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Beware Of Time Management

June 20th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 3 mins, 21 secs

Time management has hidden risks.

Time management has hidden risks.

What makes time management such a hot potato? Is it the super efficiency gurus who declare you can live a better life if you compartmentalize everything into 5-minute bites? Or, is it those who keep harping about how important an accurate diary is? Well, actually, it’s neither.

The reality of life is that we are presented with a vast array of choices (whether we are aware of them or not). While, time, or at least its concept seems to rule and bind us in one big, anxious rush.

Our challenge is not how we handle our time but what we make of it in the first place. Because the idea of time management is actually a step further along the conceptual way.

What is time anyway? Remarkably, that’s an amazingly difficult question to answer. Physicists will tell you one thing, while philosophers offer their views too.  On this basis, the term time management at least deserves some clarification.

Being neither a scientist nor a trained philosopher, I see time as more than the face of a clock telling us what to do. Time is really a metaphor for change. Things have to happen in relation to other things for us to know time even exists. So on that basis, time management is about change and, by implication, life itself.

Time management could rightfully be renamed life management, couldn’t it? It’s not the hours or the minutes that matter. More, the life lived in them. So let’s unpack the whole emphasis on making your time management a shining example of organizational perfection.

Given this is actually about life not some abstract idea like minutes going by, time management better be good to be worth it. Otherwise, you would be mishandling your life for the sake of a clock.

While time management experts tell you to get your life in order and all will be well, we know intuitively that isn’t true. Life isn’t that neat. Therefore scheduling everything puts a harsh hand of regulation on a naturally imprecise life.

But, as everyone who needs to get things done will tell you, we have to have some time organization or nothing would get done. Considering how much information is available on how to micro-manage your time to the “nth degree” (or at least until the cows come home), I’m going to put the case against the excesses of time management as a device that can ruin your life.

Again, please know I believe in being organized (it’s a good thing), just as I believe in breathing. But too much of a time management emphasis is a bit like hyperventilating (as both are bound to leave you dizzy, confused, and feeling faint).

That people feel overwhelmed with what they have to do and don’t have enough time to do it in is not a time issue, it’s a full life issue. Pack in too much and you simply get overwhelmed. But time management advocates insist you can do it all if you have the right plan. Uh huh…

When you meet people living inside a tight time management schedule, you notice some disconcerting things:

  1. They’re edgy, frequently looking at their watch, or seem uncomfortably distracted.
  2. You feel an uneasiness being with them, as if you somehow you are “wasting their time” 
  3. There’s a tendency to feel processed and not properly listened to with people bound to their schedule because it inevitably comes first.

Given it takes true wisdom for any of us grown ups to manage to live in the moment, folk bound by time management rules become slaves to their dictates. Or, to put it another way, the rules they choose to live their life with restrict their abilities.

How is it that so many well-meaning, intelligent people live more poorly by being so organized? Simply, because there is a threshold, a balance if you will, and those who cross it tip over into a regimen called “the schedule”.  Here life’s interactions and endeavors are converted into nothing more than a collection of procedures, to do’s, and measures.

Your point being?” you may ask. Well, it’s this: life too tightly scheduled becomes robotic and unfeeling. The benefit of a sprinkling of time management gladly adds structure to the flavor of life. But putting too much in makes it taste like packet mix: bland, overly processed, and lacking in appeal.

Yes, we need the benefits of thoughtful time management. But let’s call it what it really is. It’s life management. Then we know what we’re really dealing with and how vital it is to strike a happy balance. Considering life is never particularly neat, remember that as a rule of thumb: not too little and not too much ends up being just about right.

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