Time Management is a Value Call
I like to find "Time Management" readings for the students coming into my Human Development courses, and I come across a lot of good tips for my students. But, by far, the most pertinent advice is that which puts Time Management against "Value." When I say value, I'm not going for a consumerist definition, though that is actually valid. Making money feeds your family and your hobbies. And how much time should you spend washing your car if you don't enjoy it, if an hour's worth of your time is worth more than the 8 dollars you shell out for the automatic wash? More accurately, I am defining value as something that is of great emotional worth to you: your children, your family, your religion, your career, etc. (Image above was taken from TheAtlantic.com)
What I don't like about most articles written on time management and values is that they are aimed at guilting people into spending more time doing things society thinks they should value, rather than helping people evaluate their behaviors. So, let me take a moment to admit something: I spend too much time watching funny internet videos, socializing online and online shop browsing. I am not saying that all those things are wasteful or have no value. Laughter and lightheartedness are things I value and funny internet videos help satiate that small need. Speaking to my friends and family and encouraging their interests online is important. Maintaining my online author network is important. I value my family and friends and fans, and want to spend time connecting with them. Shopping online is not important and I should stop doing it, but sometimes when I'm manic I really want to buy things, and even if I hide my cards and just browse it makes me feel awful and greedy. So, that's time I could be spending making play dough with my kids or just vacuuming, which would be more productive.
I don't want my students to come away from my class feeling guilty or thinking that I don't waste time. Rather, I want them to evaluate the things they love to do and build their lives around those things, so they are more successful and happy. Indeed, I want that for myself. So, there are good reasons for making a list of items that you value, and I encourage you to do so right now. With one condition: be honest. If you hate what you do for a living, go ahead and put it at the bottom of your list. I'm not going to read it. Here, I'll do it with you:
1. Kids and husband
3. Extended friends and family
7. Time to relax
8. Time to Workout
There are more things I like to fit into my life, but these are high on the list. Now, think about what you did yesterday and write down the time (approximate) you spent on those activities, and reorganize them by the longest time spent to the shortest time spent. Hard to do? Some overlap? Yes, I know. I'm going to put some of the time spent on FB or Twitter as #3, since that's how I speak to many of my friends and family members, and I'm going to put blogging under #4 since that's a form of writing I enjoy but it could also fit under #9 (and crossover is okay because when you can kill two birds with one stone, that rocks). Okay, so I'll be honest with you all. This is what my chart looks like from yesterday (and every day varies a little):
1. Relaxing (this is really just sleeping and sitting once in a while, 7hrs sleep + 3 hrs sitting and holding kids/reading/just resting my mind grapes= 10 hrs)
2. Family Needs Time (cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, playing, teaching and speaking to my kids/husband 8 hrs)
3. Socializing (about 5 hours online with emails and various social networks, including phone and text)
4. Writing (blogging, class planning, some social writing and poetry/fiction writing for about 4 hours)
5. Fitness (1-2 hours combo walking, various stretches and strength training, gardening)
6. Reading (1-2 hours book, blog, news article reading)
7. Watching online videos (1-2 hours)
8. Spirituality (10 min prayer)
Am I ashamed of this chart? Eh. It's not perfect, for sure. I spent way more time socializing than I needed to. To be completely honest, a lot of the time spent with the kids was trying to get them to play quietly so I could get writing done or just rest my mind. And it's just kind of embarrassing that I spent 10 minutes on praying/thinking of other people. I know that these time frames aren't perfect, and that they don't even add up to 24 hrs. That's because a lot of my activities cross over, and because I multi-task a lot. I had very little time left for creative hobbies outside of writing. I would have liked to spend less of the day cleaning and more of it playing with the kids, and I really didn't need to watch Buzzfeed videos for longer than 15 min. Overall, though, it's not terrible, if it could use some tweaking.
The main idea of this exercise (and I suggest doing a list after every night for a week) is to show you how busy you really are and what you are really busy with. Not to make you feel guilty, but to make you understand how your values and your time do not always align. Will you ever be able to make them fall into place? Maybe not, but one can always do better.
When a student of mine complained that he had no time to read an article about cultural sovereignty (which I handed out three days in advance) I said, "I have a hard time believing that you could not rework your time to value your cultural background, but I have a more difficult time understanding why someone who clearly values his culture would not want to know more about this topic." He looked at me and smiled and said, "I could try harder in the future to make time." I smiled back, knowing that I waste time, too, that I fall short of perfect, but wanting to play the teacher, "It's not about making time. It's about reallocating time to invest in the things you really value."
We all spend time on things that are unimportant, silly or wasteful. And maybe that's how we relax, unwind, laugh. That's okay. Do that, but manage it. Rework the amount of time to align better with the things that make you truly happy. Your life is your own, your choices your own, your value your own, so if you want to value video games over other things you can. That can be on the top of your list.
Personally, the top of my list needs work, and, instead of pretending that my spirituality and family are the most important things to me, I could do a better job representing that in my life. I don't want to give up on socializing, messing around or even dress browsing, I just want to limit them so that my life can be fuller. I hope you're inspired to do the same because we have a limited amount of time with this one life, and, as far as I know, we can't go back and do it again. Though, if anyone locates a time turner, please contact me by clicking on the "contact tab" above. I could put that thing to good use. But I'd probably just watch more Buzzfeed videos.
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H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.