Time Management

Bell in Notre Dame Bell Tower by Jennie Adams
Bell in Notre Dame Bell Tower by Jennie Adams

I have always had a problem with time management.  I have a pattern where it seems I am always working very hard but never getting anything finished.  After six months, I look back on what I have done and I am exhausted with nothing to show for that time.  I have tried many different approaches, from the enormously complicated systems (like Getting Things Done) to having no system at all and just using common sense.

Since none of them worked, you can tell the problem was not really time management.  Mark Forster put it well here: it is easy to take on too many different commitments, so that you don’t have time to do them all.  Then, when you start falling behind, you try to fix the problem by tinkering with your time management system.

Your relationship to time is the same as your relationship to money, others, and yourself.  Whatever issues show up there will show up here, too.  And my problem was that I was not able to say NO – to other people, or to my own ideas.

I had this image of who I was supposed to be.  I was supposed to be able to say Yes to all my boss’s suggestions, a side-project that my colleague suggested, and one or two side projects of my own, plus time spent just reading and keeping up to date in my field.  Similarly with women, I would try to make myself into the sort of man I thought they wanted, instead of showing up as I was.

Of course, it did not work.  And with every failure, I would increase the demands on myself.  “I’m doing all this work and still falling behind.  I have to work harder!” “I’m trying so hard to please women, and still getting rejected.  I have to try harder!”  I would swing between despair – I was never going to crack this puzzle that everyone else apparently found so easy – and determination: “Come on, one more try!”

I knew the way I was doing things was wrong.  But it took me a long time to find a right thing to replace it with.

I shifted when i saw how I was hurting other people.

In relationships, if you are trying too hard to please the other person – always doing what she wants – then you are asking her to do the work for both of you.  She has to find a suggestion that will make both of you happy.  Likewise, it is actually more work for a boss to manage an employee who always acquiesces, than one who will say No if a new project would exceed their bandwidth.  I was effectively asking my boss to manage my time for me.

The martyr role is a very tempting way to get other people to look after you.  It offers the delicious prospect of self-righteousness and self-pity when you finally collapse under your self-imposed burden.  Workaholism is a very socially acceptable way of disconnecting, but it is still a disconnect.

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