I struggle constantly with time management. So the other day, whilst procrastinating from researching, I wrote down some of the thoughts that have been helpful to me lately on using my time (i.e., my life) wisely. They’re basically little pieces of advice written to myself, so if any of them comes off preachy, it’s not you I think needs preaching to. Here’s the first two. More to follow.
One and Two:
1. The central goal of time management is to get out of your stream of moments something that is worthwhile. “Worthwhile” is unclear, and entirely subjective though. Thus, hidden in the question of how to manage your time is the deeper question of what is worth doing. The best way to answer this question is to do so from an envisioned retrospective view. That is, envision yourself looking back on your usage of time and ask how you would have liked for it to have gone. This is a more helpful viewpoint than viewing time from the present, because at any particular moment there are lots of different drives, desires, impulses, and tendencies that, if acted upon, won’t in the end lead you to view that usage of time as a worthwhile one. The very fact that there is the practice of time management proves this point, for if acting out of whatever immediate drive strikes you ended up in a worthwhile usage of time, there’d be no need to consciously manage your time. It would automatically just work out well. But it doesn’t.
2. One might feel that the practice of time management is by nature restrictive of personal choice, or repressive of one’s natural self, or makes one’s life artificial in some sense. This is not so, or not necessarily so. While one could of course lead a restricted, repressed, artificial life, and while the act of leading this life would probably require a sort of “management” of one’s way of living, the central notion of time management is being conscious and intentional about, and in control of, how you live your life. This, as it turns out, is the very opposite of what one might fear. And, as it also turns out, failing to practice time management in this simple sense leads exactly to what one fears: a life directed totally by what it outside of your control – your impulses, moods, and present drives. The only way to be truly in control of your life, the only way to live a free life, is to live intentionally and consciously. And this is nothing more than “managing” what you’re doing, which necessarily takes place within time.