We seem to be running out of time. We are all hoping and wishing for more time. Everyone and everything is moving a warp speed. The question is are we running out of time or are we failing to use our time wisely? George Carlin said, “a time machine will be built, but no one will have time to use it”. How can we be better at managing ourselves that we can maximize our time?
We live under the assumption we have the ability to manage time. There are courses and books dedicated to teaching time management. The experts and gurus tell us we are in control of our time. According to the Association of Psychological Science, power has a lot to do with thinking one has the ability to control time. Per the APS, “feeling a sense of power leads people to perceive themselves as able to control time, and that they have more time at their disposal”. Control of time is a fallacy. The reality is we do not control time nor have more of it at our disposal. Each of us has 24 hours in a day. The only thing we have control over is what we do with the time we have.
What is Time Management?
But what is time management exactly? While definitions may vary to a degree, there is one basic premise. Time management is defined as “a set of strategies designed to help you plan how to divide your time between specific activities to achieve maximum productivity, efficacy and results on a daily and weekly level, as well as long term”.
There are great benefits to time management. They can be:
- Greater productivity and efficiency
- Less stress
- More opportunities
- Increased chances of advancement in careers
Why Can’t We Manage Time?
While managing time would be ideal, it is not something we really have control over. But why can’t we manage time? To understand this fallacy, we need to know what is time by definition. According to Britannica, time is “a measured or measurable period, a continuum that lacks spatial dimensions. Time is of philosophical interest and is also the subject of mathematical and scientific investigation”. Time is seen as a continuous set of events that moves along a continuum from past to present to future.
When we think of time being continuous, we see time as something that does not stop. It continues regardless of activities. Therefore, to operate from an assumption that we can control or manage time, would be inaccurate. It would be inaccurate because we cannot stop time or make it do what we desire it to do. Time keeps going and will continue no matter what is happening.
Time is Fleeting
The idea of time, its usage and being mindful of time, is not a foreign concept. As long as the world has been in existence, people have been concerned about time. In Psalm 90, we see the prayer of Moses before God. In this prayer before God, Moses addresses the issue of time. Moses says, “Our days may come to seventy years or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away”.
The first thing Moses teaches us about time is that it is limited. While time itself, continues to infinity and we cannot stop it, the time we have is limited. As those created by God, we have only a set number of years. While we do not know how much time we have, we do know our time will not last forever. The time we have moves quickly and then we transition from this life.
Secondly, Moses prays. He says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. In Moses’ prayer before God, he prays to gain awareness of about the length of days of humanity. In understanding how limited the days of humanity are, one may gain a heart of wisdom in how to live them effectively. In the people of God’s lack of awareness concerning their days, they have lived a life of frivolity and have been reckless in their behavior. However, in the awareness of the breadth of their life, they may gain more wisdom.
Becoming More Effective with Our Time
It is no secret many of us can be more effective and efficient in the use of our time. However, rather than quickly running to a new device or a new method, we should change our approach in thinking about time management. We can put the following steps into practice:
A New Mindset about Time: Time is not in our control. Time is fleeting. Once we become more aware and honest about time, the more intentional we can become about using time wisely. When we realize we do not have an overabundance of time, we begin to see it differently and make the best use of it.
Determine Our Priorities: Priorities can be seen in the immediate and the long term. Yet we cannot truly define the long-term priorities until we identify our values. What is most important to us? When we know what is most important, we begin to schedule our time around those things. Yes, we may have more immediate priorities such as a deadline at work or a new project, but those things will begin and end. What is most important to us from a big picture perspective? Spending more time with family? Serving a cause we are passionate about? Fulfilling a dream? When we consider what is most important, we schedule our time differently.
Identify and Reduce Distractions: Identifying our priorities helps us to face the distractions. Anything which seeks our attention that does not align with our purpose or the goal we have as a priority, may be a distraction. We need to ask ourselves is what is seeking us a part of what we need or want to do? If not, we may need to say no to it.
Recognize our Limitations: We are great at creating “to-do” lists. We may be overachievers with a laundry list of goals we hope to attain. While it is admirable, we must recognize we cannot do everything. We must identify what is for now and what may be for later. When we try to take on too much at once, we seek to multi-task which really causes us to divert our focus and attention away from things. This may cause us not to complete action items or waste valuable time.
Give Ourselves Grace: Life will happen. We may experience setbacks and challenges. We may experience distractions and derailments. In this, we must learn to give ourselves grace. When we realize we have become distracted, lost focus then we can develop a plan to get back on track. We can forgive ourselves and recommit to being more faithful with our time.
It may seem like time is not on our side. It may seem like we are stressed trying to pack everything in one day. Time is on our side. It is on our side when we learn to respect it and use it effectively. May time become our friend and journey partner towards greater fulfillment.