Time is the school in which we learn. Time is the fire in which we burn. - Delmore Schwartz
Tick-tock, tick tock… It’s the pulse that endlessly beats through his mind. He attempts to ignore it. He jogs, reads, writes, drinks, chats, anything to distract its drumming. But it persists. The pulse follows him. It calls to him. Wherever, whenever… it’s always present.
There is no idle time. Tasks are due now. Tasks are due soon. Every moment is meticulously accounted for. At work, at lunch, while socializing, even in bed with his wife… his mind wanders. What time is it? Where is the minute hand now? He has to look.
Tick-tock, tick-tock… the rhythm consumes him. It’s inside of him. And he knows it. “It’s a part of who I am,” he tells his wife when she gets irritated with his rigidness.
He sets the alarm to 5:00AM seven days a week, but he doesn’t need it. Even on Sundays his eyes robotically pop open around 4:50AM. It’s the internal pulse that arouses him. His body simply knows it’s time. Time for productivity. Time for action. It’s always time for something.
The clock radio reads 4:00… now 4:01AM. No, not yet! It’s still too early. One more hour of sleep… one more hour of peace.
As he drives to work, a countdown plays out in his mind. 33 minutes before he arrives at the office. 2 hours and 48 minutes before the weekly marketing conference call. 5 days, 4 hours and 15 minutes before his bi-annual review. 1 month, 2 weeks, 3 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes before his spring vacation.
And as his overloaded mind begins to spin, he thinks about what life would be like if he could just let go of it all… if the internal pulse died and allowed him to simply be in the moment, and live for the sake of existing. “It would be blissful,” he says to himself. “Sheer freedom!”
He pulls into the parking lot at exactly 7:00AM, enters his office, and opens his desktop calendar. After staring at it blankly for almost a full minute, he closes his eyes and pushes the palms of his hands against his forehead. Overwhelmed, anxious, trapped… but conscious of what must be done.
He slowly lowers his quivering hands, opens his eyes, and begins to draft his daily to-do list.
She doesn’t manage her time. In fact, she rarely knows what time it is. In her mind, there are no deadlines. She understands the concept of time management, and that others are bound by schedules, but she refuses to participate. “Stop bothering me,” she says. “My time is mine.”
She doesn’t own an alarm clock, or a calendar, or even a cell phone. If you question her ways, she’ll snicker and tell you, “You’re just another member of the corporate cattle herd… wasting your time to meet someone else’s agenda.”
She’s totally free to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. A unique, free spirit in charge of her own destiny… completely immune to the forces that attempt to confine her.
“Don’t lecture me on time management,” she exclaims. “Instead, why don’t you ponder the last time you actually enjoyed yourself. I bet, in your quest to satisfy needless commitments and fill a 9 to 5 quota, you enjoy yourself a lot less than I enjoy myself. If you ask me, you’re the one wasting time!”
Naturally, absolute freedom from the bounds of time has its inherent limitations. Human beings cannot achieve goals without dedicating time to them. Likewise, it’s impossible to coordinate productive social interactions without planning a time and space to do so. Thus, she failed out of college, loses jobs faster than she finds them, and can’t maintain a healthy intimate relationship. Even her closest friends have written her off as a failure. And, to her parent’s dismay, she currently lives in their basement, rent free, at the ripe age of 29.
Time Management is Like Gravity
Time management is like gravity. Too much of it, and we’re stuck in place. Not enough of it, and we’re lost in space. We need it to live, but in moderation.