Time Management Concepts: What is time?

Many people say that “time management” isn’t the right way to describe how you plan, organize and conduct the process of doing the things you have to do. Perhaps it should be called “task management.” Or “activity management.” Or “life management.”

Time is a concept with almost countless definitions. Is it the duration of an experience? No one has the same experience of anything as anyone else. Is an hour a short time or a long time? Or does short and long depend upon what you are using the time for? Is it whatever the clock or calendar measures? Or are clocks just artificial and arbitrary?

When you try to live by a clock and calendar, does the management of your life’s activity stifle your creativity? Create anxiety or resentment? Choke the flow of your process? Divide your life into too many small boxes unrelated to each other?

If you think of time management do you think of forced choices? Or do you think of the opportunity to get more done through order and efficiency?

Is there really any such thing as “time?” Or is it just a concept to help us agree on who does what and in what order?

Psychologists and other counselors and spiritual advisors talk and write about all those considerations. Because there are so many ways you can experience time, so many ways you can understand or misunderstand it. So many ways you can find to get a handle on it so you can use it effectively.

The most practical way to consider time is that it is a concept for measuring the durations of days, parts of days and groups of days. Having those measures, you can use them to further measure durations of activities you perform.

Once you simply think of time as a useful measure, you can start seeing how to apply it as you would any other measure. It becomes more objective. You can turn it into “behavioral recipes.” It is no more mysterious or hard to control than hard boiled eggs. (Of course, there are varying opinions even on how to boil eggs!)

Seriously, how different is writing a to-do list from writing a cooking recipe? You have to know the ingredients: tasks, actions, behaviors — whatever you want to call them. You have to know the proper order in which to do the tasks. You need to know how long it should take to do each task. You need to know what constitutes “doneness” of the task. (Except, you can’t just stick a fork or toothpick into it.)

Also, just as a cook doesn’t have to like cheesy zucchini to make some and do it well, you don’t have to like all the actions or behaviors on your list. You just have to get them done.

If you consider time as a useful measure for managing what you do, you can see that the idea of having priorities based on values is a practical choice. The concept of values, then, becomes an objective measure. A value may involve feelings and judgments, but it is a measurement that allows you to know what is important. What makes all the other things you are doing worthwhile — especially the things you rather not do.

In the next post on time management concepts, I’ll tie this up with why it is essential to use your values and time measures to make lists, calendars, schedules, etc. And why and how to make them in ways that you enjoy working.