Guest Column in The (Monroe, La.) News-Star
Originally Published February 28, 2010
by Bruce C. Walker, Ph. D., Associate Professor and Management Department Coordinator in ULM's College of Business Administration
Finding time to save time
Finally, 40 minutes before the deadline, I . . .
Sound familiar? Why do so many of us struggle with this concept? Since there are so many fool-proof time management systems to choose from (many costing the equivalent of two or more house payments), why is time management still such a big issue that it even gets a month of elevated status?
If my beautiful and sweet bride reads this (she probably won't — she'll tell you she has better things to do with her time), she would be really, really amused that her husband, the Great Procrastinator, was asked to write on time management. In fact, I didn't even tell her that I was doing this because it would be a huge source of amusement for her (I seem to give her dozens of these precious moments every month) and she would just laugh at me.
It's not that I don't know how to manage my time; it's just that I don't generally practice the points that have been beaten into my head for years. In actuality, most of us do struggle with time management issues at some level. So the question becomes, "Why?"
For many of us, there is a certain comfort level in our clutter and disorganization that poor time management might bring. This may have to do with years of self programming that suggests that a clean and sterile looking desk or environment is an outward sign of a really sick mind!
Often, the real issue here may be that we often don't feel we can or want to make a decision about things to keep or to throw away. Will I need to keep this particular receipt for income tax, warranty, or posterity purposes? Who knows, maybe my children will find 34 years of dry cleaning receipts a true reflection of what was in my soul after I pass away. There is also a comfort level in the clutter in that it shows that "I was here."
A second reason might have to do with where one's mind might be on a particular issue at a particular time. To focus on particular outstanding issues means that I actually have to take a stand and commit to a position or a belief. What if I am wrong? (Well, OK, I know I'm not wrong, but somebody out there may actually have that thought?)
What if I am overlooking something? Will I look foolish if I miss an intuitively obvious fact? What if I mail a check to pay a bill, and I make a mistake and overdraw my checking account? I have found that reconciling my checking account once every 41/2 years has been somewhat successful.
A third reason for some of us may be that we are "energy efficient" (aka, "lazy"). I will let mail accumulate for several weeks and then I have to spend an hour going through it to divide it up into the three usual piles — "keep/pay," "throw away" (the smallest pile), or "think about" (the largest pile). My wife tells me that if I were to do it each day, it would take two minutes a day, as opposed to the one-plus hour it takes me using my system.
It's about that time when I start singing the "Who Dat?" song. Besides, other and more important things, such as Sports Center, seem to get in the way.
For me, personally, there is a strong correlation between a lack of clutter in my life and the use of good time management skills. I do so much better whenever I have a place for things and things in its place. I find that I am more timely and get so much more done.
But where's the fun in that?