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An Outside-the-Box Time Management Technique

One of my readers suggested I write a post about time management techniques. This is interesting because I actually have some opinions on the matter. But they are a little outside the box.

How do I manage my time?

To be honest, I don’t.

But wait, that’s not entirely true. I do use the calendar app Sunrise to schedule my appointments, but that’s about it! I rely on my digital calendar a lot actually. But I don’t like the idea of “managing” time.

I’m the kind of person that is a little aloof. When someone asks me what my plans are today, I usually have a hard time remembering. If you ask me what I had for dinner last night, I also need to rack my brain, look a little up and to the left into the air to try to find the answer. This is slightly embarrassing I know.

I’ve tried managing my time and sometimes I’m good at it for a while. Remember, I woke up early for a year and had a pretty ridiculous morning routine. I had about two hours before I had to leave for work where I managed to fit in meditation, reading, yoga, journaling, and a few YouTube videos and podcasts. I started each day by doing a bunch of stuff I wanted. The rest of the day was more in reaction to other people’s priorities (work, family, friends, etc). This was how I managed my time.

Time is Becoming More Irrelevant

As a freelancer with no “workplace” to be each morning, I can wake up whenever I want. I’ve experimented with waking up at different times using different alarm apps (Sleep Cycle, Fitbit, etc) or techniques. I have recently been waking up naturally. I quite like this because it helps me realize that time is actually irrelevant. I wake up and get out of bed when I feel rested. Or when I don’t feel like being in bed. Not when the time says I should. The sun shining through the windows gives me a good estimate of what time it is. Time is just an illusion, and the idea of managing time just seems silly to me.

What do we typically feel when we look at a clock?

  • Shit, I’m gonna be late
  • Ugh, I wish I had more time!
  • Whew, I still have some time left
  • Come on, will it ever be time to leave?
  • OMG, where did the time go!

All of those reactions are based on this idea that time is a scarce resource that must be properly managed. What’s the number one excuse people have for not doing something? “I don’t have enough time.”  We look at our life as a ticking clock and if we don’t get a handle on it, the sand will sift through the hourglass and we’ll be dead. We will sit on our death-bed and regretfully wish we had not worked so hard and lived more in the moment.

Dexter Time

If you ask me, I’d rather live in the present moment and be completely unaware of the time. To go with the flow! Instead of managing time, I like to manage my energy.

Managing Energy not Time

I don’t really like the word “managing” but I’ll use it for lack of a better term. As I move more toward living in the present, time sort of fades to the background. What’s more important to me is how I feel. What am I inspired and motivated to do? What decisions to I need to make right now? I’ve woken up, now what?

The idea of having to work a set number of hours per day is ridiculous to me. As a newly self-employed freelancer, it’s taken me awhile to get over the guilt of not putting in 8 hours of work. Or 40 hours in a week. Those are old-world paradigms that directly relate time to profits. That no longer resonates with me, so I’m trying something different.

Sometimes we don’t feel like working and it takes a ton of willpower to sit at our desks. Sometimes we can work for hours and hours and well into the night. Time flies by when we’re in the zone. We are in a state of flow and time is irrelevant. On the flip side, time seems to crawl when we’re bored or doing something we don’t want to do.

Time is a Social Agreement

Time is a social agreement to help people coordinate plans. It is great for setting appointments and creating a sense of predictability and routine in your life. For my coaching clients, I allow them to schedule appointments with me through Calendly.

Manage time to the extent that it helps you enjoy your life and make time for things you want to do. I noticed that when I put something on the calendar, it’s more likely to get done! When I have an appointment, it also helps give a little bit of pressure and limitation to finish a task I’m working on. Knowing I need to be somewhere at 4:00 PM helps me a lot by giving me a container to work within. While I love days where nothing is scheduled, I do like a little structure.

I tried making an ultra schedule like Jessica Hische, but I failed and ended up ignoring everything and doing what I wanted to do instead. The idea of stopping when I’m in the zone, or starting when I don’t want to felt unnatural. But I get how it works for some people. Again, it’s a nice structure to fall back on, but always make room for spontaneity.

My friend Elz wrote a beautiful post about time. She talks about “time tyranny” how we are ruled by the clock. In a wonderful shift of language she says, “I’ve begun replacing thoughts and expressions of ‘time’ with ‘windows of opportunity.’ Not all windows of opportunity are open, such as those we reserve for sleep, and other set commitments, such as defined work/job hours, but for the rest, try it on…a friend or colleague asks you for coffee or to help with a project/event…do you say, Yes, I have a window of opportunity for that or No, I haven’t a window of opportunity for that.  How does it feel compared to Yes, I have time or No, I haven’t time…?”

Think about that!

My number one tip for managing time:

Don’t manage time. Be present.

In the words of the great Ram Dass, “Be here now.”

But I understand this isn’t always easy or appropriate. Instead of worrying about managing your time, work on increasing your awareness or mindfulness. Notice and observe your feelings, thoughts, and energy levels. What do you feel like doing? Do it. Do you need a nap? Take one. Are you procrastinating and avoiding the work you have to do, take note. Use this as an opportunity for greater self awareness. Some people work better with tight schedules. Some better with none at all!

I’m a mix. I like to schedule my commitments to others and I also like recurring events that I rely on each week like guitar lessons, volleyball games, or coaching calls. It adds an element of predictability and routine. From there I can be free to flow in the moment. Knowing that I have my calendar to fall back on and remind me when I need it to. A little bit of structure helps me feel less stressed.

Oh, and nature doesn’t give a shit that it’s 1:00 PM on a Saturday. It just does it’s thing.

So do your thing!

Other tips:

  • If you want to really get something done, put it on your calendar
  • Use an cloud-based calendar app like Sunrise that syncs with all your devices
  • Don’t “manage” time, but work on your mindfulness and increasing awareness.
  • Manage energy not time, follow inspiration and curiosity, go with the flow.
  • Pay attention to your body signals, thoughts, and feelings as a guide.
  • Work when you are inspired and motivated, not when you’re “supposed to” (within reason)
  • Use time to coordinate social agreements.
  • Set a time to “turn off” your “work-mode” – so you can relax with friends and family
  • Use time to add predictability and routine, but not too much.
  • Don’t be such a slave to the clock. You are the boss!
  • Thinking about the past or future too much can lead to needless suffering.
  • Be present. Put your attention to the here and now.
  • Stop worrying about not having enough time.
  • Think of time as “windows of opportunity.”
  • Try waking up without an alarm clock for awhile.
  • Try living more like nature does!
Jeff Finley
Jeff Finley

Jeff is a graphic artist, designer, musician, writer, and mystic with a passion for truth and personal growth. He's the author of Wake Up, Maker/Mistaker, and Thread's Not Dead, as well as the creator of Starseed Supply Co. Learn more about him here.

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  1. “Instead of managing time, I like to manage my energy.” Definitely inspiring!!
    Instead of trying to control time it’s best if we control our energy to do the things we need to do. It’s true that ‘time’ gives us a kind of frame, but still we’re the boss… thank you =)

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