On Time Management
“Time is really the only capital that any human has,
and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”
– Thomas Edison
In one of his speeches, Jim Rohn told his audience the story of a man who one day told him the following – “You know if I have some extra time, I can make some extra money.” He told the man to forget about it because there is no such thing as extra time.
Indeed, there is no extra time. Whatever are the things we intend to do in a day, we have a 24-hour window to accomplish them. Definitely, that man did not mean extra as in time over 24 hours but how he could squeeze in in his daily schedule activities that will allow him to have an additional income.
What the man told Jim Rohn is the usual excuse of people for being unable to do what they should do to improve themselves in areas of their lives where they need improvement. How many times have you heard people say that they have no time to – exercise – read – learn a new skill – or do any self-improvement activities? How many times have you heard somebody drop the following lines – “I am too busy earning a living and I could no longer find time to do other things? What about you? Have you ever dropped those excuses also?
Are 24 hours really not enough to finish everything we need to do in a day? That’s the question we’ve been trying hard to answer since time immemorial. People keep saying that they don’t have enough time to do this and to do that. But I think the real problem is not the lack of time. The failure to manage it is.
The real issue is time management – how are we using our hours and minutes in a day. Oxford defines time management as the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work. Take note of the italicized words. That’s how we are supposed to use our hours and minutes – effectively and productively.
Jonathan Estrin opined, “The way we spend our time defines who we are.” I agree 100% and let me add that the way we use our time will also determine whether or not we will be listed in the directory of winners and achievers.
Time management is a very important skill in the pursuit of success. According to Brian Tracy, many people think that time management is only a business tool, like a calculator or a cell phone, something that you use to increase productivity. He argued that it is not just a peripheral skill but the core skill on which everything else in life depends. He added that time is your most precious resource, the most valuable thing you have. It is both perishable and irreplaceable. It cannot be saved.
The non-renewability of our time is also one of the things Seneca, a Roman philosopher, reminded us in his essay entitled “On Shortness of Life.” Being non-renewable, the philosopher suggested the need to treat it as a commodity, something valuable that we cannot afford to waste or throw away. Thus, we need to manage (the use of) it well.
Aside from giving us the best chance to achieve our goals and succeed, there are other benefits we can get from effective time management. According to Misra & McKean (2000), “good time management skills have been identified as having a buffering effect on stress.” When you fail to allocate time properly to your responsibilities and activities expect to feel overwhelmed. You know what to expect when for example you realize that you only have an hour to finish the equivalent of a 2-hour workload – an increased level of stress
Time management also offers individuals the means to structure and control their activities (Claessens, et al., 2004). This leads to avoidance of cramming and a better quality of output. When people are hard pressed to finish an assigned task or a commitment to beat a deadline the result may not be as desired.
Let’s go back to the question I asked earlier – Are 24 hours really not enough to finish everything we need to do in a day?
In her book “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” Laura Vanderkam deplored the time-poverty narratives that have been persisting for a long time. She said that we all have 24 hours in our day, and 7 days in our week giving us a total of 168 hours (7 x 24) each week to create the lives we want, and if I may add – to do the things we ought to do.
Let’s do some math and instead of using the 24-hour model let’s use Vanderkam’s 168-hour paradigm.
On the average, how many hours in a day do you spend for some specific daily activities? If you work for 8 hours and sleep for 7, how many more do you have left for other things? You still have 9 hours. Right? Let’s say that you spend 2 of those for meals and snacks, what remains is 7 hours.
In one week you have an extra 49 hours (7 x 7). But if you work only for 5 days then add 16 to the 49. That’s 66 hours. What do you want to do with those remaining hours in one week?
Yes, you are entitled to have leisure time or do Netflix binge-viewing. But are you going to spend all 66 hours for fun and recreation? If you do, then say goodbye to success and say hello to failure and poverty.
Okay, spend 2 hours a day for play or “me time.” I think that is still normal. That’s 14 hours. You still have 52. Should you decide to add 1 more hour to your daily leisurely activities (or to your sleeping time), you would end up still having 43 extra hours in a week.
Now, are you going to use all those 43 hours to aimlessly browse the Internet? Don’t! Unless you are not really serious in the pursuit of your goals.
What if you spend only 2 hours a day to check your emails and visit your social media accounts? That will eat 14 hours out of the 43 extra that you still have leaving you with 29 more.
What if you exercise or workout for 1 hour 5 times a week? You still have 24 hours extra. What if you read a book for 1 hour 5 times a week only (if doing it daily is too much)? Look. You still have 19 hours left. Go back to the math we did for leisure time. If 2 hours a day is sufficient then you can put 7 back to the 19 hours. That’s a total of 26 hours. How do you want to use it? Decide. Would you like to spend some of those hours nurture your existing relationships? What about using a few hours to pursue some personal growth and development goals?
You can do the math for your particular situation and determine whether or not you really don’t have enough time to do what you need to do. Find out how many out of the 168 hours a week (or 24 hours a day) are you using productively and how many are you wasting doing things that don’t matter.
When you decide what to do with those remaining hours, you might want to consider what Brian Tracy said, “Perhaps the greatest single problem that people have today is time poverty. Working people have too much to do and too little for their personal lives.”
As you try to manage the hours and minutes in your day, you need to make a conscious effort to maintain a work-life balance. Allocate time for yourself. I don’t mean just taking a time-off from work and have fun. What I mean with allocating time for yourself is dedicating your free time to activities that promote self-improvement and wellbeing. Consider this – “The capacity to manage free time is found to significantly increase an individual’s quality of life (Wang et al., 2011).” So think of how you spend your free time.
What I may consider as the best advise for time management came also from Laura Vanderkam – “Be intentional with the use of your time.”
Now, go back to the 168 hours paradigm. Consider it as a blank slate, how would you fill it? Again, the problem is not the lack of time. How you manage it is.
As Harvey MacKay said, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you’ll never get it back.”
Claessens, C., et al. (2005). A review of the time management literature. Personnel Review, 36(2), 255-276. DOI 10.1108/00483480710726136
Misra, R., McKean, M. (2000). College students’ academic stress and its relation to their anxiety, time management, and leisure satisfaction. American Journal of Health Studies, 16(1), 41-51.
Time Management. (n.d.). In lecixo.com. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/definition/ time_management
Wang et al. (2011). Free time management contributes to better quality of life: A study of undergraduate students in Taiwan. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 561-573. doi:10.1007/s1142-013-9256-4
Vanderkam, L. (2010). 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. London: Penguin Books Ltd.