Time Management is Task Management

Posted by Heather Kelly on

We are all so used to the term “time management,” and I use it too, but I think it’s a misnomer. Who can manage time? Time is an abstract concept. Time was not standardized until relatively recently. And there are many different belief systems and scientific studies of the flow of time in various directions or all directions at once. So even though there are now standardized time zones and increments of time like a minute or an hour, even those can not be managed.

On a personal level, what we are really talking about when we refer to time management is actually task management and activity management. What we actually do, or want to do, with our time. Time isn’t a thing that can be managed or controlled. But our perception of time, and how we allocate and use our time, can be managed.

We are really managing ourselves. Making decisions and plans that we think will be the best use of our time. As Seth Godin has written, “I didn’t have time” actually means "it wasn't important enough." It wasn't a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.”

Unlike money management, we can never earn more time. Or get compound interest time. (Wouldn’t that be awesome?) We can only make the best use of the time we have. And try not to do things to ourselves that reduce our amount of time in this life. The rub is that we know how much time in a day we have available to us, and I’m sure a scholar somewhere has done work on the relationship between the amount of energy we have and the amount of time in a typical day, but we never know how much total time we will have on our life.

So we manage our tasks and our activities on a minute, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, annual scale. Few of us manage our activities as a workback plan from our death to our present day. Would that change your priorities for the tasks we allocate time to now on a daily or weekly basis? How? Some belief systems encourage us to think about our activities and tasks in relation to their effect on our descendants seven generations from now. Imagine how we would approach our daily "time management" with that in mind.

If you’d like to read more about time, here are a few interesting essays on Aeon and BrainPickings:

Altered States of Consciousness: The Neuropsychology of How Time Perception Modulates Our Experience of Self, from Depression to Boredom to Creative Flow by Maria Popova 

No absolute time. Two centuries before Einstein, Hume recognised that universal time, independent of an observer’s viewpoint, doesn’t exist. By Matias Slavov

How time stopped circling and percolating and started running on tracks – essay by Keerthik Sasidharan


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