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From the book Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule -- and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern, published by Henry Holt and Company, copyright © 2000-2014 Julie Morgenstern and used by permission.
So what makes time management so difficult? It is my observation that the single most common obstacle people face in managing their days lies in the way they view time. Therefore, the very first step in taking control of time is to challenge your very perception of it.
MAKING TIME TANGIBLE
Most people think of time as intangible. In the journey from chaos to order, it is often easier to organize space than time, because space is something you can actually see. Time, on the other hand, is completely invisible. You can't see it or hold it in your hands. It's not something that piles up or that you can physically move around.
Time is something you feel, and it feels...utterly amorphous. Some days go whizzing by, others crawl painfully along. Even your tasks seem hard to measure--infinite and endless in both quantity and duration.
As long as time remains slippery, elusive, and hard to conceptualize, you will have difficulty managing your days. You need to change your perception of time and develop a more tangible view of it. You need to learn to see time in more visual, measurable terms.
In my own journey to getting organized, my biggest breakthrough came when I realized that organizing time really is no different than organizing space. Let' s compare a cluttered closet to a cluttered schedule to see the similarities.
|Cluttered Closet||Cluttered Schedule|
|Limited amount of space||Limited amount of hours|
|Crammed with more stuff than storage||Crammed with more tasks than time|
|Items jammed into any available pocket of space, in no particular order||Tasks jammed into any available pocket of time, in no particular order|
|Haphazard arrangement makes it difficult to see what you have||Haphazard arrangement makes it difficult to see what you have to do|
|Inefficient in its use of organizing tools||Inefficient in its use of time-management tools|
In other words, just as a closet is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of objects, a schedule is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of tasks. Your days are not infinite and endless. When you think of it this way, time is not so tangible and elusive. In fact, each day is simply a container, a storage unit that has a definite capacity you can reach. Once you understand that time has boundaries, you begin to look at your to-dos much differently. Tasks are the objects that you must fit into your space. Each one has a size, and arranging them in your day becomes a mathematical equation. As you evaluate what you need to do, you begin to calculate the size of each task and whether you can fit it into the space.
When you start seeing time as having borders, just as a space does, you will become much more realistic about what you can accomplish, and much more motivated to master various time-management tools and techniques to help you make the most of your time. If a cluttered closet and a cluttered schedule are the same, then organizing each is a very similar process. My first book, Organizing from the Inside Out, taught that whether you are organizing a closet, kitchen, office, or schedule, designing a system that lasts lies in always following the same three steps: ANALYZE-STRATEGIZE-ATTACK.
This book is a thorough examination of how the three steps of the organizing process apply to the particularities of time. Throughout, we will build upon this more tangible view of time, and show you how to arrange your schedule just as you would a beautifully organized room, one that reflects what's important to you. It will be easy to figure out where your time goes, and to find time for the important things in your life, because every activity and task will have a "home."