Flowing With Time, Not Against It

I recently attended a time management seminar for work.  It’s a useful way to meet some professional development expectations, but I was motivated to attend for personal reasons too.  Time just feels so precious and scarce, I want to use it as well as I can, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing that when I registered for the course.

The course offered some useful strategies, like making lists and prioritizing the items according to category of importance and deadline.  It talked about creating measurable and attainable goals, and how to break these down into steps and commit to taking action in your daytimer.  Plus some email and paper tips, like the ‘only handle a piece of correspondence once’ thing.

I found these suggestions useful, and will try to use them.  But in a few months, I may not remember much of them.  What I will remember are Two Big Points the workshop leader made.

Big Point One:  Procrastination is Self-Sabotage.

We only get one life, only a finite number of hours to live.  If you put things off, you’re putting yourself off, and you’ll never get the time or opportunity back, she said.

I can be a good procrastinator.  And nothing that the facilitator said ought to be earth-shattering.  But the stars must have aligned or something when I heard her words, because this truth now clamours in my ears in a way that it just didn’t before.  Maybe because 40 isn’t theoretical anymore, but something I can see in the horizon?  I don’t know.  But already I’m procrastinating way less.

Big Point Two:  There IS enough time.

The workshop leader simply refused to acknowledge the ‘shortage of time’ complaint that most participants in the course made.  What do you mean, there’s not enough time? she asked.  There’s always enough time, because there’s always the same amount of time in a day, every day.  It’s entirely reliable, always the same.  In fact, it’s one of the few things that can be relied upon in our lives.

Therefore if we are not able to do all we wish to with the time we have, we either a) fail to use our time well, or b) we have unrealistic expectations of time.  Either way, you’re supposed to take responsibility for your life and time, and presumably stop complaining about them.

So, there I am listening, and thinking about how I’ve identified and am trying to pursue my life’s key priorities, but how I don’t think I have ever met my weekly goals for these priorities even once. Which means either I am a basket case (distinct possibility, some weeks) or I am banging my head against unrealistic expectations, especially given the current demands of time that come with mothering little people.

When I’m exerting my full strength and still coming up short and exhausted, I wonder whether there’s an alternative to my first instinct which is to throw my hands in the air.  Maybe the answer isn’t that I have to cut out any of the priorities that mean so much to me.  Maybe I could just pull out that daytimer and plan to get done in two weeks what I’ve been trying to do in one.

Is that giving in?  How hard should we push to get what we want?  I have no idea, but I do know that I’m kind of tired of feeling like I’m never quite making ends meet despite my best efforts.  I don’t want to let my life’s goals pass me by because I didn’t try hard enough to get them all in, but truthfully I can’t try much harder than I am now without losing my mind.  And what could be more futile than swimming against the tide of Time?

This post originally appeared at http://thekingsandi.wordpress.com in 2010.