Time Management Series, Part One - But I Don't Have Time for Time Management!

Congratulations on getting this far: taking the time to read about time management. This series is presented in the hope that it will be a good investment of your time. Like any investment, it requires an outlay up front. Like any good investment, it will more than make up for that initial outlay in how it pays off later.

The Real Value of Time

Before you can hope to effectively manage your time, you need to understand its value. Most of us are much more careful and selective about how we spend our money than how we spend our time. A good manager of money will think before she buys. She will buy only those items that seem worth the loss of cash (other buying opportunities). She'll look for good deals - how to get more without spending more. If she realizes her money has been poorly spent, she'll decide differently next time. Knowing that money is a limited resource, she'll plan and choose her purchases based on how to maximize her buying power. 

Surprisingly, few people manage their time with this level of attention to detail and results. Think about time as the currency of your life. You only get so many hours to live, and how you spend them determines the quality and meaning of your life. Money is a limited resource, but most of us can figure out how to get more if we really want it badly enough.  You can beg, borrow, steal (well, don't steal), get another job, get a better job, win the lottery, whatever. Time is a different story; you get a certain amount, and that's it. No matter what you do, you can't beg, borrow, steal, earn or win more time. Whatever you spend badly can't be replaced. Your time is far more valuable than your money because it is your life; only you can choose to spend it well. Time management is really about getting the most you can out of the time (life) you have. 

Seeing Potential Instead of Problems

A common obstacle to time management is the belief that there's just too much going on that's out of our control. If you tell yourself there is nothing you can do, then that will become your reality. Remember the old adage, "Nobody's perfect"? Since it's true that nobody is perfect, then it follows that there is always some thing we can do to improve our effectiveness. You will be able to harness the power of time management if you keep reminding yourself that there is always some adjustment that can be made. Sometimes the adjustments are small, but they all add up. Remember, the possibilities are already before you; all you have to do is start looking for them. 

Everything in Moderation

Now it's time for a cautionary note. You will see that the remaining articles in the series take two different approaches to time management. How to Accomplish More will show you how to tighten up your personal efficiency, squeezing more task accomplishment out of the time you have. We'll refer to this as task management. Too much of a good thing can turn sour on you, and task management is no exception. The ultimate in task management would be near machine-like efficiency, which can be damaging to emotional well-being and relationships. Efficiency is good to a point, and works best when you confine it to specific aspects of your life. It's important to have regular time in your life when you can relax and enjoy the moment. Efficiency will help you clear more time for this purpose. If How to Accomplish More is about task management, then How to Live More is about life management. We'll explore the bigger-picture view of time management, where the focus is on how to spend your time in ways that increase your satisfaction in life. 

On the surface, these two approaches to time management can almost seem contradictory. You might ask how you're supposed to spend more time relaxing and get more accomplished at the same time. With a balanced application of the strategies you will see in the next two articles, you can actually accomplish both, but it will require a re-examination of your priorities. The tricky part is finding the balance between task-related efficiency and quality of emotional life. There are as many solutions to that one as there are people. 

Time management is more a life philosophy than a coping strategy. When you adopt this way of living, you will move through your days with greater awareness of the value of the passing time. You will become more aware of the concept of "getting a good deal" for the time you spend. You will use your time more effectively and in more satisfying ways. Finally, you will feel more in control, and be more able to pursue your life goals.

Copyright © 1998, Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW.  All rights reserved. 

Related articles:

Time Management Series, Part Two: How to Accomplish More

Time Management Series, Part Three: How to Live More 

Finding Time Where There Is None


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