Friday, August 26, 2011

Kindergarten Time Management

Remember that book by Robert Fulghum that was such a best-seller in the 1990s? All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  Like most people, I never sat down to read the whole book but I have read numerous excerpts from it.  One thing I don't recall seeing on the short list: time management.  But maybe the concept is summed up in this passage:
Think what a better world it would be if all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. 
Time Management was a hot topic in the 1990s and has become an industry in the two decades that have followed.  My guess is that our interest in Time Management came about as a reaction to the frenzied activity of the 1980s . . . you know, the decade when the idealistic dropouts of the 1960s suddenly realized there was profit to be made from hard, materialistic labor.  Or maybe the workaholism of the 1980s had something to do with the breaking of the disco fever.  (For anyone who cares, the term "workaholic" was coined in 1968 but didn't really catch on until the 1990s.)

Regardless.  I lived (and worked) through the 1980s, and have tried (and failed) to manage my time in the 1990s and the 2000s and now the 2010s.  Time Management hasn't gotten any easier over the years.  This is odd, because the older I get, the less time I have. You would think having LESS time would make it easier to manage (just as it is easier to manage less hair or fewer kids) but that is misunderstanding the basic problem: there may be less time, but it is moving faster.  Einstein was right: TIME IS RELATIVE.  The older one gets, the faster time moves . . . and no one would argue with the fact that, while it is easier to herd ten sheep than a hundred, it is easier to herd a hundred sheep than ten jackrabbits.

Take a phone list as one simple example.  When I was a kid, I had a handful of friends and all of their numbers fit into my brain.  Then I got older, acquired acquaintances, bought a pocket address book, and wrote down their numbers.  I moved, lost the book, and had to start rebuilding the data base.  My friends moved, and their numbers became obsolete, were crossed out and inked over until the book was useless.  I bought a new book and spent HOURS recopying the information, but the same thing kept happening again and again.  Technology came to the rescue in the form of an electronic, hand-held address book, but it only exacerbated the problem. Before I could use the gizmo, I had to find the time to sit down and program all of my information into it.  Then the batteries needed changing . . . and I didn't have it with me when I needed it . . . and I lost it (did I mention that I frequently lose things?) . . . and by the time I found it again, it was obsolete anyway.  I got a cell phone, programed all the numbers into it, and lost it (actually it was stolen, but the result was the same).  I got a computer, programed all the numbers into it, and then the computer became obsolete so I got a new one and had to reprogram all the numbers into it.  Actually, the sad truth is, it took TOO MUCH TIME and wasn't worth the effort, so I abandoned the reprograming less than halfway through and resorted to Plan B.

Plan B looks like this: two dozen sticky notes and pieces of scrap paper stuck to the refrigerator.

Oddly enough, this works for me better than all the day planners and palm pilots and cell phones and iPads in the world.  It is HARD to lose a refrigerator.  (It is also hard to carry one around with you, I will concede that.)

But back to TIME management.

I have a form of ADD known as OOSOOM.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I function well as long as I can see everything I need to remember.  As soon as I put something away, it is lost forever.  (Okay, "forever" is a bit of an exaggeration.  But it is lost for MONTHS or possibly YEARS, depending on how often I move.)  Email is the best way to reach me because I keep it on my computer desktop.  My land-line telephone answering system flashes a red light at me whenever a call is waiting.  Cell phone?  You must be kidding.  Until they begin surgically implanting the things, they are just too easy to lose. (Did I mention that I tend to lose things?)  I don't carry a cell phone, iPod, iPad, or anything else that will fit into a purse.  For that matter, I don't carry a purse.

