Time management. How many courses have I taken, books have I read, journals have I abandoned, apps litter my phone, and it still eludes me?
When do we start to hear it? And why?
When we’re little kids, five minutes feels like almost a lifetime. Five years is a lifetime.
As my average weekday kicks over past 3:15, then 4:05, then the 4:30 I promised myself it was time to wrap up, and at 5:07 I’m officially calling the last seven minutes my conversation with my colleague in Oregon “social” in order to be able to claim that I finished the day by 5.
Right now, a specific clock is ticking: I’m giving myself just 25 minutes to write this post, and five minutes to find the pretty picture that goes with it, and get it posted.
I spend a lot of my day talking to business owners, and nearly every one of them agrees that time is one our most precious resources. Many of my decisions, and theirs, are driven by the answer to the question, “What’s the best use of my time right now?”
I am blessed with a creative mind, burgeoning curiosity, and a bounty of natural energy. That typically means I have many thousands more ideas than I can do anything with. I try to write down the ones that are the most insistent, and trust that the others that are truly worthwhile will keep jostling for attention until they end up on what I’ve tricked my idea generator into thinking is The List.
Except that I don’t have just one list. NoooOOOOoo…. There are stickies, and a desk blotter, and three journals. Then there’s the big monster Zoho calendar, which doesn’t talk consistently to the Outlook calendar that people’s evites land on when I accept them, the daybook I copy things into (why I do that in ink is anybody’s guess; it takes a whiteout strip dispenser to clean it up to reflect reality) to see the blocks of TIME that are actually available to DO anything that’s not an appointment or meeting.
Those are usually skinny little fragments.
I’m familiar with maaaaaany concepts of time management and organization. Ohhh, I have a shelf full of books, and hundreds of hours of coaching time behind me. Did I mention I love stationery and paper and lovely quality pens and pencils? And automated systems to check things off? I still have open accounts with Nozbe and Asana and one other one with pretty colors that I forget what is, and I know there’s another app on my phone that generates packing lists for travel and makes helpful suggestions based on seasons and destinations.
One of my morning walking partners — a communications specialist with the National Guard — says she wrestles the same flood of to do’s as she moves through her week.
When we were talking about it on the trail today, she observed, “If I’m not keeping track, and checking off my AM list and my PM list, and the things in between, I feel unmoored, kind of ungrounded.”
I’m glad I’m not alone.
If I block off the daily time for journaling, and fitness, and tai chi practice, and meditation, and writing my own personal blog (challenge of the month) and editing Simon’s daily sports blog (a continuing mission), and if I actually scheduled in time for meals instead of gobbling and snacking, and then the scheduled client sessions, and the weekly team and coaching calls, and the presentations and public speaking for lead generation, the social media sharing and video to support all that, the conversations with new and sustaining partners to help each other… and then put some constraints on all that like “Calls start no earlier than 8:30, and formal day ends at 5 except on Fridays, when I’m done at noon,”
There’s not much time left for the professional creative “deep work” that is truly sustaining. All too often I find I’ve backed myself into a corner where I haven’t left myself enough time to bask in the work I love to do most.
And I consistently underestimate by about 200% how long it takes me to do anything.
I woke up this morning despairing just a bit that this is my life right now. This is what my life looks like optimized for pandemic. No flying. No teaching climbing. No climbing. No traveling. Squeezing in social conversations with friends and family that I book with the same precision as I stack up my work day.
If pandemic ended tomorrow, I’d be at a loss to figure out where to find the time to find the time to restructure how I manage my time.
“It’s not ending tomorrow,” JJ said helpfully.
We finished listening to the 6 am news and it seems he’s right.
AND…hey, I’m vertical, breathing, and on the right side of the grass. The bar for accomplishment, and the threshold for gratitude, is low these days.
Wish I knew how to tame the time tangle. I think all I can do is take it apart one thread at a time.
Remember I said the clock is ticking? Timer just went off.
Gotta find the pretty picture, and that’s all the time this gets today.
What does it take?
Maybe it’s not about managing time but changing my relationship with how I feel about it.