“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
What shall I do with my time? What are you going to do with yours? This is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. It is a question that necessitates a bit of inquiry. If I am to help you discover the key to time management, you must ponder a few things with deep concentration. Let’s begin.
My first issue concerns the use of the term time-management. I think it misses the crux of the matter. We don’t manage time…as far as I have experienced it, time flows on, or we flow through it, uniteruptedly. We don’t control time. It devours us. What we can control is ourselves as we flow through time. When thinking about time we cannot help but ponder death. Death and time are brothers, they go together. Death can create angst as it reinforces the fleeting nature of time.
So, the issue is not time management. It is self- management. How to manage ourselves? And why manage ourselves?
This is where time can help us. Time is in fact not something we need to control, it is something we need to utilize. Time is magical; it brings change.
Time management is essential for the achievement of goals in life. Time is also essential to enjoy what we have achieved. Some people are on the hamster wheel of desire thinking that the next achievement is going to bring happiness. Learning to enjoy and honor our achievement is also essential and requires time.
“So much of our time is spent in preparation, so much in routine, and so much in retrospect, that the amount of each person’s genius is confined to a very few hours.”
The genius to which Emerson refers is the part of our being that, when nourished by our time and activity, floods us with satisfaction. And just like we each have a unique moment in time we each have a unique genius that is nourished in a unique way. For me it is writing and meditating that nourishes my genius. At those times I feel there is no where else I would rather be or be doing. By retrospect I take Emerson to be meaning time spent in reflection upon the past. We need to reflect upon the past to learn and yet we can also become lost in thinking about what has been or what we would have likes to have happened. Either way, it takes time.
To exist in society, to house, feed and clothe ourselves takes the majority of our day and occupies our bodies and minds. That leaves precious little time to nourish our genius, our soul. This fact leads to the key to time management.
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” –Emerson
Everything boils down to choices. Our choices define our lives. We find ourselves in situations and relationships, often apparently for reasons beyond our control and defined by the family we are born into, the spirit of the times, the city and country into which we were born. We cannot always control how we arrive in a given situation but we can make conscious choices once we are in them.
My polestar for decisions is the feeling of satisfaction. Often the choices we need to make are very challenging. Emerson’s quote can help you to muster up the courage to make them. Time is finite. Too late, comes to quickly. Live with your best discretion knowing that there may be no tomorrow. Who wants to die with regrets?
How shall we make our choices? In discussing this with a friend she stressed the importance of managing self and time gracefully. When we act with grace we are fluid and in balance, if we overburden ourselves we fall off kilter, we lose our poise, our grace. We do the same if we put ourselves under undo pressure. Managing our lives with grace allows life to flow. Winds its way gracefully, we can do the same. After all, we are 75% water!
Once these ideas are assimilated you will find time management to be very simple. The essential ideas:
- This is your life, your unique moment in history.
- You cannot control the overarching circumstances but you can make decisions about your life.
- Find what gives you abiding satisfaction.
- Flow with grace.
- Time is limited. Act now!
**Read our other articles about Emerson’s works!
- A Complete Poem Analysis of Emerson’s Brahma
- Hamatreya Poem Meaning: Ruminations on a Ralph Waldo Emerson Poem