The Essence of Time Management

Time has always baffled me. Questions like…

  • Where does the past go?
  • Where does the future come from?
  • Why can we only act in the present moment?
  • Why are people judged by their past when they can do nothing to change it?
  • Since we can’t change the past, why are we not judged by the decisions we make now, in the present moment, the only place any of us live?

Today, it’s easy to answer the last two, but that still doesn’t explain the first three. Some say time is all an illusion, because there is no past nor future only an eternal now.

Knowing that all my past moments have created my present moment and my present moment will create my future moments, leaves me in awe of the power each of us has over our lives. The modern concept of time management has always bugged me for this reason. I have no desire to manage my time like a machine, because at my very essence I am time and so are you.

Over the years, I’ve asked myself, what can I do to solve my problems with time? And many years ago I found the best answer I have ever read in Leadership – The Inner Side of Greatness by Peter Koestenbaum.

Direct your life so as to make work part of your life – part of living from the inside out, part of your inner production of time. Do not separate work from home and leisure. Do not compromise your full self-disclosure. Know your meanings, and commit yourself to them. Existence is not an easy task. It takes a lifetime to come close to achieving authenticity. But as you move in that direction, your problems with time management will resolve themselves. This works; nothing else does. Do not stop organizing your time, but know the difference between a true solution and an anodyne.

You will never be totally true to yourself, but to the degree that you make a commitment in that direction, and to the extent that you approximate that ideal, the world will respond. This means that your health will improve – your physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, relational, educational, and financial health. You will attract from your environment the people, systems and financial support required to fulfill your deepest essence, for what you do is also the most natural thing to do. This new health springing from within, will express itself in diminished problems with time. To accomplish this is the slowly unfolding project of a lifetime. Each day that you embark in this process can feel like a success.

Peter Koestenbaum’s book isn’t a trendy new book. It’s old and I don’t think it was popular when it was new. But if you’re unfamiliar with his work, I suggest you start with this article in Fast Company. Do You have the Will to Lead?

“Everything I do,” says Koestenbaum, “is about using themes from the history of thought to rescue people who are stuck.” His logic: Change — true, lasting, deep-seated change — is the business world’s biggest and most persistent challenge. But too many people and too many companies approach change by treating it as a technical challenge rather than by developing authentic answers to basic questions about business life. “We’ve reached such explosive levels of freedom that, for the first time in history, we have to manage our own mutation,” declares Koestenbaum. “It’s up to us to decide what it means to be a successful human being. That’s the philosophical task of the age. Nothing happens unless you make it happen. As a leader, everything is your responsibility, because you always could have chosen otherwise.”

I suggest you read his works. Peter will give you a whole new way of looking at time management, GTD, leadership, and personal development.

He also illuminates the fallacy that we control anything but ourselves. We think we do, but we don’t. Well, at least not the way we think we do. All external control is an illusion. The only control you have is self-control. However, that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility, you are responsible for the things that happen in your external world, because their creation begins in your inner world. It is a paradox which sounds like hocus-pocus nonsense. It isn’t. It’s as real as the pain you feel when you smack your head on a rock.

I will leave you with my all-time favorite quote from Peter, one that resonates with the recent discussion we’ve had here about control and parenting:

Does developing the will to transform mean that you can actually will others to change?

Taking personal responsibility for getting others to implement strategy is the leader’s key polarity. It’s the existential paradox of holding yourself 100% responsible for the fate of your organization, on the one hand, and assuming absolutely no responsibility for the choices made by other people, on the other hand. That applies to your children too. You are 100% responsible for how your children turn out. And you accomplish that by teaching them that they are 100% responsible for how they turn out.

2 thoughts on “The Essence of Time Management”

  1. Great post Steve. I really like the last passage. If there ever is a manual for being a person living in society, it would be rule #1.

    I have now added Koestenbaum on my “to read” list.

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