Monday, February 06, 2006

Lost in Time

I am starved for time. Pressing matters appear out of nowhere to shred my schedule, and my "to do" list gets pushed to the next day. Then, on the next day, the same "to do" list will most likely be neglected again.

Yes, I should learn something about time management. Indeed, there's no shortage of books about the subject. And there are "next generation" organizers (good organizers are never of this generation), promising to make us more efficient and successful. These books and tools are great. But what truly confounds me is not my own inefficient habits. Rather, I am perplexed by time itself.

How should I spend my time? At a certain point in life (middle age, to be
exact) we begin to wonder more and more whether we are using our time wisely. We have spent the previous twenty years driving ourselves harder and harder, utilizing time as the highway to distant goals. Each time we reach a goal, we race headlong into another project, working again on future objectives. At times, when our work is challenging and satisfying, we can imagine racing down this highway forever.

At the same time, I have doubts about this endless highway of ambition. Aren't we supposed to stop and smell the roses? Perhaps time is like a hot cup of tea, meant to be slowly savored in Zen like tranquility. Maybe, the rat race is just a soul stifling sideshow. It might be better to pull a Gauguin, and disappear into the South Pacific. So I am torn, with voices in mind my pushing and pulling, debating the relative merits of leisure and late night work.

The voices in my mind (all former Yeshiva students) quote Bible to me. The Sabbath is a day of rest, and sitting back and appreciating God's world is something holy. Yet, the Torah promotes an ambitious work ethic. The Book of Job says "man is created to work". Appreciation and ambition both make convincing arguments, and both are correct.

What time really demands is the ability to shift gears. One must be able to move between ambition and appreciation, depending on the situation. At times you have to leave the fast paced business world to spend time with family, and at times you have to pick up the pace and accomplish more. True time management is learning how to find time for both labor and leisure. For those of us lost in time, it may be best to put aside the next generation planners and consider some ancient advice. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven". There is a time for smelling roses and a time for running races. The key is to accept the fact you have to do both.

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