Why Time Management Isn’t Enough
A New Look at Balance
Our time feels so precious, doesn’t it? We try to guard it so carefully, probably because we are all running so close to the edge. We have designs on virtually every waking minute, and so we get very attached to the idea of the day going smoothly.
You know the drill. We want the computer to go faster, the traffic to clear, the lines at the store to be short. We want problems resolved quickly, instructions followed the first time, and conflicts to be non-existent.
What we really want, though, when we say we want all those other things, is often just a few free minutes in which we don’t need to be on-call, on-point, on-guard.
The problem is, those smooth days are rare. And when we’re racing from Point A to Point B and we find ourselves stuck in traffic, there’s not necessarily much to be done about the minutes ticking away. Still, how we choose to frame those minutes can have an enormous impact on the energy we bring with us to the rest of the day.
If we spend those minutes stressing, worrying, fighting with ourselves, fighting with the people in the other cars, suddenly we’re losing twice because, by the time we get to Point B, frustration has burned up all our energy. We find ourselves approaching whatever’s next with a sense of scarcity and lack, breathless, sometimes embarrassed, often in no shape to enjoy or engage.
What I often find — and what I want to change — is that at the end of the day, I have more time than I have energy.
This means that the free time I have is not spent on all of the lovely, worthwhile things I would like to be spending my time on, nor is it restful or restorative. Instead, I default to mindlessly scrolling through social media, puttering around the kitchen, or binge-watching television because I am too depleted to think.
I used to think “time management” was the solution. I don’t anymore. I think it was an important place to start, but at some point, it took me as far as it could. By trying to take it further, I was only causing more damage. I started becoming neurotic about planning the days, keeping to a schedule, trying to ensure I was using every minute “wisely.” Even when everything was going just fine, I was still obsessed with keeping everything moving. At. All. Times.
It was a graceless way to live, and I began to notice some…overreactions… to the proverbial wrenches being thrown in my works. Even when it wasn’t obvious from the outside, I felt wildly out of balance on the inside.
Here’s the problem though: I think trying to fix our time management is easier than facing the bigger issue.
When I finally gave myself enough time and space to figure out what I needed, I came to two very uncomfortable realizations:
First, I needed to simplify. Part of the reason I have to be so intentional about carving out time for silence and stillness is that my personality is very prone to distraction. I jump very quickly from one thing to another, and I tend to need a lot of activity.
To be fair, for a long time that was exactly what I needed to restore balance in my life. I’d fallen into a rut. Realizing that I needed to feel like I was learning and growing was a game-changer in my sense of wellbeing.
But in the pursuit of that, I often stacked projects and classes, workshops and challenges, one on top of the other. Then a week into each, I would get distracted, wander off, and rarely finish strong. I was in the middle of reading no less than six books, and wasn’t close to finishing any, maybe because I’d just picked up a seventh.
I had taken the very thing that once brought me balance, and overloaded myself with so much of it, I was falling off the other side of my life.
Second, I realized that despite how much I loved food, I was ready to do the hard work of losing weight, not for appearances, but because I felt weighed down, sluggish, and achy. I wanted to feel light, graceful, and flexible. I wanted to move through the world with more ease.
I knew that if I didn’t start making better choices, I wasn’t going to have enough energy for any of the things that were most important to me, and I didn’t want to perpetuate that depleted cycle.
Beyond that, I wanted something tangible that I could tap into, to help me make wiser choices in every area of my life. It was a perfect next step, because making very conscious choices about what to eat infused an element of routine into my chaotic days. It provided touchstones throughout the day that could be used to reflect and adjust as needed. It helped me find a new rhythm, and that’s exactly what I needed to find my balance again.
Most likely, what you need now is different from what I needed then.
Clear a little space to ask your body and heart what they need.
Pray, and listen. Without that intentionality, time management is a very limited solution. It allows us to perpetuate patterns that are damaging us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
You get to define what balance means to you. You get to set your own limits — and they don’t have to be at the brink of physical exhaustion.
1. What does balance mean to you? What would it look and feel like right now, in this season?
2. What are your limits? How much margin do you want to have?
It’s worth repeating: You can set limits for yourself that do not push you to physical exhaustion.
It takes time (and usually some hard decisions) to back away from the edge, and I can’t promise you won’t receive judgment, but you get to decide for yourself.
You get to say yes to things that are good for you, and no to things that aren’t. You get to say yes to things that are on-mission for you, and no to things that aren’t. You get to experiment, and change your mind, and flex with the seasons, rather than carrying commitments from year-to-year, and letting everything on your plate stay there.
Intentional living is the new time management. It’s harder, but there’s so much magic within it.