My mom used to say, "If your head weren't attached, you'd lose it." My mom was absolutely right.  Fortunately, my head IS attached, which just goes to show you how smart God is, so THAT is where I have kept my daily and weekly schedules for the last forty years.  Until recently, storing events and appointments in my brain has always worked fine for me because I have a fairly spacious brain.  (Please resist the temptation to comment on my choice of words here, those of you who know me best.)  Unfortunately, as my brain has gotten older, it has developed a few cracks, and every once in a while something falls into a crack and gets lost.  Or maybe it is just that the sheep have been replaced by jackrabbits.  Sheep are too big to slip into cracks, but jackrabbits are wascally. (Just ask Elmer.)

My best friend carries a day planner.  She writes EVERYTHING into it.  It goes EVERYWHERE with her.  It works for her.  After forgetting two or three important meetings, I tried her system.  (Do I have to tell you the result, or did you already get the picture from my phone list fiasco?)

I believe that time is one of the things God invented and created just for us.  It is a gift.  Like all of God's gifts, it is meant to be used for his glory and to further his kingdom.  But, mismanaged, time doesn't feel like a gift so much as a curse.  Responsible stewardship of time keeps evading me, and I find that terribly frustrating.  I tried taking some Time Management seminars, but these classes usually make me want to scream.  The teachers always have a cut-and-dried, tried-and-true, it-worked-for-me-and-will-work-for-you system to sell.  Folks, I know you mean well, but one size does NOT fit all.  Especially if the client suffers from ADDOOSOOM.  

This past week, the theme of Time Management as Good Stewardship kept cropping up and smacking me in the figurative face, so I asked God to help me.  Actually, I asked him to clean my bedroom and do my laundry for me, but I think he decided to pass on that one.  Instead, he sent me to the Dollar Tree.

Yes, the Dollar Tree.

Free advertisement: as most schoolteachers know, the Dollar Tree is the most wonderful place on earth. Everything in the store is a dollar.  Some things are fabulous bargains: newborn onesies for $1. Tshirts for $1 (okay, in size 5x, but still...).  Brand new hardcover books for $1.  Best of all, teacher supplies . . . bulletin board displays, stickers, charts . . .


My bedroom door . . . a new kind of feng shui.
Yes, I did it.  I bought one of those kindergarten "helper" charts, the kind where the teacher lists who is going to be line leader and who is going to lead the Pledge and who is going to feed the hamster.  This one had blank spaces for the tasks, though, so I wrote in things like "clean bathroom" and "schoolwork" and "take trash to curb."  I also wrote in how long I plan to spend on each task, and assigned each task to a specific day of the week.

I know this was from God, because there was only room on the chart for six days' worth of work.

The Job Chart is now pinned to my bedroom door, where I can't help but see it.  (And it's hard to lose a door.)  AND IT IS WORKING.  I accomplished more in three hours this morning that I had in the whole week that preceded it.  As for those appointments that slip through the cracks, right above the Job Chart I have a dry-erase calendar for the month.  It takes me about five minutes each month to set it up and then, as appointments arise, I write them in.  Portable?  No.  But REALLY important things get written on the back of my hand before I leave the house.  (It's hard to lose the back of your hand.)

I doubt I'll ever be able to market my system to the general public, but it works for way God designed me to function.  And isn't that really the key to any success in life?  We talk about Time Management as though time were something manageable, but it isn't.  Time marches on at the rate of one second per second, one hour per hour, one day per day . . .  We don't need to manage TIME; we need to manage OURSELVES.  According to psychologists, most of who you are was firmly formed by the time you entered kindergarten.  So I'll agree with Robert Fulghum on this one and go with a system that worked for me way back before my life got filled with things that blink and beep and get misplaced.

Hey, it's almost time for that cookie and nap!

1 comment:

  1. I also suffer from ADDOOSOOM! See how the word DOO is in there? And the word DOOM? My mother told me the same thing about my head and it being attached! My current solution is a google calendar that sends me a daily email of everything I have on my calendar and an alert to my phone to tell me everything I need to do about an hour or so before I need to do it. Although I'm thinking the chart on the door might work for me too... or on my bathroom mirror where I can read it as I brush my teeth. I'm afraid the door might be OOSOOM! Great post :)