It occurred to me that the most effective “time management” stance is basically saying “no” to all the things you’re asked to do – either by your own self or by other people — until you get to a thing to which you can or want or have to say “yes.”
The “yes” is your “Go.”
Ideally whatever task pulls that “yes” from you is one that you think will make some sort of difference in your life – one you really want to happen, one that adds something to the life you are living.
Sometimes, though, the tasks that carry your Go are buried under all of the other stuff you have to do. Getting a handle on that big old To-Do List can be a big help when you want to flow with your Go better.
Some say the best way to deal with all of your do-ings is to manage your time.
Advice about time management abounds. Dip into YouTube and you’ll come up with so many how-to’s about slicing up and dicing your days in a myriad of different ways that your head will feel like it’s ready to explode.
Trying to stuff more and more things-to-do into teenier and teenier bits of time while watching the clocks, calendars and other time measures can get really confusing.
In many people, it gives rise to feelings of overwhelm. Me, I always feel like I’m getting cross-eyed after a certain point when I venture into these time management experiments and explorations. (I sure don’t want to get stuck that way!)
The conventional antidote for that very common reaction to time managing moves, the advisers say, is to lay down systems and routines so that you don’t have to think about it.
First, you think and plan using whatever methods the experts (and every other person you meet on the street) might suggest, and then you do and do and do. There are all kinds of reviewing and re-thinking sessions along the way as well, so it really doesn’t get you away from the thinking.
The thing is, all of those suggestions and tips you encounter can work. How not?
After all, the guys and the gals in the white lab coats have been studying this stuff for decades now. They’ve come up with all kinds of findings that back up these suggestions. All these things they tell you are supposedly research-based and scientifically or experientially correct or whatever. There are just so very MANY of them. (Yeep!)
Every one of all those Achievement Junkie hacks and techniques and systems and such can help you get lots and lots of things done in all of your born days of striving and doing.
The only problem with the whole stance, it seems to me, is that you do spend a heck of a lot of time thinking about Time-with-a-capital-T. You spend your days getting pressed for time and having a devil of a time trying to get to be a legend in your own time and so on.
It can get exhausting. At the end of the day (or week or month or year) of doing this stance, your world becomes a massive treadmill that just goes around and around and around.
The meaning and the mana sort of leaks out of your life as you make that wheel spin.
THINKING ON TIME
That road has been trod by many feet and every one of the travelers on the road (which pretty much means all of us humans who have ever drawn breath) has learned a thing or three about how to cram all the activities they want or need to do into each day that passes.
Some people can cram so much into the time they are given that the rest of us stand back amazed. Other times the pile of stuff some people attempt to do just turns into an enormous avalanche that falls down all over their heads and crushes them.
Time is precious, our faithful, cliché-driven advisers tell us on YouTube videos and in person-to-person coachings and courses as well as in books and articles and posts.
They tell us that even though we all get the same amount of time every single day we are alive, we don’t get to keep even one nanosecond of it with us.
We do get to hold on to memories of the things we’ve done and seen and experienced, but memories are not units of time. They’re just a different sort of thought-construct.
We can replay them and use them over and over again until they wear out or morph into other constructs, but that’s another story.
We all get the same amount of time every day, it’s true, but Time-Its-Own-Self just flows and goes on and on until we are gone. Poof! We leave the stage that is the world, but Time keeps on going.
You can’t hold Time in your hand.
You can’t turn it back.
You can’t actually “save” it.
There’s no way you can hoard it. (Where would you put it?)
All you can do with it is use it in whatever way you choose.
Time keeps everything from happening all together and all at once, which can be a good thing, especially when you think about things like explosions. There is a built-in orderliness to this world of ours because of this concept we’ve developed.
Time is a human thought-construct too, you know. I’ve never met a dog yet who has any notion of this thing we call Time. Have you?
Time is also sort of stretchy, like one of those lovely French net shopping bags that can hold an amazing amount of produce when you go shopping at a farmer’s market. Depending on how we happen to feel at any given moment, the speed of the flow of the Time going through our days can seem short or long.
“How did it get so late so soon?” the late Dr. Seuss once asked. And, probably, just like the rest of us, he also asked, “Why does it take so l-o-o-o-ong?”
We spend Time to do things that help us fulfill our varied and various needs and wants and wishes. We can give, trade, or sell our Time to do things that help other people fulfill their own needs and wants and wishes. We use Time to reflect and think on what we’ve done.
Time and doing seem to be intrinsically braided together. Everything we do comes at the cost of our spending some amount of our precious Time.
It seems to me, however, that very often we forget that Time is only just one measure of our “Life” (which is what we call the doing part of it all).
