Posts Tagged ‘Time management’

The good people at Sacristy Press have published my ebook Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom in an Hour as a paperback.

They have done a nice job and, while I like the portability of the eBook, I also like having a real book in my hand: turning the pages, making a margin note with a pencil and so on. And what’s more, with a paperback you can lend a copy to your friend – or leave it in a public place for a random stranger to pick up. I saw someone do this with a thriller recently. It seems such a fun idea.  But to do it with a little book about time wisdom is a potentially transformative act of charity.

I have emphasized the need for clergy to get wise about time. But the reality is that there is need for very many people in all walks of life and at different stages in life’s journey to wise up about time too. Recent editions of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times carried articles explaining the ills of busyness, and in April 2010 the Harvard Business Review warned of the dangers of what authors Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges, called ‘The Acceleration Trap’, whereby companies and corporations both demand more and more in terms of productivity and simply keep changing things.

This is why Time wisdom matters so much!

Time wisdom is ‘time management plus’. Time management tends to treat time as if it were a limited resource which can be used more or less efficiently.  As I put it in the micro-paperback: Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom in an Hour

Time wisdom says that what matters about time is not only physics but biology, psychology and spirituality. People have complex needs, curious cycles and, thankfully, individual and not always predictable thoughts and feelings. … Time is also the opportunity, the wonder and mystery of the present moment. Time is a new turn of the kaleidoscope of possibilities which requires of us not efficient reaction, but creative response based on a careful reading of the ever changing patterns. This is part of the joy of life …

Regular readers of this blog will know that I recently challenged people to give up busyness for Lent. Some of those who took it on said it was the toughest Lenten challenge they have ever encountered – the busy habit was so ingrained, the demon busyness so powerful. It was not that there was more and more work to do necessarily, but that the need to be busy had inched its way into the soul – squeezing out the contemplative space and creating a frenzy of on-going and draining activity.

Those who tried it reported that some of the tips I suggested, like never letting people get away with calling you ’busy’, not using the word as a self-description, and finding some regular time each day to do absolutely nothing had a big impact on them and helped them ease themselves out of a dangerous rut.

As for myself – I tried it too and also found it a real test. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that having gone so public in this area I would be challenged – and I was almost flooded out with new work, unexpected opportunities and even a family bereavement. Through it all I remained resolute that come what may I would not let the demon busyness get into my soul. I think I just about keep it at bay – but it is a constant struggle. I shall be taking an hour to reread my own little book every now and again: just to help keep the upper  hand with regard to busyness.

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There’s no time like the present for sorting out your relationship with time, so why not choose one or two of the NYR ideas below to help you avoid the perils of excessive busyness in 2013?

  1. Commit to making a two-column to-do list at least once a week, if not every day.
    The two columns are headed ‘must’ and ‘may’ respectively. They require you to distinguish between essential tasks and desirable ones. Many people who are too busy never make that distinction.
  2. Disappoint someone regularly. Sometimes yourself.
    People who are too busy are often attempting the impossible. Guess what! You don’t have to do the impossible. To achieve the extremely difficult is more than enough.
  3. Get your holidays booked into your diary by the end of January.
    This might be difficult and involve a permissions process but where there’s a will there’s a way. Get it sorted. Knowing when your breaks are coming, having ‘Predictable Time Off’ – PTO – makes a real difference. People study this stuff and have proved it.
  4. Trim the length of regular appointments.
    If you normally see people for 90 mins make it 75. If it is usually 60 mins in 2013 make it 50. It sounds mean but, be honest, if you knew you had less time you would use it better.
  5. Use the timer on your phone a lot more.
    Be disciplined in how much time you give to both essential and desirable tasks. When the time runs out, stop. If the work is not finished, book another session into your diary to complete it. Sometimes be extra generous in your time allocation, especially if it is tasks that needs extended concentration – or if you just enjoy it.
  6. Have a clear-out of the meetings you attend.
    If you don’t know what the meeting is achieving, or don’t feel it is very efficient, then tell the chair. If they don’t care – resign. If you are the chair – get it sorted.
  7. Make a vow never to censor yourself when a really simple question bubbles up in your mind.
    Those questions – the ones that feel stupid – are often the key that needs to be inserted into the lock of some problem that no one has yet properly spotted. Asking it of yourself, or of others, could free up hours and hours of time by creating a new way forward. The little question ‘must we?’ has revolutionary potential, as do ‘why?’ or ‘why now?’, as kids know. (Sometimes, of course your question might actually be stupid, but who cares. It might give everyone a laugh and that is always energizing.
  8. Invest yourself deeply in something that can only be done slowly.
    One of the best ways to de-bug your busyness is to step aside from the time management mania into something slow. Playing or listening to music is good (don’t speed it up) so too is cooking or gardening, as are most things that come under the heading ‘spirituality’. (Use that timer to ensure you give these things long enough.)
  9. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media.
    They can easily become anti-social media and remove you from contact with the people around you. Like everything modern, they can easily drag you out of the present moment or even become addictive. Speaking of which, let me stop right there.

Happy New Year!

P.S For a load more ideas about how to grow in time wisdom and get out of the busyness trap have a quick look at my book Beyond Busyness

P.P.S. If you liked any of that you might also like this from the Digital Nun.

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It has been a few years in the making, but this week my book about ‘Time Wisdom’ was published.

It has been fun to work on and it is great that it is out there. It is based on 28 very short ‘sessions’ (one for each day of the month) and is my attempt to blend some of the things that the best time-management gurus say with the spirituality and theology of time.

Until recently my favorite time saying was the Irish proverb which runs, ‘when God made time, he made plenty’. But the thought going round in my mind now is, ‘Complaining that there are not enough hours in the day is as sensible as grumbling about the temperature of the sun or the diameter of plant earth’.  Time is a fundamental aspect of the universe. There can be neither not enough nor too much.

Towards the end of the book I mention the Corpus Clock in Cambridge, which is shown in the illustration. This is one of the few clocks in the world designed to highlight some of the subjective features of time: the strange-looking grasshopper is what the inventor John Taylor calls a ‘Chronophage’, literally a time-eater which winks at you as it gobbles up the seconds of your life. Also, the Corpus Clock is only accurate once every five minutes; reflecting our experience that time speeds up and slows down.

English: Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi Colleg...

English: Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To help me write this book – and indeed to help me get through life – I am using the idea not of time management but time wisdom. I suggest that it is only by being aware of many dimensions of the reality and experience of time that we can be comfortable and effective.  We can’t manage time, but we can be wise about it.

The book is intended for clergy and the illustrations are taken from ministerial life. That is deliberate, as it seems to me (and I should know) that ordinary time management often does not work in that context. But there is plenty in it for anyone who has a lot of choices to face and who is tempted to feel that there are not enough hours in the day. Anyone who wants to get beyond busyness.

So, if you are not too busy – check out the book.

And if you are too busy – check out the book.

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