mardi 25 janvier 2011

Time management is the key, but what is the key to time management?

You know I don't make New Year's resolutions. It isn't that I feel I am not perfectible - au contraire! - but the word resolution brings to mind the image of a treadmill, one that you get on and then feel stuck on, watching the clock, wishing you were elsewhere.

Perhaps another reason I don't like making resolutions is that they seem part of the ceaseless quest for "self improvement", a peculiarly American malady. There is something dispiriting to me about the idea of self improvement. In my mind, it is linked to another peculiarly American malady: perpetual dissatisfaction.

I prefer the Emersonian notion of self reliance to the "Oprahesque" notion of self improvement. Emerson was an American, so why does self reliance seem to be so foreign in this country? I met a Frenchman once at a wedding; he was the husband of the sister of the groom. He basically told me that he thought Americans were the least self reliant people on the planet (he called us "un peuple d'assistés"). I thought he was full of shit at the time, but I have since come to see what he meant. I think he has a point. But never mind. Today's rant is about time management, something I am hopeless at.

So I don't make resolutions, but I have had an epiphany: time management is the key. The question, however, is this: what is the key to time management? I wish I knew. All the ideas that come to me sound repugnant: stuff like ruthless dedication to a schedule, obsession with control, constant motion, intricate planning, no tolerance for mishaps and serendipity. Maybe I have the wrong attitude.

I'm going to study the issue and get back to y'all. I'm going to see if there is any useful advice out there about time management. And I will admit that I would like to improve my time management skills. Maybe this year. Or maybe I'll put it off until next year, I don't know. Hmmm....I think I'll see what the WWW (world wide wisdom) is on the issue of time management. Is this just another self-deceiving ploy to postpone the huge job that is staring me in the face?

I have done some preliminary research and, as I suspected, list-making is a popular piece of advice. It is true that, when you have a list of short tasks to complete, lists can be helpful and even necessary. But what if your tasks are things like this?

1. Integrate all of the extensive revisions made to the French version of the 90-page book you just translated.

2. Find a workable topic for a 25-page paper, needed to get credit for the seminar you took in winter of 2010, find the right secondary materials and write the paper.

3. Do all of the bookkeeping that you masterfully avoided doing over the entire twelve months of the previous year ended (note to W: I am exaggerating!).

4. Finish reading A la recherche du temps perdu, a 3,000 page masterpiece that I have read about 500 pages of.

You get the point. Do I really need a list to remember that these things are hanging over my head at all times? When I look at these tasks and think about the number of hours needed to complete each one, I get dizzy and my jet lag asserts itself. Sleep, it says. Close your eyes. Put down the book. Look at Neko. She has solved the time management problem once and for all. Here she is, giving a public lecture on the subject to a rapt audience.