One of the great ironies of life is the sheer number of time management strategies that exist.
Imagine for a minute (or perhaps you don’t need to use your imagination, perhaps this scenario is all too real) that you are feeling overwhelmed with all the things you need to do. You hop on Google, and tap in “time management” to get some quick ideas on how to better organize yourself, your time, and your life.
Two hours later, you’ve read at least 40 articles, found 16 apps, discovered that you can spend the rest of your life learning about time management, and, well, wasted two hours.
However, you are no wiser about how to solve the problem that led you here in the first place. To wit, how can you craft a meaningful life when you are forever deluged in a tidal wave of to-dos?
We’ve been taught (dare I say conditioned) by the purveyors of time management solutions from Franklin Covey to David Allen that the solution to our feelings of busy-ness can be found in a better planner. If only we could cram our whole list of activities onto one page, we would find that nirvana of perfect productivity.
The unfortunate truth is that you can’t manage time.
Time goes right on doing what it wants to do, which is to march forward inexorably from morning until night. We can’t make more of it, and we can’t make it slow down. And by cramming every hour of our day full of tasks, we won’t arrive at some state of completion.
The to-do list never actually ends.
There is no finish line.
Ok, that’s some hard stuff, and now you might be feeling like this is the worst article ever, but hang in there, here comes the good news.
It’s time to fit less into each day, not more.
Many of us have become overwhelmed because we are trying to be everything to everyone, including ourselves. We want to be perfect workers with awesome businesses and big careers. We want to live up to the expectations set by super women Juliette Kayyem or Callie Crossley or Annissa Essaibi George. We want to be great friends and spend quality time with our inner circle. We want to be fabulous parents, caregivers, sisters or wives. We want to be healthy, eat right, exercise and meditate. We want to read books, go on adventures, learn new things and become wiser.
We also need to sleep.
How can we possibly do and be all of these things in just 24 hours every day? We can’t. We need to take back some of our time, and make space for the things that matter.
Each of us has three lists:
The “must do” list is the big one. These are things we have to do. Things that pay the bills, put food on the table, and make sure that our families are cared for. Then we have to sleep.
The “should do” list is the one that sucks up all of our time. I should be on the PTO at my son’s school. I should mow my lawn. I should clean out my closet. This list is where your guilt and stress comes from. These are the things you think other people think you should do. Throw it out. Cross everything off. Outsource it if it really needs to get done, but if you don’t have to do it, don’t!
The “could do” list is the best list. These are things you could do that move you towards your hopes and dreams. These are the things that get sidelined because you are too busy doing things you should do. (Need inspiration? Check out our self-care to-do list).
You can buy a new planner, get a better app, and be continuously informed about where you need to be and what you should be doing.
Or, you could make this the year you stop feeling guilty about not doing the things other people expect you to do, and start becoming who you could be.