Time management part 1

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Time – we all have the same 168 hours or 10,080 minutes in a week.

And yet how fast time  seems to fly by, especially the older you get.


A humorous quote I heard is that life is rather like a toilet roll: the nearer you get to the end the faster it goes and the more you realise you have wasted!

But more seriously how we manage our time seems to be an increasingly important priority for many people. Is it possible that we have got the wrong end of the stick when we talk of time management? Is it really possible to manage time? I have never heard of anyone saying they found an extra 20 minutes lying in the street. No matter what we do or don’t do, time just has a relentless habit of moving on.

And what do we exactly mean by time? We all know and experience it, but to describe it is not easy.

Augustine put it eloquently in the 4th century when he said:

“What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.”

Time is so hard to define – time just is. Time is really just a series of events. Or one event followed by another -from the trivial or mundane to the significant and life changing.

So maybe time management is really a misnomer. We cannot manage time. It just keeps moving forward no matter what.

Time is the ultimate equal opportunity employer – we all have an equal amount: 24 hours a day or 168 hours a week. The problem is not lack of time, but the lack of direction. At any particular moment you can have a huge variety of choices as to what you can do with your time. Technology has compounded that exponentially.

The famous management teacher, Peter Drucker has put it like this:

“In a few hundred years, when the history of the our time is written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is the unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”

What Drucker is saying is that the biggest change in society that has crept up on us is the huge array of choices in modern life. Those choices range from what cereal am I going to have in the morning (according to Wikipedia there are over 500 in the Western world!) to all the things I can choose to do with my time. This has gradually increased over time that we have hardly noticed it, but it has added an extra layer of stress to our already busy lives. It is rather like the proverbial frog in the water pot. Gradually the temperature is being increased and we are beginning to boil!

That is part of the challenge of time that we face.

In our next blog post we will look at how do we handle the issue of time in our lives.

What are your thoughts and reflections on time management? What questions would you like to ask about time?

4 thoughts on “Time management part 1”

  1. Hi Sunil

    I do enjoy your posts. On the subject of time management I think it is more about how can I manage myself rather than I how manage time as like you say time just happens regardless. For me the big issues seem to centre around the urgent things and the important things that require my attention. I often get bogged down in the urgent and not have time for the important, that is if I can work out the difference between the two. Best wishes Beverly

    1. Many thanks for your encouragement Beverly.
      Yes distinguishing between the important and urgent is critical to time management. We have so many apparently urgent things coming at us each day it is so important to be discerning as to really how urgent is the request or task before me? Some people live perpetually in the urgent (and in some cases rightly so – think of a Casualty Department in a hospital), but also just living in the urgent can rob us of time and energy to do what matters most. Great insight, Beverly and I will make this question of the urgent and the important the subject of a future post.

  2. Time is obviously a good human invention which has allowed us to measure events and organise ourselves, but it can also be perceived as ‘the enemy’. I got a little bit stressed today when I had to visit 2 places, both closing at 1730, and I had to choose which one to go to first. Turns out I’d gotten stressed for nothing, I got to both places with plenty of time to spare and had time to do something else afterwards. I also realised afterwards “would anyone have died if I’d not made it?”. The answer is no, so it was not THAT important. Still, I go through the same ritual every week of becoming anxious when I have to be somewhere at a certain point on the clock and there’s an uncertainty in my mind as to whether I’ll get there or not.

    1. Great to have your self-reflection there, Karl.
      It illustrates how important it is to stop and think about what we are doing. Perhaps a way to handle this situation in the future is to decide beforehand how much extra discretionary time you have or need and so plan accordingly. Also the sense of ‘hurry’ is an internal state and we can (if we have sufficient self-awareness: see part 1 and part 2 on this) change so that we are not so disturbed when things don’t go in the time frame we expect

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