A popular misconception in time management is that you must plan every second of your day in order to be in charge. Not only is this misleading, it often does the opposite of what it intends to do. The idea is that if you control all the smaller sections of time, all of time will reap the reward. But there are several things that go wrong with those assumptions.
First, it all depends on what mood we are in as we plan the time. How distracted are we at that moment? How frustrated with our calling? How trivial in our outlook? If we come into a planning time with emotional upheavals, we may certainly fill up our future timesheet, but it is unlikely that it will be filled with life-giving, call-centered activities.
Second, this approach is not realistic. It fails to account for all the interruptions that we cannot avoid in a given day. Even the best manager has to face numerous challenges to the day plan. The best managers, however, know how to evaluate each interruption. They also know which interruptions are actually more important than what was planned. In John chapter 12, Jesus hears that a group of Gentiles are looking to meet with him. It is this interruption which prompts him to tell his disciples that the Crucifixion was now going to take place. It was the sign he was waiting for. We used to call it serendipity. Now, it is just good time management.
Third, the idea that we can or should control all our time will not be lived out by certain personality types. That approach may cause certain types to rebel constantly and thereby ruin all the good work they were doing. Creating a regimented approach for a person whose mind cannot function with extreme regimentation will cause more harm than good. If you are more interested in this, check out any site that gives good background on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and look at the difference between Judging and Perceiving people. Perceivers will not abide regimented time schedules.
So what is the answer? Go back to the idea that we must know what is most important to us in life. Every morning (or evening if that suits better) a person should take a few minutes to look at the next day. Is that person doing what matters most to them? Are they taking steps to make these most important things the centerpiece of the day? What can they remove to make sure the critical life goals are accomodated?
Here are three practical steps to take that will help make each day more controllable.
1. Before starting the day, write down at the most two or three things you really want to achieve.
2. At the beginning of your day, work on one of those things right away.
3. Watch during the day for moments when something unexpectedly opens up in your time. Instead of filling that with television or wasted activities, immediately work on one of the most important items. You will be amazed at how many times you can work on your critical goals when you were sure there wouldn’t be any place to do them.