Write about time management, and people make certain assumptions about you. The biggest one? That you are a control freak, bending life into a joyless dirge of work and chore charts. Life is scheduled to the minute. There is no space for serendipity. It is bleak and rigid.
I was reminded of this while reading an article about yours truly that ran in the Financial Times this weekend. That’s the link, but it’s behind a registration/paywall. If you Google “Financial Times Are You As Busy As You Think You Are?” you should be able to access the story.
I don’t have a thin skin — I love publicity! — and this is a perfectly fine piece. Writer Emma De Vita gets to my main points. Whether you’re a planner or not, you can get your head around wanting to spend more of your time on things you like, and less on things you don’t. When people are deeply engaged in what they love, they naturally spend less time on useless emails and puttering around.
But part of being readable (which FT columnists are well-known for) is indulging in certain over-the-top characterizations. So we get these lines: “Control freaks…will relish her uptight approach,” and “Though Ms. Vanderkam’s obsessive approach to time management will no doubt help some people become more productive, its controlling rigidity could leave others feeling suffocated.”
I find this funny because, compared to your average Financial Times reader, I’m probably no where near Type A. I’m not a London investment banker. I’m a work-at-home mom of 3 (almost 4!) kids. Having that number of small children around will mellow just about anyone, but let’s face it. I’m not, and never have been, into “controlling rigidity” about much in my life. The basement is a wreck. I have read of parents using hanging sweater organizers labeled with the days of the week in order to have the kids’ outfits picked out 5 days ahead of time, based on the weather forecast. Let’s just say I don’t do that. I don’t plan my days tightly at all. I don’t like to.
So why am I into time management? Because a life is lived in hours, and therefore the proper stewardship of time is the key to making any sort of dreams or pleasure happen. I want to build a meaningful career while spending gobs of time with my family. I want to indulge in my own hobbies while getting enough sleep. I could lament that this is impossible, and that no one can have it all, or I can be mindful of how I spend my time. I can figure out how to best lay the tiles of this mosaic to create the life I want.
I don’t find that suffocating. I find it freeing. I hope, in time, more people will come to see that.