Mid-Level Management

Don’t we all struggle with time management?

Seriously, the fact that we’ve coined the phrase “time management” is indicative of something that’s seriously amiss in our collective lives. It’s something that has plagued Karen and I since we’ve been married: work the 9-5, pay the bills, work on the things we’re really passionate about, make time for each other, take in all of the information we’re overloaded with…ummm, I mean, fortunate enough to have coming into our brains. Not to mention the logistics of household management. Someone has to cook, clean, do laundry…ah, if only we could be unburdened by those insignificant but annoying details of life.

Well, as part of her current servitude in the corporate world, Karen attended a course in time management and goal-setting this week. This was one of those things that I didn’t even know was going on with her, despite all of our digital calendar syncing and other tools for productivity…um…management. She was really impressed by the course, and wanted to discuss goals as we are considering the next phase of our educational and professional endeavors.

These goals included very distinct labels for every small part of life. My response was that I already did this: I have a different calendar in my trusty iCal for major responsibilities: work, personal, educational, etc. These are color-coordinated with all of the documents on my desktop, and synced to her iCal via our Google Calendars…I have a seriously complex system up and running here to make sure our busy lives are well…managed.

You see, I push back on these types of courses because it seems that they always want you to label yourself in some capacity; this particular course wants you to distinguish whether you’re a “short-burst” or “long-burst” worker, for example. Well, we all know how I feel about labels, so…I became a bit incorrigible relatively early in the conversation.

“Your dislike of labels makes it really difficulty to teach you anything!” Karen exclaimed in exasperation. And thus the conversation digressed to a point where it had to be better….managed.

There was some sort of positive contribution to be made here, I must admit. We discussed how we had observed each other work in grad school: Karen will work on a project for an extended period of time with no break until it is finished. I budget specific amounts of time for individual projects each day, carrying several simultaneously to distribute the workload. That’s useful to know, I realize, in thinking of how we handle various projects, and ways in which we can assist each other with those projects. This helps us to have better household…management.

Wait a second…are we managing too much here?

See, I keep telling myself that I’ll be less stressed after we achieve our educational goals and I’m able to actively pursue what I really love doing as my living. Then again, though, I sometimes ponder if I’m not actually doing that more actively now than I think I am. Then I write this off as being a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach, and go back to the beginning…a vicious circle of “now what???” that requires further management. So, the answer appears to be that our lives will always necessitate active management.

The geek in me thinks it is really cool that this gives me an excuse to find new productivity tools in which to assist in this management. The philosopher in me thinks it is robbing us of something intrinsic to our humanity if we lose the time to be contemplative. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that this is a plot by the technology industry to force us to need more of their productivity tools. The realist in me realizes that we just have to make intentional efforts to get away from the noise and prioritize what is most important in our lives.

The realist wins, which may be unfortunate, but is…well…realistic. The important thing, I think, is to maintain some optimism, not succumb to needless cultural pressures, and somehow keep focused on the goals in our life that are most important.

See? I think I can manage that.


  1. Interesting post.

    Funny, I thought your calendar system would be a great idea for Crystal and me. I don’t use anything that sophisticated yet.

    You touched on it, but the management just needs to make space—margin—for reflective, decompressing, and cathartic activities.

    If I could manage “no” better, I think I’d have more of that time.

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