Time management is a misnomer. Time is inexorable. It moves relentlessly ahead, no matter how much you try to “manage” it. Instead of “time management,” think about “life management.”
Why the Slow Path Might Be Faster—A Till Eulenspiegel story
(Till Eulenspiegel is a mythical German character; a beloved impudent trickster who figured in many popular Middle Ages folktales.)
One day, Eulenspiegel was walking down a bumpy road when a horse-drawn coach stopped beside him. The driver, obviously in a rush, asked, “How far is it to the next city?”
“If you go slowly, half an hour. If you go fast, half a day,” Eulenspiegel replied.
“You fool!” the driver yelled, then whipped his horses to a gallop. Nonplussed, Eulenspiegel kept walking on the pothole-filled road. Soon he came to the coach lying in a ditch, its front axle broken. The red-faced driver was trying to fix it. Sputtering and cursing, he glared at Eulenspiegel.
“Like I told you,” Eulenspiegel said, “if you go slowly, half an hour. If you go fast, half a day!”
This fable teaches a valuable lesson: Sometimes you can accomplish your goals more quickly if you slow down rather than speeding up. In an age when everything moves at jet speed, this is an idea whose time has come. “Slowbies”—people who work slower but better—are everywhere. The concepts of “quality time” and “personal time” are increasingly important. Of course, in such a rushed world, time management remains a vital goal.
But the best way to manage your time so that you don’t burn out is by slowing down, not by speeding up. Rushing madly through life is not normal. Until fairly recently, people lived sensibly and slowly. Like all living creatures, they moved smoothly between active and restful times. This changed with the Industrial Age. Life sped up. Now things move at an insane pace, but people often want to go slower.
According to Dr. Larry Dossey, many people in the U.S. suffer from “hurry sickness.” They think they can get more things done if they speed everything up. Not true. Rushing sets you up for stress-related illnesses, including ulcers, heart conditions and nervous tension. Are you a victim of hurry sickness? You might be if these statements apply to you:
• I don’t have any time.
• I bring work home.
• I never miss deadlines.
• I’m always busy, even when others relax.
Nothing is wrong with speed per se. Indeed, society rewards fast runners, swimmers, race car drivers and football halfbacks. But speed for speed’s sake makes no sense. To slow down, try:
• Planning some quiet, solitary time with nothing to do.
• Meditating and letting your mind rest.
• Taking a refreshing walk.
• Taking off your watch after work.
Dad: God doesn’t expect you to do more than you can do. He said of one woman, “She hath done what she could” (Mark 14:8). That’s all she could do. But for God’s sake do what you can.—And that is do a little every day and do what is most important that you have to do first.
Nobody is supposed to be overworked, overloaded or overburdened or feel that the yoke is too hard, the burden too heavy. Just do what you can do, but for God’s sake, do it every day! Don’t blame it on God if you loafed around and goofed off for a week and then try to do a week’s [worth of] work on the last day of the week. That’s not God’s fault, that’s your own fault. If you’re overburdened and the yoke is too hard, it’s your own fault or somebody else’s fault, not God’s fault!
The trouble with most of you guys is, you have no regularity, no schedule, no scientific organization, you don’t just keep plugging along! I want to see your schedule! I want to see your work charts! … I’m concerned to see that you’ve got your schedule and your work planned so that you know what you’re supposed to do every day, not just get up in the morning to see what’s going to happen next!
Why can’t you keep records? Why can’t you keep charts? I spend at least an hour or more every day just keeping records. But at least I know where I’m at, and I’m not in the middle of the muddle somewhere not knowing which end is up or where anything is or what’s going on or in total chaos and disorganized and in a mess!
You need to get yourself organized so you’ll know where you’re at. It’s extra work, but let me tell you, it saves a lot of work in the long run! These people that say, “Oh, I don’t have time to organize a work schedule, I don’t have time to work out a progress chart, I don’t have time to keep books”—what if we said that about our finances?—Where would we be? We wouldn’t know what was going on, nothing! God keeps books! He keeps records! Is it a waste of time when He’s got so much else to do?
I’m just trying to tell you how to do your job and how to make it easier and actually get it done faster, and know what you’ve accomplished and know where you’re at and where you’re going by getting organized, scheduled, charted, plotted and planned.
That’s my idea on how to get reorganized and stop all this last-minute cramming!—Have everything plotted, planned, worked out, scheduled, and charted, then you’ll know where you’re at and what you’re doing and what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, when to do it and when it’s due. I would much rather see it done on a nice easy leisurely, take-your-time daily basis rather than a last-minute cramming rush at the end of the week or month.
And you’re going to find out it’s easier to do that way!
You cannot manage your time but you can manage your life—how you deal with time.
