Did you ever feel so overwhelmed with things to do that you wanted to study time management, but couldn’t find the time to do so? That’s the dilemma of a reader who asks the following questions, “I need help with time management. How do you manage time when you are involved in many activities, all of which are important? As a member of the choir and three church committees, a member of a professional association and a union member, as well as thinking about becoming a part-time student (3X a week), I feel overwhelmed. How should I be spending my time?”
What is time management? It is nothing more than life management. That is, it is self-management or self-discipline. It is the discipline to focus on doing what is most important. But what if everything is important and there isn’t enough time to do everything? Everything may be important, but everything is not EQUALLY important. If we wish to go on living, breathing and eating are important. Yet, we may be able to live for a week or more without food, but only for a few minutes without air. The point is, we should be focusing on what is MOST important at the time.
We do this by regularly reassessing our values, goals, projects, and tasks and prioritizing them. If we always do what is most important, when we run out of time, the most important would have been done. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, begin by understanding that it is IMPOSSIBLE to do everything we would like to do. The knowledge available to humanity is expected to double within ten years, some say within five years. That means that as you grow older there will be MANY MORE things that you can do and learn. Yet, your allotment of time WILL NOT INCREASE. On the contrary, as you grow older, it will DECREASE.
Summing up, accept the fact that you will NEVER be able to do everything you wish, so focus on what is most important to you. Let’s look a little more closely at reassessing our activities. For example, why is our reader a member of THREE church committees? The question WHY points to our values and explains our motivation. Perhaps she wishes to serve God. But God is everywhere. Therefore, we can serve God anywhere. In fact, we may be able to do more good outside the church than inside, because those that are outside may be more in need of an encouraging word.
On the other hand, there is power in joining with others, for we may be able to do more as a committee than as an individual. Since there is merit to both points of view, the answer lies in balance. Remember, our first responsibility is to ourselves. If we try to do too much, we burn out and become useless to others and ourselves. The secret is to balance work, play, and personal-development. When we do so, we will be energized and well prepared to contribute to the world. So, our reader can start by thinking about dropping out of one or two church committees to free up time for going to school, studying, and leading a more balanced life.
The reason our reader hasn’t already done so may be because she is afraid of disappointing the other members of the church committee who depend on her. But which is worse, disappointing others or disappointing ONESELF? We are responsible for ourselves. We cannot depend on others, we must depend on ourselves. When we always do what is best for ourselves, we will become the best we can. And the better we are, the better we can contribute to the world. There is no shame in ending commitments once we have outgrown them. Our reader has given her time, a part of her life, to the committees, and they need to be thankful for that. But she has also benefited and grown stronger because of her membership, so she, too, needs to be thankful. So, it may be time for an amiable separation.
Our reader’s problem is a valuable lesson for us. It reminds us that we need to regularly reassess our commitments and goals. We need to question ourselves. Is time for a change? Have I already achieved my goals and it is time to set new ones? What is most important and best for me? Sometimes we neglect to question our activities because we are afraid of the answers. After all, the answer may be, “Yes, it is time to move on.” But moving on involves change, and we find change uncomfortable. We tend to get stuck in our comfort zone. But if we wish to get the most out of life, we need to be more concerned about what is important than what is uncomfortable.
It is also helpful to reflect on the nature and value of time. They say that time is money. Rightly so, for both are valuable resources, both are spent, and we have a limited quantity of both. Some people develop an addiction to gambling and as a result end in the poorhouse instead of a mansion. But wasting time is just as harmful as wasting money, in either case we impoverish ourselves. In fact, wasting time is worse than wasting money, for lost money can be regained, but lost time is gone forever.
Perhaps more than time management skills, we need time consciousness skills. A. B. Zu Tavern tells us how to improve in this area: “If, before going to bed every night, you will tear a page from the calendar, and remark, ‘there goes another day of my life, never to return,’ you will become time conscious.” Why is it that we are abhorred by the thought of suicide yet think nothing of killing life bit by bit? We seem to be comfortable with killing life in one wasted moment after another. If in every moment of our consciousness we are aware that everything passes, everything perishes, and everything palls, it will be easier to decide what is most important to do.
To use time wisely, all we have to do is plan it. For as Victor Hugo (1802 ~ 1885) wrote, “He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out the plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.” Besides our morning plan, it is wise to reflect on our activities at the end of the day. Did we do all we set out to do? If not, did we at least do the most important things? Finally, we need to ask, “What did we do wrong and how can we improve?”
What do you think about government deficit spending? Isn’t that the same as robbing our future? We do the same when we procrastinate. Through some strange twist of logic, we try to convince ourselves that we will have more time in the future to spend on a project than we have now, so we put it off. But by doing so, we rob our future. We don’t have more time; we have less time because we could have done it today. The only time we have power to act is NOW. So, there you have it; time management is about self-discipline, focusing on what is most important, regularly reassessing our priorities, concentrating on whatever makes us a better person, valuing time, using it wisely, and acting now. Good luck in all your decisions and all you do!