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Ten Sentences on "Time Management"

A friend asked me about my strategies for time management and I thought that it's an important enough topic to write a few sentences on.

Firstly, let’s dissect the term “time management” to accurately account for what it is and isn’t.1 TM is an implicit acknowledgment of constraint: “How do I reach x goals w/ y limited resources?”

Secondly, TM is an expression of agency, one’s desire to attain some set of outcomes that carry some personal utility (e.g., a paycheck) or value (e.g., time w/ family).2

So, to me TM isn’t as small as a rubber stamp recipe of outwardly visible, efficiency-geared behaviors for work. It’s not just time saving tips, punctuality, or multitasking (though those can be helpful).

My most complete definition of TM is “a personal strategy of behaviors chosen to prioritize one’s time and energy to reflect his principal-informed goals.” No “good” TM strategy doesn't identify the desired expression of one’s principals.3

“Grind” shouldn’t garner admiration solely b/c it gets one up a professional ladder, but it could to the degree that the position it achieves for a person enables expression of his core principals.

But grind ain’t nothing, either. Principal-defined TM isn’t a substitute for the motivation and discipline that grind reflects.

Carrying out one's strategy for TM requires these as well, but it is simultaneously a reasoned and compassionate harness of them. Doing the "right for my family" thing 3 of 5 times is worth more than doing an irrelevant thing 5 of 5 times perfectly.

TM is the guardrail of these capacities and identifies one’s most important reasons to develop them.

Without this reflection in an ever connected world of charismatic rent-seekers and slick middlemen, how else can we know that any goal we’re chasing is truly relevant to ourselves and families?

- Jones 2023-03-19


  1. Lots of what I think about time management originated from or was crystallized through Covey’s Seven Habits and the Career Tools/ Manager Tools podcasts.

  2. To me, time and energy are categorically interchangeable as "costs." Utility and value are interchangeable in this context b/c we're considering utility w/ respect to expressing one's principals.

  3. A definition can't be general/ complete and describe how any individual person experiences or carries out time management. We each exist in our own pockets of what x hours we exchange to gain y utility along the levels of Maslow's triangle. It'd be interesting to think about a "Maslow's per hour" rate, but for now we can loosely identify a boundary condition: For those who are barely receiving Maslow's base level of security, there is a threshold of hours where time management cannot be concerned w/ investment security (i.e., growth) for the more pressing need to seek time security (i.e., survival). This isn't "not time management," not is principal-based time management "only" for people who are well off. The same human needs and capacities simply must look very different when deployed for thriving vs survival.

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