*Step One – Mission Statement
Don’t let events just happen to you. Define your goals so you can get what you want out of life. Develop a mission statement. Ask yourself: What do I hope to achieve? What are my talents and strengths? What are my most heartfelt values?
One way to develop a mission statement is to write the perfect eulogy for yourself. Figure out what you would like people to say about you when you are no longer there to hear them. Write what you have done, where you have been and where you are. Objectively evaluate your circumstances today as you visualize and write about where you want to be tomorrow, what you hope to achieve and even what you want to acquire.
*Step Two – Roles in Life
Think of the many roles you play: spouse, parent, friend, [SC/board member], teacher, coach, sibling, and the adult child of your parents. There are many more roles. To achieve quality time in each role you play try not to spread yourself thin with too many of them, and allot your time wisely, considering first your most important roles. Develop “mini-mission statements” about your primary roles. Set clear goals about what you want to achieve in each role.
*Step Three – Prioritize Your Planning
Don’t let life steamroll over you with 10,000 short-term tasks that block your goals. Focus on what’s most important. Avoid “urgent” deadlines, stress, crises, interruptions and problems.
Develop a four-box graphic matrix to categorize your tasks and activities:
“A” priorities are crises and unavoidable problems. Deal with them immediately.
“B” priorities are your truly important objectives and goals, though not as urgent as “A” priorities. Establish firm, fixed timelines for each of them.
“C” activities are things that are nice to do, but non-essential. These are activities that don’t have much bearing on your overall goals.
“W” activities are everything you should toss in the wastebasket, as they’re time wasters that contribute almost nothing to your overall goals.
The more W activities you can eliminate, the better. Many people spend the majority of their time on C activities. Instead, focus on B priority items, first dealing with A-level crises when you must.
To balance your schedule with your life, preserve a “window of time” each week for things that really count. Develop a “weekly compass” that guides your overall planning.
*Step Four – Activities and Goals
Listing goals and planning activities to meet them sounds great. But are you following through? People often do not do what they plan for 10 reasons:
1. They try to accomplish too much.
2. They don’t set definite priorities.
3. They don’t allow for unexpected occurrences or interruptions.
4. They don’t schedule small breaks.
5. They don’t keep their workspace clean and orderly.
6. They don’t factor in adequate time for meetings, calls and memos.
7. They postpone unpleasant tasks.
8. They can’t say “No!”
9. They are perfectionists.
10. They lack self-discipline.
Follow these seven rules as you plan your day or week:
1. Write things down. If you don’t, they’ll never get done.
2. Plan the night before. Try to be one step ahead of your day by planning your work the night before.
3. Budget your time like your money. Time is precious. Set time limits for all activities.
4. Don’t over schedule. Plan activities for only 60% of your day. Leave 20% of your time for the unexpected and 20% for day-to-day life—personal activities and necessities that you need to make time for on a daily basis.
5. Consolidate activities. Group similar activities together in the same time blocks.
6. Focus on priorities. Start your day with your most important activities. Don’t let emergency A events, time-wasting Cs and or useless W tasks eat your day.
7. Stay positive. Include some fun in your daily plan.
Additionally, maintain a “success diary” where you log your accomplishments. Past listings will encourage you in the future.
If you are not achieving your goals, make sure that your mission and roles are clear. Focus on what is important. Keep distractions to a minimum. Stay disciplined.
Forget time management. Instead, opt for “time ownership.” After all, it is your time. Treat it accordingly.
• The best day to begin time “ownership” is today.
• Be proud of even small successes during the early stages of your transition towards time management.
• To evaluate how you spend your time, make a list of the things you have time for, don’t have time for and wish you had time for.
• A list is only a plan; to put a plan into action, you need a schedule.
• Schedules let you see quickly what you have to do without wasting time worrying about how everything will get done.
• Attach a time estimate to any task on your list that you wish to accomplish.
• Compare your estimated time with your actual time to pinpoint trouble spots.
• Recognize time-crushers and learn to control their impact.
• Once you have started time management, keep going.
A Few Final Thots (Taken from “Time Management for Busy People,” by Roberta Roesch, unless otherwise indicated.)
“There’s no point saving minutes and hours, if you don’t take genuine pleasure in your time.”
“Technology can consume enormous amounts of time without producing comparable return—unless you’re extremely selective about when and how it can benefit you and save time.”
“Though some people balk at making lists, lists still get a number 10 rating for helping you get what you want to get done—if you keep your lists simple.”
The keys of the Kingdom were created to bring change, and I have put them in your hands to help you change. Call on the keys when you need to overcome a bad habit. The keys will create new thought patterns within you; they will guide your actions to do the right thing.—Jesus