The Four Quarters 1 – Personal Time Management

09 June 2009, by A. Cedilla

 It isn’t so much a question as it is a complaint: “Who doesn’t want to have more time?”

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) everyone has the same number of hours in their day as everyone else.

You have the amount of time that Shakespeare, Einstein, and Mother Teresa had. So the usual reaction is either a) “Go on and be amazing,” or b) “No excuses, slacker!”

But is that really it?

Such a simplistic view of the situation pushes us to cram as many things as we can into our days, multi-tasking into frazzled oblivion as pressures within and without push us to Get The Most Out Of Our Time.

You need to understand: It takes time to make time,–to step back and understand that being busy doesn’t always mean accomplishing something.

See, Shakespeare, Einstein and Mother Teresa made their contributions over a lifetime. We’re talking about the long-haul here, not just the frequent sprints that life nowadays calls us to do.

How you use your time should be dictated by what you truly hold important, vital, even, and then arranged in a logical, sustainable progression. The key phrases here are you, your time, what you hold important, and sustainable. (Sometimes logic isn’t always the way to go, you know? Experience, gut feeling and daring play their parts as well.)

How do you judge meaningful action, the meaningful use of time? First, you identify your place, the arena where you move in time – work/office/career, home/family/relationships, self/internal development etc. Focus on the following factors:

a) Time – It goes only one way, allowing for no u-turns, roll-backs and re-starts in a real-world setting. This makes time the number one criteria. And while this contradicts the statement above about place, wait for it, the explanation will spin itself out.


b) Importance – Note, importance, not priority. Something can be a priority because it’s pressing, but not important in the long run, like toner running out for the copying machine, say.

In the same measure, something can be of small import in the meantime, but builds up huge dividends if consistent attention is paid over time, like flossing and exercise.

Then, you identify your criteria. From this, you begin to see that time is the HOW, importance is the WHAT. You plan and carry-out the WHAT over time, which determines the HOW.

You might ask yourself why. Some processes and events can’t be hurried. For example, it takes 9 months to full gestate a baby. Broken bones can’t be forced to heal overnight, it takes at least 6 weeks. Broken hearts can take even longer.

Some events can’t be anticipated, that’s why they’re called accidents and emergencies, so we prepare for them –which takes time. That, and actual preparation, not just mental or paper planning.

Right now, honestly, how you manage your time shows what you value most. So if you’re harried, confused, and heart-sick, wondering what the heck is it that you’re doing, sit down with a pen and some paper, and take the time to figure things out.

A few questions to get you started:

What are your true priorities? Not the ones you inherited, or were made for you, or ones you found yourself shouldering.

What makes you cry and shout out, quiver? What makes you come alive?

What do you need to feed your soul, and that of others (and in what order or rhythm)? Are you sure you have to fulfill all these people’s needs, or that you’re supposed to (co-dependents ahoy!)?
What do you need to keep body and soul together (food, shelter, clothing, the basic things.) How many non-draining ways can you fulfill these needs?

  • How many non-essential things/activities can you take off your plate because they just don’t nourish you or your dreams?
  • What are the things you just do automatically, because a) that’s the way it’s always been done b) you’ve always done it or c) it’s always you who does it?
  • How do you decide the order where these needs get fulfilled/executed?
  • What factors do you consider in their fulfillment. Are your prepared for the possible outcomes vis-a-vis getting and not getting what you work for?
  • How and to whom do you delegate lesser tasks?

Keep asking questions to realign what you’re doing with where you really want to go. Making regular course-corrections can be a nagging pain, but in the course of a life-time, they’re a literal life-saver. And life is time. Don’t forget that.

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