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Time management and life management

Friday, 21 December, 2018 - 11:25 am

Time management.jpg 

Some things come naturally to some people but for others they’re a struggle. And I struggle with time management. I constantly try to squeeze in one extra thing, even though (in the back of my mind) I know that I have to leave now to be punctual. I get easily distracted by something important (though not urgent) that comes up - even while I’m supposed to be working on something else.

And worst of all, I can sometimes find myself down a rabbit hole - usually discovering something interesting and informative - yet completely irrelevant.

The best method that I’ve found for dealing with this is to ensure that I start my day by reviewing my calendar and tasks, and knowing clearly which responsibilities are on today’s schedule. When I do that, I find myself much more focused and less easily derailed.

Yesterday morning I found myself getting very easily distracted and I realized that due to an appointment I had first thing in the morning, I hadn’t reviewed my tasks. Of course, once I did, I realized how woefully behind I was…

Here’s the thing though - this time management solution that I’m describing can only work if I’ve made sure to schedule my day and create a list of tasks. If I hadn’t done that yesterday, I would have had nothing to refocus and reorient myself toward today.

In my experience, when I have a very busy day - packed with work and meetings and classes, and I manage to mostly remain focused and accomplish much of what had needed to be done, at the end of the day I feel good. Perhaps somewhat tired, but my mind feels “intact”.

On the other hand, if I have a very busy day filled with similar activities but without the planning, rather just responding to whatever comes up, aside from getting distracted much more easily, I also feel worse at the end of the day. I feel like I’m chasing my tail, like I’m not accomplishing anything - emotionally worn out.

These time management experiences, I think, reflect life in general. A meaningful life is one that is based on a belief system that we then intentionally live out every single day.

The troubling aspect of this is that while it’s fairly common to plan one’s “professional” day, it is much less common for people to plan their life. You might be able to communicate your company’s missions statement with reasonable accuracy, but do have a personal mission statement?

Obviously you can’t plan every aspect of your life, but some things should not change regardless of where your career takes you or in which city you end up living. It is true that everyone experiences distractions and diversions from what they know to be true and correct. However, if your life is one big experience of “going with the flow” (one of those popular sayings that is often more harmful than helpful), your life can feel like you are perpetually chasing your tail and not accomplishing anything.

This week’s Torah portion begins by emphasizing the fact that our forefather Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years. Our sages tell us that these were the 17 best years of his life (17 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word טוב, good). While a superficial overview of his life would reveal that physically this might have been the case, how does it compute that the saintly Jacob would live his most spiritually satisfying years in Egypt? Egypt is described as being filled with debauchery, not exactly a spiritual oasis.

He was able to accomplish this because he lived with intention. His life was oriented around Torah and it’s guidance; he chose how to live and which things would take priority. He certainly didn’t “go with the flow”.  Therefore, although he was surrounded by some of the lowest behaviors on earth, his life was not affected - in fact, he lived his 17 best years in Egypt.

When our life is lived with intention, nothing can interfere with our ability to create the life we want. Even if we will temporarily veer from that path, we have the foundation to which to return.

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