I just read a blog post about time management for lazy people.
By the time I was done, my head was spinning. It listed seventy-two things to do, and wisdom from three very smart and talented masters of time management.
It had photos of desks, rules on how to have phone calls, when to stand and when to sit.
And all so you, too, can be productive--or at least 30% more productive than people who don't manage their time.
What does this say about our society and our world? What does this say about our values?
I think it says a few scary things:
- It's all about being productive. If you get things done it's good. If you get less done, that's not so good. (Last week I asked a fifteen year old student in my leadership program how his morning went. "Productive" he said. His morning involved skiing with a three year old. How can you be productive skiing with a three year old?)
- If you can't manage your time you aren't trying hard enough, or haven't practiced enough, or, even worse, you just don't care. There's some moral, ethical or personal failure here. Shame, shame on you, you unproductive, poorly managed people!
- There's a right way to live, to relate to time and to get things done. And that's to manage, control, and structure everything. Forget about mystery. Forget about happiness. Forget about wonder and joy and adventure and the brilliant spark of creativity. It's all about doing things the right way. It's all about living a managed, controlled and structured life.
Over the past several months I've been getting deeply curious about time, and about how we move through time.
There are 600,000 google searches every month on the phrase "time management" and virtually every result comes up with a version of the same message: "If you just use my time-o-matic system, you'll manage your time well, and manage to be productive, and manage to get the right/virtuous/meaningful things done!"
Never have I seen anything questioning the underlying metaphor of managing time.
And that's where we run into trouble.
Think about it.
Managing time. Can you manage time? Give it a try. Make time do something other than be time.
Make time go faster or slower. Make it bigger or smaller. Make it move three feet to the left.
Can't do it.
Time management is really about people management. It's really about controlling ourselves and others.
And it comes straight out of the industrial revolution, when, for the first time in human history, it was important to get everyone into the right place, at the right time, so the factories could spit out linen and dishes and furniture.
And sometime between the 1750s and today, that kind of unnatural sense that we need to be controlled has seeped far beyond the factory floor. It's oozed into every corner of our 21st century lives.
But the world we're living in isn't a factory. We aren't cogs in a machine.
I've embarked on a new Treasure Hunt, along with eight of my colleagues, to get curious about alternatives to managing time.
Instead of being a time manager, what if you were surfing through time, or dancing?
What if your life were a giant unfolding painting, and you used sketches to show what the future could be?
What if the larger metaphor for your life and the way you move through time is of a novelist writing a book?
Since 2003 I've been living life and moving through time like a Treasure Hunter. The metaphor works for me. Inside of the metaphor, I've played with systems and approaches that get me where I need to be, and that make sure that the things that matter get done. Occasionally, I even manage my time!
My partners and I--along with many others--are discovering how each of us moves through time most easily and naturally for ourselves. As we do, we find that our lives are becoming happier, freer, and more meaningful. We are no longer at the mercy of time.
It's been amazing for me to watch how quickly people's life can shift, just by finding a new way to think about time.
I invite you to get curious about how you move through time.
What's natural for you, and what isn't? What might be a metaphor for your larger life? What might that look like?
Let me and other bizniks know what you come up with; please share your thoughts and discoveries. We didn't mean to, but what we're up to is shifting the way our entire culture relates to time.
And with your help, we think we can do it.