A common complaint from my friends and colleagues is that we should manage our time better. We think it is just a matter of “getting organized”. I would like to reflect on what I think managing our time actually involves and why it is important that we address the issue of our time constraints.
“Time is money” and the thinking goes if we are more efficient with our time the more money or benefit we will accumulate. Also being “on time” is a quality that some people get obsessive over and it is considered a major affront if someone is late for a meeting or event.
Managing time is illusive, sometimes the more we pay attention to it the more it slips away, the more we ignore it sometimes the more we actually have “control” over. It is the worry rule; the more we worry about managing time the more likely we are to not accomplish our goals in that area.
In our technology crazed world we are constantly accessing our phones, Facebook pages and You Tube videos. These devices are tools, not masters and instead of us managing them and using them to manage our time more efficiently, they tend to manage us. And when these gadgets consume every waking moment, there is no time left for creativity, interpersonal connection, and just plain “veg’ing out”.
In hunter/gatherer societies food gathering was an intensive short-term activity and there was a great deal of time to feast, relax, play, and socialize. In so-called “modern” society work consumes a great deal of our time whether it is household tasks, childcare, volunteer work or paid work. We tend to be consumed by work with little time for thinking, reflecting and creating let alone socializing and developing solid relationships with others. The reasons for this are not something for this article.
The managing of our time, given these constraints, is crucial to our health and well being. Without time for enjoyable, soul sustaining activities we wither and become robots driven by the trappings of modernity. It can even become a vicious cycle of working too much, spending or drinking too much and then having to work even more to keep up financially with diminished health or wellbeing. It becomes a treadmill of dissatisfaction and increasing poor health.
These issues are an example of why time management is really about managing your priorities and developing a life plan that allows balance, productivity and creativity to flourish. The reason that I think we are sometimes late to events and meetings is because our life is not balanced, it is instead a treadmill that never stops and this meeting is one more thing to do. We long for doing nothing.
What if the unexpected happens—it throws our life into utter chaos because there is no room for glitches, everything is so tightly constructed. Then anger, frustration and even helplessness can creep into our life making us miserable.
What is the solution then? It is to take charge of our time and make it work for us and not be a slave to time. First we need to get really clear what our values and priorities are. We say “life is short” and it is. We can all sustain a short period of intense activity with no down time but over the long term overloading ourselves is devastating to our relationships, health, passion, and creativity.
If your values and priorities are family then that is what we organize our time around. There are so many “time vampires” that can be done away with and then we can focus on what really gives us joy. If our job takes up a lot of time and it is not rewarding then we need to think about what changes we need to make. A clean and spotless house is wonderful but if we become a slave to it and we do not spend enough time with people that matter to us then maybe house cleaning should go into the “good enough” category. If family is precious then allotting time for family is essential.
When we spend our time doing things that do not matter squeezing out things that help us grow, bring joy and satisfaction and feed our soul, then time management is not serving us. Time management is about setting our priorities about what things matter in out life and planning our life accordingly. Time management is actively taking charge of how we spend our time. We will always have competing priorities but some family members may not be around when we finally have the time to visit, children grow quickly and develop their own lives, and that trip that we always wanted to take is becoming less viable as we age. The time is now and we are the captain of our destiny.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA