Calm Around the Chaos

Stop trying to manage time

24 September 2014

I hate the phrase "time management." Really? Have you actually met someone who truly "manages" time? At best we are managing the attempts of time to infiltrate our best-made plans. I've never actually met anyone who effectively manages time itself.

I recommend giving up and going with the flow. We've all heard of the 80/20 rule. Apply it here. Create places and periods of time where you can create, problem-solve, and otherwise do those things that distractions from the outside world have a tendency to impede.

If you can do this for a full hour in the morning and a full hour in the afternoon you will reap amazing benefits. You'll leave those "time managers" in the dust. Then, let the chaos come. It's okay to be coping and scrambling with everyone else when you've held steadfast to keeping clear a little bit of chronological space to do your very best work.

There are countless time management "systems" out there: Getting Things Done, Pomodoro, ABC, Eisenhower, Covey. Yikes (that’s my favorite one!) By the time you've built the infrastructure to support your system of choice the overhead--the effort to maintain it--is gigantic. In the end, most of these systems collapse under their own weight.

Your time management system has just collapsed like a poorly-conceived Lego skyscraper. Now what?

Create those periods of calm amidst the chaos. Decide what is most important to you right now and work on that first. You can work on other people’s "most important" list amidst the chaos. Make this decision every day because the thing that is most important to you will often change from day to day. Our best work rolls with the changes.

Write every thing down: ideas, deadlines, dreams, dreads. Put those notes somewhere you can find them later. I usually write them in a journal and then add them to something like Evernote or Simplenote. I do this so I can search through them quickly and have them at hand pretty much all of the time.

Once a week or so, go through your notes. Trash (on the computer) or cross off (in the journal) the ones that are done. Consolidate the ones that are similar in nature. Toss the ones that don’t make sense any more. (You’ll be surprised how often that happens!)

At this point, stop worrying and get to creating. That’s enough "time management" overhead for any rational human to endure!

80/20 Rule:
The Pareto Principle expands on the basic idea of the 80/20 rule and was heavily featured in Tim Ferris' bestseller _The 4-hour Work Week

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