Sacrifice: a deeper cut at time management
I am increasingly of the opinion that when people talk about time (usually to say they don’t have enough), they are actually talking about something else. Time is a symbol for what we really want more of: connection, support, productive work, fun, pleasure, relaxation, excitement, or any number of other things. We want more time to do something. When people seek to improve time management, they are usually really seeking ways to make more space for the things they really care about.
If we look at the root of the word ‘sacrifice’ it is about giving something up for a higher purpose (‘Sacri’ having the same root at sacred). On balance, ‘sacrilege’ could be seen as meaning we have given something up for the wrong reasons, for a lesser purpose. I think most of us commit this kind of sacrilege, frequently. We allow our time, this rare and precious resource, to be eaten into by attention-grabbing tasks which add little value to our lives, our work, or the people and things we care about most. It happens so easily: the phones rings when we are in the midst of a really valuable conversation, or the ‘email received’ icon flashes in the bottom of our screen and disrupts our attention when we are in the middle of writing an important report. We are surrounded by noisy distractions which can rob us of the presence of mind to do what matters most.
I think the concept of sacrifice can help us to escape from this unfulfilling merry-go-round of attention and distraction. What if you saw every moment of your time as sacred? What if, every time you are considering accepting another meeting, answering your phone for an unexpected call, or checking a random alert on your computer, you asked yourself: “Is this sacrifice or sacrilege?” This might seem melodramatic but if the ultimate sacrifice is to give up your life for a higher purpose, then giving up your time is doing this in increments. We have limited time on this planet and whether it is lost in one grand event or in many apparently insignificant moments, we cannot get it back.
At a deeper level then, time management is about commitment. It is about making clear choices around how we will spend each moment and bringing our full attention to what we choose. This is no small aim, but I think it is a noble goal if we want to have the best balance possible between doing work we are passionate about and enjoying time with the family we love.
A method that could help us tackle this lofty goal in smaller steps then is asking ourselves the tough question every time we commit ourselves: is this worth the sacrifice?
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