“I pray you’ll make space to see the goodness that grows apart from your endurance.” -KJ RAMSEY
Have you ever said or thought anything like this:
- I’m just not organized
- I’m such a procrastinator
- I’m not productive like that other person
- I feel like I’m failing every single day
- I’m overwhelmed every time I wake up
- I wish I had spent my time differently in that season of my life
If you do, you’re not alone. We all carry around baggage when it comes to how we have spent our time in the past, or how we’ve defined our identity around time management, or how many promises to ourselves and others we may have broken. I have yet to meet a single person who has never broken a New Year’s Resolution or found themselves cringing at the end of an unintended Netflix marathon. That shame and embarrassment can cripple us on the journey to time freedom.
We also live in a culture that glorifies hustle – where “I’m so busy” is a badge of honor and our expectations for ourselves are growing faster than our time-saving technology can fix. When computers were first invented, many economists anticipated that all that extra productivity and saved time would create enormous space for leisure. IBM economist Joseph Froomkin even said this in 1965: “Automation will eventually bring about a 20-hour work week, perhaps within a century, thus creating a mass leisure class.” But the direct opposite has happened. We’ve taken all that saved time and filled it with enormous expectations for ourselves and each other.
Time freedom requires routines and planning systems that we commit to, it’s true. But we also need to look at a deeper system – our belief system of what time is for and how it should be used. If we build efficiencies to save time but then immediately fill that saved time with other things, we will never, ever be free. Like we’ve talked about with setting good expectations and embracing our limitations, we need to pay close attention to our beliefs about time and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.
If you’re feeling embarrassed by how you’ve spent your time in the past, or you find yourself thinking that you aren’t the type of person who can use your time well, a few things might help:
- Recognize that the expectations you’ve placed on yourself are probably impossibly high. Human-sizing your expectations for yourself will give you the chance to win.
- Remember that the amazing productivity you think others are having is likely a mirage. We’re all on this journey together.
- Pause and pay attention when your brain is attacking you with accusations, and remind yourself that you are continually experimenting and growing.
- Remind yourself that time leadership is a skill that anyone can learn, and that the “disorganized creative” stereotype isn’t serving you.
- Step outside of your cultural conditioning for a moment to remember that our “busy = good” value system is a lie.
Your time management skills (or lack thereof) can no more impact your value as a human being than a pebble has on a mountain. Your worth is independent of what you can produce. You can set aside the old decisions you’ve made about whether you’re “productive” or not and approach your time leadership systems as a journey and an ongoing experiment.
I’d love to hear from you – where has shame tripped you up in thinking about time leadership? On the flip side of that coin, what has helped you the most?