Can you plan for the critical moments in your life — the "breakthrough idea" or the incredible life-long memory? You can if you learn to manage your "moments" as well as your time.
by Dan Strutzel
The modern philosopher and historian Richard Sennett has written about the necessity for human beings to create "narratives" out of their lives. In other words, in order to give meaning to our existence, we must feel that the culmination of our days on earth string together seemingly chaotic events to form a story — a very personal story that only we can tell. A story that is complex, yet genuine. But, most of all, a story with structure — with a clear plot, filled with layers of meaning that, like a great classic novel, reveal new and hidden meanings with every reading. I’m one of those people who absolutely loves to encourage family, friends, and even acquaintances to tell their stories. True to form, some tell a story of heroic adventure, others tell a tragedy, and still others, a "work in progress."
Yet, one of the patterns I notice, again and again, is the tendency for people to focus on several key "moments" as turning points in the plot of their lives. They tell of the child that finally made the baseball team after years of struggle to "fit in." They tell of the deal that they closed, or the deal that fell through. They tell of the moment that they first realized their partner moved from being a boyfriend or girlfriend, into that exceptional "true love" that comes only once in a lifetime. They tell of the day they heard they had cancer, the day that their first-born emerged from the womb, and the day they buried their mother right next to their father. They speak of relatively "simple" things like cuddling with the kids on the deck as they watch the stars, sipping hot cocoa with their spouse on the top of Pikes Peak, or the first time they walked into their new office after the "big promotion." Such moments are precious, and without them our stories would be incomplete. They form the essence of who we are and will continue to shape who we will become.
In our fast-paced world, there is probably no skill that receives more lip service than time management. Indeed, it is a critical skill to success, without which very few people achieve any substantial goal. Yet, too often, I fear that we have become so focused on the time-management essentials — being efficient, opportunity costs, delegation, prioritization, day planners, and Palm Pilots — that we end up managing the moments right out of our lives. This is the "nuanced" area of time management that few experts consider. We can plan an agenda for a brainstorming session and keep a close eye on the clock, but we can’t "plan" for a breakthrough idea. We can "budget in" an evening to take our child to a ball game, but we can’t "budget in" the moment in which our child will ask that question about life — one that we have never even considered. We can clear out all the e-mails in our "in-box" and respond to them efficiently, but we must be careful not to clear out the e-mail with the huge business opportunity, sandwiched conveniently between two pieces of spam.
Time management tactics are needed for most of us to improve our effectiveness but this article points us to not forget to enjoy the journey.