Monday, February 26, 2007

Finding Time to Work

The following distinction between time and work should not have hit me with the force of a revelation; it’s such a basic point. Yet it did. So, one more quotation from Mr. Atchity, in case it proves as illuminating for anyone else as it did for me:

         In a productive, well-ordered life two elements must be managed: time and work. Poor time-managers fail to recognize the difference between the two elements: Work is infinite; time is finite. Therefore, you must manage your time, not your work. Work expands to fill whatever time is allotted to it. If your work is successful, it generates more work; as a result, the concept of “finishing your work” is a contradiction in terms so blatant and so dangerous that it can lead to nervous breakdowns—because it puts the pressures on the wrong places in your mind and habits. Time, on the other hand, is finite, though there’s much more of it available than people who manage it poorly think. The real problem is that we don’t have enough disciplined energy to use all the time that’s given to us.
         Instead of trying to finish your work, you need merely find time to do your work; then simply concentrate on doing it the best you can. The satisfaction will come from knowing that each day you’ve allotted time for the work you love, the work you want to do.

From Kenneth Atchity, A Writer’s Time: Making the Time to Write (1995).

10 comments:

Quillhill said...

Work is infinite; time is finite. Therefore, you must manage your time, not your work.

That is an excellent description of time management.

Lesley said...

Thanks for posting that - sometimes the most simple concepts can be the most profound.

j-love said...

That's so reassuring and yet cautionary! It's a talent to make these ideas sound so simple: "work is infinite; time is finite." So obviously true, yet at times so essential to have it pointed out. We just need to set aside those decreed hours, and the work will happen. Maybe not all of it, but some, but some.

Litlove said...

Dear, dear, I ought to print that out and repeat it once a day. That comment about the impossibility of ever finishing one's work was particularly poignant for me!

simon quicke said...

The problem is finding the time to read - work gets in the way!

LK said...

Another great quote, thanks!

JCR said...

This is brilliantly written, and I agree completely. I teach so time management is a must. Whatever doesn't get done today will be moved to tomorrow and so on and forth... work creates more work... I just love this quote.

lucette said...

That is pretty brilliant--the kind of thing that seems so simple, except you didn't think of it.

Pauline said...

I have to print this post and wonderful quote, so that it stays right by me!

Anonymous said...

This is not what Dave Allen of Getting Things Done says. He doesn't believe in managing time, but in managing actions. He does believe however in staying abreast of all your commitments to yourself, and reviewing them. That is his conclusion from the understanding that time is finite but work infinite; his purpose as he puts it is for us to feel ok about what we're not doing. The way to do that isn't to manage time, but to review what he calls open loops and say to ourselves, "It's OK that I'm not doing that today."