We don’t control our time.
Every morning I wake up at 5am. It doesn’t matter what time I sleep. My eyes open at 5am.
Sometimes I oversleep but that’s more of the exception than the rule. I wake up at 5am, Mondays to Sundays, and holidays. It’s rare I don’t.
I wake up at 5am because I have a routine. I feed my pet cats and birds first thing in the morning. I blog or work out afterwards. I then eat breakfast, change, and go to work.
Can I change my routine? Sure. But there’s a price to pay if I do. Waking up later would put me on a rush to finish my routine and likely make me late for work. Waking up earlier would deprive me of needed sleep and that would be just outright unhealthy; I’ll end up sick.
People who say we can take control of our time say we have the freedom to choose what time we wake and what we can schedule for our day. They are probably people who have routines that don’t have much in the way of responsibilities. But most of us have responsibilities and because of these, we trade off control of our time to fulfilling them.
Can we change our responsibilities? Sure. But again, there’ll be a price to pay.
Part of my routine is to spend an hour every evening after dinner to play a game with my sister and 93-year-old mother. It is an hour that I could have used for myself such as surfing social media on my smartphone. But I don’t opt for that because my routine includes a responsibility I’ve adopted to bond with family at least for an hour a day.
When so-called time management experts say we can take control of our time, they don’t mention that there are trade-offs when we do. Whatever decision we make about how we spend our time will involve trade-offs. And in many cases, they are costly.
If I wanted to, I can find my own place, where I can sleep and wake whenever I want, and I can schedule whatever time to eat and what to do at nights. What I have to trade off to do so would be not caring for my pet animals, not working out or blogging, not being at the office on schedule, and not spending time with my mother and sister, all of which are what I’ve defined as my responsibilities.
Time management experts may say we have choices about what to be responsible for. What they don’t say is we need to choose what our responsibilities are before we manage how we will plan and decide our days.
Responsibilities are the results of knowing what truly are the more important things in our lives. We define our values first, set standards and goals, and then plan our routines. We decide what we want to do based on what we want within (our values).
I didn’t make this up by the way; Stephen Covey did.
Stephen Covey (+), creator of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, espoused the freedom to choose via proactivity, the development of a mission in life, and time management by doing things important to that mission first.
When we manage our time relevant to our values and mission, we go on a track towards independence and fulfilment.
The routines we set are acts of decision we freely chose. As we get to do them, we commit ourselves to doing them habitually day in and day out.
There would be times we’d wonder if we had lost control of our time as we do the same things over and over. We’d wonder if we have become trapped in which it would seem our routines have taken over us. This curiosity and eventual soul-searching become even more pronounced when we seem to be not achieving much over a period of time or when we turn down invitations to events because our routines would be in conflict. We’d ask ourselves if we’re on the right track or if we’re doing the right thing. We question if we had lost control of our time.
Stephen Covey would remind us that not only setting routines but also being proactive and having a mission are habits, that is, they are practices we do repeatedly. We just don’t do routines. We also either re-commit to them or change them as per the values which we review and the subsequent choices we make towards them.
In short, we adopt our responsibilities because we chose to do so not just once but repeatedly over time. When we take on responsibilities because we want to, we then edit and commit to our routines. Our freedom does not lie in the controlling the here and now but what we commit to be responsible for.
We don’t control our time. We control our responsibilities.