“Scheduling forces us to confront the natural limits of the day.” Gretchen Ruben

I tend to seek sanctuary in bookshops, and professionally and personally that sanctuary is most often found in the personal development and/or business sections of said bookshops. That’s where I will find the things that inspire me to action, or which absolutely shine a laser-beam focused light on my inaction. This morning, awaiting the relatively good news about my son’s Citroen C3’s MOT roadworthiness certificate, I was in Cardiff’s Waterstone’s branch.

(By the way, for the staff of Waterstone’s and any other mainstream bookstore, I am guy taking photographs of the cover so I can go home and order the book half price or less on Amazon ‘New and Used’.)

Anyway, that’s where I picked up the above quote, from US lawyer Gretchen Ruben’s latest book, “Better Than Before” (which is £8.99 but I have just ordered for £6 including P&P as described), and I think it very succinctly expresses the essence of what personal time management is all about. It’s making sure that we maximise the available 16 or so hours a day we humans choose to use when we aren’t asleep.

The availability of ‘just’ 16 hours is the first restriction mentioned by Ruben. The second restriction is imposed upon us by the ‘working day’, those hours within which we are expected, more often than not by others, to do ‘work’. Now, the shape of those ‘working days’ has been irrevocably changed by the mobile telephone revolution but the expectation remains. The existence of that restriction creates another, which has various titles but which essentially covers those off-duty hours, where we decide what to do – but even then, our hours are restricted by the needs of others – our clubs and other commitments occur when it suits them, for example.

And after all the ‘responsibilities and commitments’ have been acted upon within their restricted schedules, we can be ourselves. If our families allow!

In other words, the restrictions create “the imposed limits of the day.”

I have had some clients that resist the input on time management, on the ground that it ‘restricts spontaneity’; those same people expect others to do what they need done when it suits them, and not when the provider is being ‘spontaneous’. (Talk about double standards!) Imagine a train driver turning up spontaneously? Or a plane taking off and landing when the pilot felt like it?

As Gretchen’s quote implies, having a plan, a schedule within which all we have to get done in any time is listed, helps us avoid making the mistake of discovering that there are (to steal a cliché) more tasks left at the end of the day than time. Scheduling partly ensures that we do the right thing, in the right way, but at the right time. It means that remaining time genuinely is free for spontaneity.

Surprisingly, as most of us underestimate how much time we have available in any workday (or conversely overestimate how long any job will actually take – ask any mechanic) having a schedule/plan like that means we can be productive, and still have plenty of time left to be spontaneous. It does this because we comply with ‘our’ plan (provided we made it, not quite so good with imposed schedules) if we know what it is.

Proof? If you have a to-do list, I bet you tick off each job on completion. Yes? Thought so.

What happens if you do a job that isn’t on that list?

I’ll tell you. You add it to the list and cross it off, that’s what you do!

Why not, then, start your day with a long list you can hack at with the ‘Pen of Done’, and enjoy the time you free up afterwards?

Create your daily or weekly plan and set about it. Then fill the saved time with meaningful activity that you select, rather than someone else.


For input on a system for maximising YOUR use of YOUR time, go to AMAZON HERE and buy this book.