In a previous decade of my life, I actually did sorta secretly think time management was for dummies. Or, at least, for structure-obsessed people like engineers (sorry, honey), accountants and the like. You know, people who care about details and getting stuff done. Not people who just roll with stuff and are drunk on the beauty of life. Not intriguing, artistic types like, ahem, me.
That was the decade that I entered university. Somehow, I managed to get through with decent grades. When you’re flying solo, you can pull all-nighters writing papers on meaningful topics such as the the similarity between Schoenberg’s atonal music and game theory (I still don’t understand why my prof didn’t think it was as brilliant as I did), hand it in, and then pass out in the library for a few hours. But university doesn’t last forever, and after seven years, I was finally out in the real world.
Fast forward one year. I found myself living in the tropics of SE Asia with two random part-time jobs, each with a unique-but-similar Trumpian boss. I was also, to put it delicately, thoroughly knocked up. As I waited for the birth of our first daughter, the idea of time management started to flit across my hormonal brain: what would life with a baby look like? Would I still be able to write? What about showering? And how could I mold this tiny human into a useful member of society?
Needless to say, the questions didn’t abate after Z’s arrival. Instead, I was forced to acknowledge that life with a baby runs more smoothly when you have a schedule. And a meal plan. And you just generally choose to get stuff done, like an engineer. I also had to acknowledge that if I ever wanted to write again, I would have be organized. I had an identity crisis as I admitted that I had missed out during my university years. Learning to embrace order was painful for this type B: the new habits were hard, but the change in mindset was harder.
It’s been 4.5 years since my awakening. I no longer internally debate the merit of time management. I thoroughly acknowledge it, even if it still doesn’t come naturally. I’ve got the basic stuff down – eg: you should feed your kids at regular intervals – and I’ve even made forays into advanced-to-me territory, like arriving at the dentist on time and making my bed every morning. Now I find myself contemplating the more-philosophical side of time management: how much time in a day should I spend being “useful?” Is sitting around always just wasting time? Do different personality types need to accomplish more or less in a day in order to have a meaningful life? Could I have been an Olympic athlete/best-selling author/supreme leader if only I’d spent less time philosophizing and more time doing?
Those questions are ones that I’m still muddling through. I don’t have any concrete answers, but some rough guidelines are starting to shimmer like mirages across the desert of my brain:
Is my downtime life-enriching? Zoning out while strolling through the woods is, probably. Zoning out while scanning Facebook isn’t, certainly.
Is mundane work more meaningful than I give it credit for? I do not like folding laundry, scrubbing floors, or making Sunday school schedules. But then I remember the words of Mother Teresa: “Do small things with great love,” and it forces me to reconsider whether these basic tasks matter more than I thought.
Am I measured by what I accomplish? I find it so easy to get trapped by defining myself by what I do. But if that is truly how my worth is measured, I was pretty much doomed from the start. I believe that humans have intrinsic worth, and yet, what we do with our gifts and talents and life matters. I just don’t know what the balance is.
For now, I’m trying to be content with the discontent. To analyze my use of time, but to not let it derail my bed-making. To learn time-management from my engineer husband without trying to mimic him (because then our house would contain nothing but shelves built out of milk crates displaying every participation trophy he has ever received). To find a balance between doing and being.
I hope Time Management for Dummies is actually a book. Because I could really use a copy.