“What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.” St. Augustine

Time rules the affairs of all men. Time is money, but time cannot be bought. Time never stops. Time is infinite, but is always running out. We know many things about time, but in the entire history of man we have yet to figure out what exactly it is. Not surprisingly, we aren’t very good at using it to the fullest.

Time might not even exist in reality. Scientists and philosophers have been trying to identify the illusive fourth dimension for centuries, and they still haven’t been able to prove that it exists. The problem is that we can only perceive the present. Indeed, it is never tomorrow or yesterday, but forever today. People at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder have some of the most accurate clocks in the world. But they say it is not time that the clocks measure accurately, but time which is defined to be what the clocks measure. In truth, time is not observable.

This tricky conundrum has led to three theories of time; presentist theory, growing-past theory and block universe theory. The presentist claims that only the present is real. In growing-past theory, both the present and the past are real while the future isn’t. In block universe theory, the present, past and future are all objectively real, with their only differences coming from mental perspectives. In this theory, time is a dimension of space and acts similar to height and length.

So is your tomorrow real? Does your yesterday exist, or is it just gone forever? Are you living in the moment? Are you planning ahead?

Is there something more important to you than your time? If you can’t think of anything that you would sacrifice any amount of time to, your life is out of balance.  Think about the moments in life that you wish would last forever. Those are the memories that we hold most dear. They are not the times when we buy a new car, or put a down payment on a bigger house. They can be as simple as a time when you are sitting on the porch under a full moon, and you feel completely at peace.

If time is real, we certainly don’t have enough of it. Some call time the ultimate limiting resource: even if you had an infinite supply of money, you wouldn’t have enough time to spend it all. So it is important to make the best of the time we’re given. Countless time has been spent trying to figure out how to best manage time.

The Pareto analysis says that 80% of the tasks can be completed in 20% of the time. The remaining 20% of tasks will take up 80% of the time. The recommendation is that you put the most important or unpleasant task first, and the rest of the tasks will be much easier to get done. It is also important to make sure that the planning doesn’t eclipse the task itself.

When creating a list of tasks, you should break the tasks down into three categories:

  • Tasks that are perceived as being urgent and important
  • Tasks that are important but not urgent
  • Tasks which are neither important nor urgent

Once you have a list of priorities, here are some other tips on how to best manage time.

  • Don’t leave email sitting in your in box
  • Multitasking is bad: focus on one task at a time
  • Create a schedule for checking email
  • Don’t rush: be methodical
  • Reward yourself for completing tasks
  • Set your own deadlines
  • Don’t burn out: take breaks when necessary
  • Break large time-consuming tasks down into smaller tasks

The better you manage time, the more of it you seem to have. The goal isn’t to cram as much busyness into a day as possible. It is to make time for the moments in life which are really important.

Additional Resources

Wired What is Time? http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/what-is-time/

Science Daily What is Time? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050415115227.htm

What is Time? What Causes Time? http://www.timephysics.com/

Forbes: What is Time? http://www.forbes.com/2008/02/28/what-is-time-oped-time08-cx_ee_0229thought.html

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Time: http://www.iep.utm.edu/time/

Penelope Trunk 10 tips for time management in a multitasking world: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2006/12/10/10-tips-for-time-management-in-a-multitasking-world/

Dumb Little Man 11 Solid Ways to Improve Your Time Management Skills: http://www.dumblittleman.com/2008/02/11-solid-ways-to-improve-your-time.html

U.S. News Money 4 Tried-and-True Time Management Techniques: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/06/12/4-tried-and-true-time-management-techniques

The Mayo Clinic Time Management: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/time-management/wl00048

Lifehack 20 Productive Ways to Use Your Free Time: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/20-productive-ways-to-use-your-free-time.html

Discover Magazine Time May Not Exist: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/in-no-time


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