“Control freaks…will relish her uptight approach”

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.

9 thoughts on ““Control freaks…will relish her uptight approach”

  1. I feel like this is the equivalent of being on top of your finances. You’re labeled all kinds of negative things as if it’s bad to be a good steward of your money so that you have the freedom and ability to spend on the things you want to rather than being reduced to only covering the necessities. We get, to some degree, a finite amount of money and certainly our time is limited to a set amount. Why not make the most of it?

    1. @Revanche – yep, similar. Obviously one can be over-the-top unpleasant with either, but being mindful opens up a lot of possibilities.

  2. I have learned a lot from you. My general take: it’s about being informed and efficient. The first step is to do a time study, in order to assess where your hours are spent, or wasted. This is similar to a financial snapshot of your debts and assets, taken to formulate monetary goals (echoing comment above). Then, you use the results of your time assessment to shift around your schedule and make the most efficient use out of your time. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to schedule everything minute-by-minute in the future!

    And kudos on having a positive outlook – publicity is publicity 🙂

    1. @Harmony – Honestly, the only publicity you don’t want is a headline saying “never, ever waste your time reading this.” Even if the article itself says that, if the headline doesn’t, you’re still fine, because most people won’t read the article 🙂

  3. I agree with you – you can be mindful of your time or money, or not, but it’s a choice. I find many people talk about being tired or busy but don’t take a step back and assess their time and where it is going. You have made me very mindful of my own time and I often make smarter decisions as a result.

  4. I think you’re right; if I wasn’t already familiar with your writing, that comment would make me smile at minimum – and probably also make me want to check out your work, out of curiosity.

    Congrats on the publicity! 🙂

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