Manage your time like you manage your money
“I don’t like to be too structured. I want to allow for spontaneity. I want to keep things organic.”
But then I was looking at his diary… “But you haven’t got anything scheduled for this week…
“What’s your strategy here? Give your week fully to spontaneity, and then try and squeeze in some productive time at the margin.”
That’s not going to end well.
He opened up and I could see where he was coming from. He had had a regimented childhood. School, sports lessons, music lessons, after-school mentoring.
It was pleasant enough, but it was a childhood short on idle time.
Ultimately, after he’d topped his University accounting course, he had a bit of a ‘breakdown’ (one of the functional kind). From that point on, he became allergic to too much ‘structure’. He pined for the idle, spontaneous and creative time that he never had when he was a kid.
I totally get that. I can empathise. But it’s a difficult place to be trying to build the life you want. It’s hard to be productive.
And I think a lot of us feel that tension. Between the need to be productive, and the desire to let time come easily – to keep the door open to the magic that rides on spontaneity’s coat-tails.
Personally, I’m no longer in a phase of life that has idle time.
I’ve always hated the regimentation of scheduling too, but I’ve realised that if I’m to achieve anything, I need to learn to love it.
I’ve got to find a way to accept that the price of achieving anything is being disciplined with time. It’s my most valuable resource. I need to spend it wisely.
The key I think is to recognise that scheduling is to time what budgeting is to money.
And just as how a budget gives you a guide on when you have capacity to splash out a little, a schedule helps you understand when you have capacity to let go of the wheel, and when you don’t.
I see a lot of people working without a budget actually saving way more than they need to. They just take on the constant pressure of not having enough and push on through.
It’s not a very juicy way to live.
Much better to know where you’re money is going, and know when there’s enough to splash out on something, and when there isn’t.
Then you can enjoy the act of splashing out, rather than feeling all guilty about it.
Same story with scheduling.
If you are in control of your time – when you know where it’s going – you can be spontaneous. You can say, I can yes to this spontaneous invite to coffee and cake. I had some downtime scheduled for Thursday. I’ll just switch it over to now.
Of course the key is to also be scheduling in some down time – some RnR.
All work and no play makes you dull as a stick.
And yes, managing a schedule is a bit of work. True enough. But if you want to be productive AND lived a balanced life, I just don’t see another way.
And if you get productive enough, then you can enjoy all the downtime you want!