One of my cousins once complained that focusing on measuring Time and thinking about what you do or don’t do with it actually ends up with you having lots and lots of paper — charts and spreadsheets and journal entries and like that.
When you get through all the exercises and head-games, you still have to figure out what you’re actually going to go DO with your day.
Hmmm. She does have a point.
LEVEL UP BY TAKING YOUR LIFE TO TASKS
Here’s a cool thought: Remember the part about how Time and doing are intrinsically braided together? It’s a given that you need Time to do anything and anything you do uses up Time.
So, looking at when (and how) you do whatever tasks you want to do and working on getting better at doing these things well and in the right order is very likely to help us use our allotted Time better too. This is a good thing.
Tasks are a heck of a lot easier to get hold of than that Time-thing. We can do them over. We can do them better. We can dump them in a fit of pique, cool off, and then wander on back to pick them up and try again.
I ran across one of the most refreshing explanations of a task-oriented focus on a now-defunct YouTube video by Canadian comedian and skit-writer Rick Green who is also the founder of TotallyADD.com.
Green developed the task-management life-hack as a consequence of having to deal with problems that arise from having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD). It is predicated on the premise that focusing on our tasks in an orderly sort of way is more likely to get better results than trying to corral the amorphousness of Time.
His is a really simple plan. For each task we want to do, we need to stand there where we are and look at where we want to be. And then, we figure out how to get to the end of the task by asking a small series of questions:
- What do I have to do right now?
- What do I have to do next?
- And what do I have to do after that?
- And what do I have to do if I want to be there by then?
This makes sense, right?
Green said the technique can be applied to a small thing like being on time for a dental appointment as well as a big thing like having a wife and family and a house of your own by the time you’re a certain age.
He did not promise that the world would bow to your greatness and shower you with gifts. He did promise that if you use it, you can finish a lot more of the stuff you need to do despite whatever challenges you face.
[Totally ADD, by the way, is an organization built by people who have problems with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) and their tribes (family, friends, business associates and so on).
The Patreon crowd-funded group is dedicated to helping adults with ADD/ADHD by providing social support, tools and ideas for workarounds, as well as an interactive community where they can get the help they need to create a life they love. Their site has gotten a facelift and now has a team of experts and smartypants who are information resources.
You may want to lend your support.]
SPARKLE UP YOUR INTENTION
Even if you get the time/task management thing hammered and your abilities and skills that help you to get all kinds of things done becomes huge, your level of satisfaction with your moves and your life is going to be dictated by one other aspect of this whole get-‘er-done thing: your intention.
Your intention is, perhaps, even more important than your talent and your skill and all of your doing.
Intention is your cheat sheet that helps you choose when you are going to answer “yes” to a task you’ve been asked to do. It helps you to see your Go well enough so that you can decide and choose the tasks that are worth doing from among the many actions you can take.
It is the reminder snapshot of your WHY that you’ve stuck somewhere visible and it is your answer to that universal question, “What do you WANT?”
Keeping that reminder in your face helps you make your own way to your own dream and helps you find your Go.
One of the most heartful monologues I’ve heard about this important aspect of getting good at flowing with your Go is this one by UK abstract artist Ed Swarez, “Brutal advice on why you’re not succeeding as an artist.” It was published in 2017 by Swarez Art.
Swarez is spot-on with his thoughts about wanting something badly enough to actually do the necessary work that allows you to achieve your biggest dreams. He’s also right-on about the prices you sometimes have to pay to get there.
Here’s a poem:
FOR THE GOOD ONE
I heard you are gone now.
No one thought to tell me.
(Or maybe they did try,
But our paths had separated
Too much for hearsay’s reach.)
My dear, we were something
Back in the day.
Nobody could touch us;
We were going to play our way.
Nobody, no, nobody could stop us
(Nobody ‘cept you and me.)
It was me on the left and you on the right.
And we never backed down from any fight.
You had my back, once upon a time,
And I cut you slack ‘cause, together,
We were going to climb so very high.
But, you turned left at one crossroad,
While I took myself to the right.
We waved to one another
‘Til we were lost from each other’s sight.
I will remember the good times,
The warm, the laughs, the joys.
I’ve already released the memories
Of the hurts and the stabs,
The pinpricks and jabs of
Perceived betrayals, large and small.
They were prices we paid for the choices we made
That stood between us like stark fortress walls.
Your faith made your circles smaller
While mine led me to seek stranger skies.
But, I will always love you,
My obstinate, mule-headed sister….
Take with you, my fondest goodbyes.
By Netta Kanoho
Header Photo credit: “Let It Begin” by Tim via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
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