If you Google “time management,” you’ll instantly have access to over 91 million entries. While I have only read through a few, I’m sure that the vast majority of them tout the benefits of time management and offer ways to improve yours. Much of it is good stuff, well worth learning. But beware… there is a dark side to time management.
As you increase your focus on effectively using your time, you may pull your attention away from other priorities. That’s not always a problem – but it can be. Consider the following:
The more you treat time like a commodity to be managed, the less you may appreciate its true value. Time offers an opportunity to enjoy, appreciate, and engage meaningfully in life. But as people increasingly hone their ability to get more done in less time, they often lose a connection with each moment. For instance, this spring, you may efficiently buy and plant your favorite flowers in a single morning, freeing you to move on to other chores. Though this is efficient, think about what you’ve lost by not taking time to enjoy the planting process or to absorb the flowers’ beauty.
The more you focus on getting things done, the less time you may allot for feeding your soul. Accomplishments and checking things off your lists can be gratifying. But if you fail to do the things that bring you pleasure (things that are more about being than doing), you may find that a feeling of emptiness or rootlessness creeps into your heart. Instead, you might find great meaning and satisfaction in enjoying your heart’s delight without accomplishing a thing. This could be playing an instrument for your own pleasure, reading poetry, taking a long bath, or even gazing at the walls as you let your mind run wildly free.
As you become more efficient at managing your time, you may fail to prioritize friends and loved ones. Or, even if you spend time with them, you may fail to slow down enough to truly connect. A sure sign of this is if you are texting or responding to emails most of the time you are with others. Other signs that you are disconnected from others are feeling alone, isolated, like something is missing, or even feeling depressed.
Holding fast to the idea that doing more is better can lead you to feel like a failure. You may have a false sense that you can do it all, if only you manage your time well enough. That’s simply not true. Perhaps you are not fitting it all in because you have taken on too much. Instead of trying to (yet again) rearrange everything on your plate and perhaps add a little more, think about whether the better response is to take something off your plate – either moving it to someone else’s plate, or even leaving it right there on the table.
All of that said, of course time management skills are important. It is good to have direction and can help to be efficient in your endeavors. But if you judge yourself based on how much you cram into a day, pay attention. Think about whether you feel satisfied with how you choose to spend your precious time, and with how well you appreciate that time. If you feel good about it all, then keep right on going. But if you are managing your life rather than living it, you may want to do less and be more.