Is time management a waste of time?

We have an odd relationship with the concept of time.

“How do you find the time to do x?”
is one of the most deceiving and disempowering questions ever.

We all have 24 hours a day.
No exception.

Time cannot be found, yet that very expression encloses the widespread expectation that time isn’t here yet. That we are still missing something.
That there is a golden pot at the end of the pendulum.

Future expectations forsake the present, until we’re forced to look back and regret the past.
This is the most stressful form of time-travelling.

Like a horse wearing blinkers, we focus on what’s ahead, when the golden pot is sitting next to us the whole time.

Future expectations forsake the present, until we're forced to look back and regret the past. Click To Tweet

Time is actually simple.

Every day, we move through space in 3 dimensions.
Walk to work, extend your arm forward, nip to your favourite coffee shop, lean to your right while you wait, go for a jog along the river. You know what I’m talking about: moving.

We also move through time.
The difference is – we have no control over speed and direction.
In other words, we can only move forward, and only at a constant speed of…1 minute per minute.

time management is a waste of time

The doodle is actually 2D.
We move through space in 3 dimensions (using some combination of left-right; up-down; front-back).

Time management: a collective delusion?

Time cannot be lost or found, nor stored up.

From President Trump to the Uber driver you spoke to last week, from the person sitting next to you right now to Usain Bolt, (passing by you and me), we all have 24 hours a day.

Here are the biggest time lies.

Managing time

Time management implies you are in charge of time. This sets your up for disappointment.
Time moves, whatever you do (or don’t do), at a constant speed.

What you can actually do, is manage yourself in relation to time. More on this below.

Finding time and losing time

If anyone ever succeeded in finding time, please let me know.
If anyone has ever lost any time, also kindly let me know.
Like a banknote forgotten inside the pocket of an old coat, I’d like to find it (and keep it).

Wait, would that be a waste of time?

Wasting time and using time

These two are spin-offs of time management.
Let me be clear: you cannot stop time. What you do with your present moment, is up to you.

Sure, waiting for the bus or for someone who’s late may feel like “a waste of time”, but only if you forget to experience that time. The feeling of wasting time comes from your expectation of reality following the plans you made up in your head.
What if that wait was a gift? What can you experience instead?

Making time

Email me, I’d like to buy some freshly made time from you.

Spending time

…as opposed to saving up time?

I don’t have time

This is a case of poor priorities, masked as an external problem. 24 hours, remember?

This matters, because the ways you talk and think about time determine your expectations and attitude towards it.

If you are convinced you can manage time, you condemn yourself to daily frustration and guilt. When there’s nothing you could have managed in the first place.
If you tell yourself (and others around you) you still need to find the time, you subscribe to a lifetime of helpless procrastination.

Sure, you can still use some of these expression out of social convention – just don’t believe a word you’re saying. When you’re honest with yourself about your powers and your limitations, that’s when you can take responsibility and move forward.

If time management is a collective delusion, what can we actually do?

Time strategies

I want to propose a different view.
Time isn’t found or lost. It isn’t used or wasted.
Time is experienced.

I don’t mean you should let go of future plans, big objectives, and a general direction. Blasphemy.
I don’t mean you should indulge in the present, letting go of the direction given by the future and the lessons provided by the past.

What I propose is a shift of focus.

Rather than obsessing about the quantity of time, obsess about the quality of time.
How do you experience it?

Rather than focusing on managing time, focus on managing your choices.
What do you choose to do? What do you choose not to do?

The future is shaped by your present action.
The past is given purpose by your present reaction.

The only way to manage time is to manage yourself in relation to time.

What you choose to include and what you choose to left out is equally important.

The only way to manage time is to manage yourself in relation to time. Click To Tweet

Over time, your present choices will add up.

Like the most beautiful natural formations are the result of daily erosions and constant small shift, so your present actions will add up over time and create impressive results.
Consistency and patience is key.

So take the long-term view.

You have 24 hours a day.
So don’t focus on hours. Focus on days. Focus on weeks. Focus on months.
Show up, and manage your choices.

The only time management is actually a time strategy.

What will you choose? What will you leave out?

– Matt

PS: check out my favourite two questions to help you choose what to work on.


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