Time Management
Limits to the Traditional Time Management Approach

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Time Management

Limits to the Traditional Time Management Approach

"You can gain extra minutes and even hours every day by following these tips from a time management expert," the article in the tabloid newspaper announces. (You know the kind of paper I'm talking about, the kind nobody reads, let alone buys, but that somehow boasts a paid circulation in the millions.)

Among these tips from the expert, Lucy Hedrick, author of 365 Ways to Save Time:

  • "If you don't have time for reading, letter-writing, cooking or exercising, get up earlier in the morning."

That seems to be a favorite solution. Other experts, the ones who study sleep, estimate that Americans are now getting 60 to 90 minutes less sleep each night than they did 10 to 15 years ago. (Again, more on the vital topic of snoozing in a later chapter.)

  • "Keep your breakfast fast and simple. Try a 'blender breakfast' consisting of a banana, fruit juice, granola and a dash of honey."
  • "If your bathtub needs a cleaning, do it during your shower. You can scrub as you finish washing or while your hair conditioner is working."

I could do those things. I could make up a huge pitcher of "blender breakfast" and keep it in a cooler in my car, so I could drink it on the way to work.

I could take a water-proof tape player into the shower with me, so I could listen to a self-help tape (preferably on one of those compressed players that takes the "dead air" pauses out) while I'm going at the grouting with my toothbrush. I suppose I could even wear my clothes into the shower, like the protagonist in Anne Tyler's marvelous novel, The Accidental Tourist, so I could wash my duds while I showered, grouted, and listened.

But I'm not going to do any of those things. I'm not saying they're bad things. They might work wonderfully for some folks. But I personally would pay too high a price for the saved seconds.

I have to chew my breakfast, so I know I've really eaten; I'll have to live with the inconvenience and the irrevocable passage of time while I chomp my Grape Nuts.

I want and need the three-minute oasis of a steaming hot shower, my little morning miracle, a pleasure for body and soul, to start even the busiest day.

I do, however, get up at 5:00 and exercise for 45 minutes to an hour and a half every morning before I chew my way through breakfast and wallow in that hot shower. That works for me. It might not work for you.

Lots of folks take a Walkman with them when they jog. I prefer letting my mind drift. Comedienne Joan Rivers reportedly has a speakerphone on her treadmill. More power to you, Joan. Whatever works. But that sounds awful to me.

Some of you need to impose strict order on your work space--a place for everything and everything in its place, with neat files, a clean desktop, a floor you can actually walk on. I'm in the compost heap school of desktop management, and I don't mind hurdling the piles of files and books and periodicals that inevitably collect on the floor.

I even found support for my slovenly workplace. In How to Put More Time in Your Life, Dru Scott extols "the secret pleasures" of clutter, calling messy folks "divergent thinkers" (which, you have to admit, sounds much better than "messy slob").

The classic rules of time management don't work for everyone. You have to find your own way through the suggestions and exercises that follow. You may not be able to control some elements of your life--and you may not want to.

There are lots of things none of us can control. If you drive a car anywhere more populous than the outback of Australia, you're going to get stuck in traffic. Manage the flow of traffic? You might as well try to manage the current of the river in which you swim.

If you make an appointment, somebody's going to keep you waiting. A phone solicitor will interrupt your dinner. Your boss will dump a last-minute assignment on you. Your child will get sick the same day you have to make that mega-presentation before the board.

So That's Where the Time Really Goes!

Efficiency expert Michael Fortino offers the following dismal scenario for the average life lived in these United States. In your lifetime you will spend

    seven years in the bathroom,
    six years eating,  five years waiting in line,
    three years in meetings,
    two years playing telephone tag,
    eight months opening junk mail, and
    six months sitting at red lights.

You'll get interrupted 73 times a day(!), take an hour of work home, read less than five minutes, talk to your spouse for four minutes, exercise less than three minutes, and play with your kid for two minutes.

Nightmarish. Want to change that picture? Just as with poor Scrooge, scared into life change by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and to come, it's not too late for you to refocus your life. That's what time management is really all about.

But no matter what you do, you're still going to spend a lot of time waiting at red lights, idling in waiting rooms, and standing in line.

Some Initial Changes to Get Control of Your Time
You could make huge changes. You could quit your job, leave your family, move to a cabin in the Dakotas and paint landscapes. You could. But you probably won't and probably shouldn't.

You can make tiny changes, without needing anybody's help or permission. You can, for example, learn to take four mini-breaks a day, as I'll suggest in a later chapter.

You can explore the possibilities for some mid-size changes, involving the cooperation of other people in your life. Could you, for example:

  • take your next raise in time rather than money or advancement?
  • work at least part of the time at home?
  • substitute barter and skills-swapping for cash for some of what you need?

As you work your way through this book, let yourself explore as many possibilities as you can. Some won't be practical. Some won't work for you. Some will be beyond your means, for a variety of reasons. But by applying your creativity, initiative, and energy to this exploration, you will find ways to create meaningful, life-affirming change.

* Source Adams - Time Management

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