How often have we complained about time and our complete lack of it?
Time, for most of us, is inconsistent, unreliable, and fleeting. It’s like a dog we let loose from its leash and can’t catch up to, or our last poker chip we’re unsure if we should throw in the pile. Which is why we’re always chasing and begging and bartering for more of it. Otherwise, how else are we able to get everything done?
This was how I thought about time, until I came across a Medium article titled “Why You Really Don’t Have a Time Management Problem” that had me completely reevaluating how I tackle my days.
Author Charlie Gilkey first points out why my analogies above are conceptually wrong, the most obvious reason being that, without exception, there will always be 24 hours in a day:
Unless you’re close to a scientific breakthrough that allows you to personally bend spacetime, you can’t speed it up, slow it down, optimize it, or maximize it. A second is a second, though your internal experience of a second can vary considerably.
He then goes on to say that it’s the “metaphors” and illusions of time that make it feel so much scarcer. For example, we choose to say that we “use” time, but in reality “we do things through time,” the idea being that we don’t actually have control over or the ability to exercise time, only the ability to track or follow it.
Which then leads to his conclusion (and a groundbreaking new mantra I will swear by from now on):
People who think they have time management problems really have priority management problems, which means, at root, they have self-management problems…[T]here are only so many priorities that a given group of people can address in a given slice of time. One of the chief jobs of the leaders is to ensure that people are addressing the most important priorities in any given slice of time.
Basically, we spend too much time focused on how much (or how little) time we have rather than what we choose to do during that time. When we turn our attention to our priorities—and accept that not everything will get done at once—time no longer becomes a debilitating factor.
So, the next time you’re complaining about how bad you are at managing time or how quick it flies by, consider your priorities and ask yourself (and your manager) the following questions:
- Are you focusing your energy on the right things?
- Are you doing things in order of importance or urgency?
- Are you wasting energy or resources elsewhere (a.k.a., are you succumbing to distractions or menial tasks)?
- Are you trying to do too much at once?
Figuring the answers out to these questions just might make your days feel less crunched and far more spacious. And that would be a pretty nice way to go through life—having enough time.
Photo of person on phone courtesy of d3sign/Getty Images.
Previously an editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She’s written almost 500 articles for The Muse on anything from productivity tips to cover letters to bad bosses to cool career changers, many of which have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer and reader, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author