Our attitude toward time management greatly affects our productivity, and that attitude starts developing very early. This week, I overheard an interesting conversation between two 11-year-olds. It went something like this:
Kid 1: “Oh my goodness, I am so tired, I don’t even know if I can do anything today. I got no sleep last night.”
Kid 2: “Oh I KNOW! I was up until 1:00am and I had to get up at 5:00am for school.”
Kid 1: “Well, I’ve actually been up until 2:00am all week”
Kid 2: “Well, I kind of have it worse because I have a teacher who gives way more homework than you do…”
I listened to this conversation in amusement as I pondered two things:
1) Imagine how brilliant these children would be if I actually thought they were using all of this time to study efficiently and
2) How perfectly they will fit into the adult world where this kind of dialogue happens on a routine basis.
The Busy Battle
I like to call these kinds of conversations “busy battles” and the one-upmanship that occurs during them is extremely detrimental to our time management. We all have lots to do. Some of us, admittedly, have more to do than others, but when we make it a point to focus on how little time we have and how busy we are to the point that it becomes a competition, we are only creating an environment that breeds negativity and seeks pity. These of course are not the conditions that lead to motivated and efficient work.
In this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Laura Vanderkam makes some interesting points on the subject. At times, she seems to insinuate that everyone is exaggerating their busy level, which I do not entirely agree with, but I do agree with her suggestion that we change our language. She writes, “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘It’s not a priority’ and see how that feels.”
Saying that something is ‘not a priority’ shifts the control of our time back to us, not our schedules. In the competitive society we live in, it’s only natural that we’ll get sucked into a busy battle from time to time. Wouldn’t it be cool, however, if that battle were about things we’ve actually accomplished with our time and not simply how many hours we fill with things on a daily basis.
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Photo Credit: Sweet Crisis