Wednesday 14 December 2011

Deciding what’s important and why time management isn’t

You can’t manage time.  It’s like trying to manage your cat: a frustrating and consistently unsuccessful activity.  Time passes regardless of how important or trivial whatever you are doing is.  The sea ebbs and flows, the wind blows, and time passes.  All are unmanageable and completely disinterested in our minutiae.

What you can manage is yourself and your choice of what to do.  So time management has always seemed something of a daft name for our efforts to be more effective.  Self-management might be more apt. 

But time is a useful way of measuring our focus and energy on tasks.  Or indeed the time we spend not doing things.  It is, however, nothing more than useful; it’s not the whole story.  That’s because we can’t measure the value of our activities over a given period of time.  The value of what we are doing has a much bigger impact on our success than how long it took to do.

So that’s the first and biggest secret of time management – decide what’s important.  Because unless you know what’s important and what’s not, you don’t know where best to spend your time.  Or to say it another way, you won’t know how best to spend your life.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

Most people have dreams, ideas and ambitions that they hope they will achieve one day.  I’m no exception and I doubt you are either.

The only trouble with dreams is that it’s a little tricky turning them in reality.  Our ambitious dreams often get trodden on by the little sceptic at the back of our minds who tells us we can't do whatever it is.  And too often we listen to the sceptic in us, instead of the dreamer.

Randy Pausch, who was  Professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, USA until he died in 2008, once wrote “Get tenure” on his to do list.  He laughed about it and said it was probably naive to write such a big thing on a To Do list.  He said should have broken it down into smaller chunks.  Maybe he was right, but he did become a Professor at Carnegie Mellon and did turn his dream into a reality.  His book “The Last Lecture” talks a lot about achieving dreams and is well worth a read.

There is a nugget of an idea here, though.  If we were to put our dreams onto our To Do lists, we might start doing more to achieve them.  We might start breaking them down into smaller tasks, and get on and do something about them.  Because unless we start doing something, we will definitely NOT achieve our dreams - that much is certain.

Just about every time management course I’ve ever been on, and I’ve attended a few, has always asked the same question.  What did you do today to achieve your most important goals?  What have you done this week, or this month?  Sadly, many people admit they haven’t done anything in a long time.  Many people admit they forget, for long periods of time, about their dreams and ambitions.

It’s worth more than a passing thought as we jot down what we intend to do today.