Like many people on the internet, I love Dr. Who. The box, the bow-tie, the adventure? But some of it is the fundamental principle: being able to know the entire time stream, being able to travel anywhen in time.
When I was teaching, I thought Dr. Who might even make a clever lead-in to a lecture I was supposed to give about time management. I had to spice that lecture up somehow, because it was such a trite lesson. After all, it is something you teach to high school students and is two main lessons:
- Keep a planner
- Get shit done on time
Two bullet points, bam, The Doctor saves the day again. That’s all there is to teaching my students to use their time properly, right?
Holy crap, I was wrong. And it honestly changed my life.
So, this study skills course didn’t actually begin its segment on “Time Management” with any mention of a “planner.”At first I thought they took it as obvious: you get a planner, you make a long bullet list of every single “to-do”, and huzzah, time managed. Instead, this book on study skills started with a question:
What do you value?
This book pointed out something so obvious it had never even occurred to me. A planner by itself doesn’t mean I’m managing my time in a way that’s important to me. It made me a slave to all the boring adult things like laundry, running to the DMV, and paying bills. And at this point, the busiest semester of my life, I was doing all of those things. I was being a good little adult, right? So why did I feel so lost all the time?
I felt lost because I’d been drifting. I played some Magic, I paid my bills, watched movies and read books. Toss in the minutia of adulting and that was my life. That’s a sure-fire way to wake up at 35 going “Where did the time go?” The ways I spent my time did not ultimately fulfill me, and so I felt lost. That tiny little question? It was like someone had given me a compass. With that compass, I could actually make sure I spent time on what mattered to me.
What is important to me?
Sweet Sagan I’m glad I’m no longer a teenager. One of the perks of being a 20-something is having lived enough to sort out all that icky identity stuff. It didn’t take much for me to know what the three most important things I valued were. They are
- My Wife – These sorts of things tend to get either dismissed as cliche or forgotten entirely, but my wife is easily the most important person in my life. She’s helped me through heart surgery, and through her quiet support I found writing again. I want to make sure I spend time on that.
- My Writing – I’ve wanted to write books since third grade. I’ve written five (four of them are bad, the fifth is my WIP), probably a couple-dozen shorter stories that have mostly been lost to time. With thirty coming around the corner I was tired of wasting my time.
- Learning – Learning new things, be they short-hand, how to solve a rubic’s cube, the general principles behind football, cricket, is something that excites me. I didn’t want to quit learning because college was out of my way.
Practically speaking, once I had this figured out, I scheduled some time each week to spend on these values. That means I make time to learn new things – the current task is juggling- I make time to write (every day. Every. Single. Day. That’s how you finish books). And, of course, I make sure I have time to spend with my wife. Only after I have that time dedicated do I start filling in all the miscellaneous things that I “need” to do. And if something on my be-a-good-adult list doesn’t get done? Who cares? I know I got to the important things first.
It’s not a radical change, and it’s not certainly a panacea. Adulting is still hard, work is still ultimately work, but it’s a simple way to make sure I have direction. It let’s me look to each week and point to exactly what I am doing for those things that fulfill me.
In the show, the Doctor always shows up when he’s needed and helps. I’m not a time lord, but after that lesson it suddenly felt like I could control my time in a way that was meaningful to me. I wrote the first-draft of my fifth novel, I learned some sweet math, and of course there is so much wonderful time spent with my wife. And it all started from such a simple question.