Time Management

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The blog Time  posed the question of our relationship with time–how much do we struggle swimming upstream compared to floating in the currents of time? The concept of “time management” broadens this question.

“Time management” refers to the tools we consciously use to control the amount of time allocated to tasks in order to increase efficiency. How do we use these tools while cultivating our relationship with time?

As an executive, I applied the time management approach of Getting Things Done  by David Allen coupled with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People  by Steven Covey. Allen’s approach identifies the vague sense of unease we feel because of the scores of poorly defined tasks floating around in our heads– I need to change the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector; that report is due to tomorrow; the staircase in the backyard needs a railing; we are low on cereal; I wonder what that patient’s potassium was?

Many of these tasks create anxiety because they are unformed and not actionable. As a result, we know we should begin but don’t know how. As an example, if our task is to learn how to ski, we can’t proceed until we have defined a desirable outcome–ski the bunny hill during my February vacation- and an actionable next step– find John’s phone number so I can call and ask him which ski school he used.

Allen asks us to settle our churning minds by collecting all of our “stuff” (the pending tasks of our lives) and listing them in one place in order for us to define desirable outcomes and next actions. He then teaches a process to keep work flowing. His approach appealed to my “inner geek” because I was able to use the advanced functions of the Task List in Outlook to manage the activities of my life. I prided myself on having all of my work flowing through one and only one highly customized inbox

The time management approaches of Allen and others are useful tools for productivity but are less so when applied as a way of life. Indeed, time management tools enabled my illusion that I could outrun time and my infinite task list. I imagined that by running faster than time, I could outrun aging. Managing time is a delusion. We can’t manage time. Our planning does not impress time and it flows unceasingly with or without us. Yet action without planning is impulse.

Though we cannot manage time as a way of life, we can work on the kind of person we want to be as we use tools for efficiency and cultivate our relationship with time. I found Covey’s book particularly helpful in this regard. Covey goes beyond the usual time management lists, schedules, calendars and priorities by articulating the following 7 habits to improve our capacity to accomplish.: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek to understand–then to be understood, synergize (combine the strengths of people through teamwork ) and sharpen the saw (balance and renew your energy for a sustainable life-style).

Covey stresses that how we are in time–our character, relationships, attitudes and spirituality is critical for what we do in time..

Please use comments below to describe using time management approaches while cultivating your relationship with time.

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