.

We each have the same number of hours in the day, days in a week and weeks in a year. We may not be able to manage time, but we can chose to be disciplined in managing how we spend it. What time-wasters will you give up today?