My mother would be surprised to hear me say so, but she’s really a very wise person. She said something to me the other day that I thought deserved an article just to expand on it.
She said, “Life is always too busy. We’ve always got too much to do. But we’ve got to do the important stuff and stop trying to do all the other stuff we don’t have time for. It’s just a distraction from real life.”
Gee, I wish I’d said that.
So many time management tips fall under the categories of “organization” or “prioritization.” Too few fall under the category of “real purpose” or “authentic living.”
Mom put her finger right on the core issue for most of us: we don’t have enough time because we’re not living our real lives.
• We’re living on artificial schedules developed by other people. Schedules that don’t fit our needs.
• We’re living by the clock rather than our natural cycles. We may need to use clocks to coordinate our activities with one another. But do we have to schedule everything right down to the absolute minute? Did you know that people who wear watches die years earlier than people who don’t? Did you know that stress is called the “hurry-up disease?”
• We’re doing what others think we ought to be doing rather than what we must be doing to live by our own standards.
• We’re acting without purpose and direction.
• We’re trying to be fulfilled by artificial means. (Like texting instead of sitting down together and having a real conversation, face to face, with someone you care for.)
All this isn’t about some existential philosophy. Or Zen outlook. Living authentically is a basic necessity of high performance and high productivity.
The antidote to our rushing around trying to do too many things in too little time is being true to ourselves and fulfilling our actual human needs. Not trying to live some fantasy lives based on impossible standards. Living authentically, in terms of busy-ness, time management, procrastination, performance and productivity means:
• Considering our highest desires and making sure we are doing what we can to meet them. And this is possible because our true desires are reasonable. Most of us want simple things like enough financial wherewithal and material things to take care of us. Good friends and loved ones. Enough time to sleep and eat and have leisure. Time to play and have fun.
• Considering times, schedules and organization that fit our natural cycles, rather than disrupt them.
• Considering our strengths and weaknesses, so we can emphasize work that we do best and get help in areas where we are weak.
• Considering our own characters, our basic natures — our essential selves. Our moral selves. What we can and will do based on our natures. (Remember the old saying about the leopard not being able to change its spots?)
• Considering the restrictions of our current conditions: physical, psychological, social, economic, environmental. How much freedom do we really have to act? For example, no matter how much multi-tasking we do, we can’t be in two places at the same time. Do we have the knowledge and/or skill to do our tasks? Are there people blocking our abilities to achieve?
These are the considerations of our real lives.
Think about a mom with a scheme for how she can get her kids from soccer practice to the movies and still have time to make deviled eggs for Aunt Matilda’s afternoon tea, while taking a business meeting on a smart phone, in between bouts of dictation into her digital recorder regarding the latest reports on a shipment from China.
That’s crazy enough to be the subject of a Stephen King story. Yet it describes fairly usual thinking about how we organize and run our lives and times.
Let’s get real. We’ll find we have enough time to do everything we need.