The Myth of Time Management

by Randy Kightlinger

September 2016

Time management is a myth. It is an absolute impossibility. I don’t say that to make excuses for a lackadaisical attitude toward appointments or deadlines – always late, always with a story. On the contrary, I am a very organized and on-time person. When taking a personality or spiritual assessment test, the results have always revealed a gift toward the administrative. So, lest you think I boast about my attention to detail and time; I come by it honestly. It’s part of how God created me to be uniquely me. Don’t worry if that’s not you.  You excel in some area of life that I am totally incompetent, of that I am sure! That’s just the way God created us. We all have our gifts and talents. And dare I say, we all have our moments when we are envious of the gifts we see in someone else? I am very pleased with the particular gift-set that I have been given, but I have to admit that my insecurities start to rise when I sit in the audience of a gifted speaker or talented musician.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.” – I Corinthians 12:4 (NLT)

My leaning toward an ordered life is exemplified in the title and key verse at the top of my blog. “Excellence in Everything” is my personal mission statement. Colossians 3:17 is the verse that is the inspiration behind the statement. I entered into this mission humbly and prayerfully. I fail often, but having the quest for excellence in front of me challenges me to strive toward constant improvement.

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Why do I say that time management is an impossibility? Well, if you think literally about that phrase, it would seem that we can adjust time itself. If a college professor says that a paper is due at 4:00 Thursday, we do not have the luxury of saying that from 2:00 to 4:00 each minute will be two minutes long, giving us extra time to meet that 4:00 deadline. If we could do that, we truly would be able to manage time. But unfortunately for the procrastinating student, we cannot. Time is a constant. Each second ticks off the same as the one before and the same as the one to follow. It’s a very steady, unwavering beat… like clockwork (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Perhaps a more appropriate term would be self management. But that doesn’t have the same ring to it. What we really mean when we say we are managing our time is that we are managing ourselves to more efficiently work within the ever-moving signature of the time we are given. It’s getting started earlier on that college paper to allow ourselves more time to get it completed and turned in by the deadline. We have more time not because there is more time, but rather because we have managed ourselves to be better stewards of the time we are given.

“Time and tide wait for no man.” (14th Century proverb)

Those of us who are time-attentive (you know who you are) can tend to think those who are constantly running late as sloppy and uncaring. Those who are more relaxed (and you know who you are) tend to look at we time-sensitives as rigid and inflexible. There may be some truth on either side of the argument and we may all need to be a little more understanding with each other, because we are not all created with the same gifts.

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I have a friend, who I’ll call Fred (because that’s his name), who is the polar opposite me in regards to this topic. He is so relaxed that the term “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” often applies (don’t worry, he says so himself). The crazy thing is that it works for him very well! Dare I say, it’s one of his gifts?

Fred and I have had many conversations about how the two of us have been good for each other. By spending time with Fred, I have learned to dial it back a bit and be more flexible. Likewise, he sees some value in being more proactive in managing ourselves in regards to time (see how I didn’t say “managing our time” there?).

In one of my ministry classes in the late 1990’s, the instructor began the class by stating, “I’m going to start the class on time to honor those of you who are here rather than wait and honor those who are late.” That has always stuck with me, but I have never been so bold as to use it in any of the speaking engagements for which I have been the leader, except as an illustration. I do try to be sensitive to those who are more relaxed about time. Maybe Fred is to credit for my learned sensitivity in that area. Like I said, he’s been good for me in that regard.

Considering our inability to manage time, perhaps the key to better time sensitivity is to begin to understand how better to manage ourselves in regard to time. Some words come to mind as we begin to ponder the matter: priorities, attention, self-discipline, dedication, to name a few. Perhaps it’s time to do some self-assessment to learn how to claim larger chunks of the future for productive endeavors.

In the end, I’ll still continue to use the term, “time management,” like everyone else. It is such an ingrained term to our thinking. But just know that whenever you hear me talk about time management, I am really talking about managing myself, not managing time.

Well, that’s my allotted time for today. Until next time…

Rev. Randy Kightlinger, BA has been an ordained pastor in the Church of God since 2001. He currently serves as a hospice chaplain for two counties in northwest Pennsylvania. He is married to his wife of 37 years, Sharon, has two children and four grandchildren ages 5 and under. You can find him online at, Twitter, and you can reach him by email here.

2 thoughts on “The Myth of Time Management

  • September 3, 2016 at 7:10 PM

    I am a time management terror. I have always been that way. My upbringing was, shall we say more relaxed. If we got to an appointment near to the appointed time, my parents declared that a victory. It was maddening. Of course I married a nonplanner, someone that does everything spur of the moment, just like my parents. I always had my days planned out to the minute, but after 25 years of marriage I think we’ve learned to balance each other. I was the sheepdog making sure everyone got to where they were going, on time. Now that they are grown and we’re retired, he’s teaching me to relax and let it flow.

    • September 5, 2016 at 7:55 AM

      We are all different in regards to our timeliness. I think we all need those relationships in our lives to keep us grounded. Thanks for sharing.


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