• Dr. Francis Yoo

Time management is a Lie

"Time management" has been a hot topic in our modern age, and it feels like even more so recently. But to me, it is a lie. It does not make any sense.

(This is a partner post to my "stress management is a lie" post. Some of the arguments are similar.)

First - what does it mean to "manage" something or someone. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/manage has multiple meanings, but the relevant ones are:

- To direct or to be in charge of.

- To handle or control

- To handle with skill, wield (a tool, weapon etc)

Second - What is something you have managed (or tried to manage)? Your finances? Other people in a team? Your shopping list? The files on your computer? What do these have in common?

1. There is the possibility of being able to fully direct, be in charge, handle or control these things.

2. You are able to carry out the task consciously.

Third - Time is affected and influenced by tools and ideas from physics (special relativity, etc), and/or philosophy/religion (subjectivity as truth, etc), but otherwise is outside of human control.

Since time is outside of our control, we cannot manage time. People sometimes say "managing my time" but this doesn't make sense. Time is time - it is does not "belong" to someone.

You cannot tell time to be different so that you can attend two different events happening in different places at the same time (a friend's birthday party and a romantic date). You cannot will for aspects of time to speed up/slow down so that you can accomplish what you want to. Let's say you ended up going to sleep at 2AM and aimed to wake up at 6AM in the same time, but want to sleep 8 hours; you cannot make 4 hours become 8 hours.

In other words, we cannot "manage" time.

But there are two things we CAN do.

1. Task and priority management

- Just as you cannot attend three separate events in different places at the same time, you cannot execute multiple tasks by yourself. Let's say its 12 midnight and you want to watch a movie, sleep, and review updates on your finances. You have to wake up at 6 AM

(side note, "multi-tasking" is a lie - it is actually rapid splitting of intention/attention which makes each task take longer or be performed less effectively... maybe this will be a different post).

So you have a choice to make. Sleep, watch a movie, or review your updates. (Sleep with the movie on, sleep with papers covering your face, or reviewing updates are not real options because you are not really doing any of the three then).

In that instant, what you end up picking is your priority. For example, if you chose to watch the 2-hour movie, it was more important to you than going to sleep, which would theoretically make you more refreshed for the next day. Your priority for your entertainment (or maybe education) was higher than your priority for sleep and the mental clarity you would have used the next day.

Watching the movie came PRIOR to the other choices, hence PRIOR-ity. We have conflicting desires, goals, thoughts, emotions but in the end we can only make one choice to perform one task in each moment.

(side note - There are things we do besides "tasks" like digesting, body-habit motions (brushing your teeth), etc. I am referring to tasks that require conscious focus).

Which tasks should come prior to others in your day to day?

Which tasks ACTUALLY come prior to others in your day to day?

You have the ability to choose which tasks have lesser or higher priority than others... although this is often hijacked by... who? yourself of course. Complex interactions of physical, psychic, emotional, mental, and spiritual elements ultimately affect your ultimate action. Thus task management must be accompanied by...

2. Self-management

- We can learn and practice managing OURSELVES, our emotions, thoughts, physiology, so that we can decide on and prioritize actions that are truly important in a given moment. This takes a lot of practice

- First, give attention to your automatic reactions.

-- Become aware of and observe your reactions to choices: your body/physiology, emotions, and thoughts.

-- There are predictable ways that your body, psyche, emotions, mind, etc react when faced with a choice and multiple tasks.

- Second, use intention to exercise "response-ability" and RESPOND to the choice, instead of simply reacting-deciding.

This takes a lot of practice.

We have built up layers and stacks of reactions and self-defense mechanisms that cause us to auto-decide and sabotage our true priorities... and we hold on to them, often to our detriment

So stop trying to manage time... because you can't.

Start managing your tasks - prioritize your tasks and your options/decisions/actions by managing yourself by becoming aware of your (physiology, emotion, mind, behavior) reactions and responding instead.

Did I say that this takes a lot of practice?


Now some (or many of you) may say that it is all semantics. Maybe. Probably. Yes. But semantics are important.

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