As frequently happens, after thinking and writing about time management the next topic my friend suggested for our study time was “order.” It confirmed my conception that time management is really “me management.” As she put it, it’s about not allowing life to manage me but me managing myself around life.
The book (Alei Shur) started by presenting the close relationship between order and will. The sure sign of a Creator of the universe is the sublime order to things – from the smallest atom to the largest celestial bodies. Order is evidence of a Creator who put things into order.
In our little world it’s the same thing. Order always indicates intentionality. When our life is not in order it means we either lacked the will or were weak-willed and had trouble mobilizing ourselves.
Furthermore just as the order in the created world is a sign of profound wisdom, similarly if we want to put our life in order and we want that order to endure we have to use wisdom.
How do we do this? We have to ask ourselves two questions and only after thinking deeply and thoroughly about the answer to the first can we begin to answer the second. a) What do I want to accomplish? b) What is possible for me to do right now with the means and abilities I have to attain my goals and bring this to fruition?
When answering this second question we cannot demand of ourselves what is beyond our ability because feeling burdened will only cause us to want to throw it all off. At the same time we should not demand too little of ourselves. This is why managing ourselves around life requires wisdom.
Only after serious consideration of these two questions can we organize our schedule around the answers to those questions.
Part of the difficulty is the feeling that my time, which is my life, is not in my hands to organize. There are many demands made on me, especially when my children were small that I felt were burdensome and yet I felt I “should” be doing it.
Another complicating factor is the way that life thrusts us into things. Things come up all the time and as organized as we try to be something throws the order out of whack. We can’t simply do this exercise of the two questions, make an order to our day and run with it.
Instead we need to ask ourselves constantly, throughout the day every day, “What do I have the strength for right now?” Can I do another load of wash or is that beyond my ability right now and what I need right now is a rest?
Actually even though I am not the greatest example of organizing my kids to work in the house, laundry was a simple one. I said, if you don’t do your own wash you won’t have clean clothes to wear. (Fortunately they cared about that.)
The first question is also a constantly changing one. What do I want to accomplish…right now?
We should also remember that there is a connection between the question of what I want right now and the general question of what I want to accomplish in my life. Asking what I want to accomplish comes with a whole slew of other questions. What are my values? What are my deepest strivings? What kind of person do I want to become?
Then when we get to the doing stage: Am I demanding too much of myself? Am I feeling boxed in? Alternatively, am I demanding too little of myself? Is there something I can do that I’m not doing? The bottom line is: I have to know myself. I have to take an honest, hard, responsible and compassionate look at myself. This seems to be at the crux of it.