The Power of 1440 (or The Myth of Time Management)

A 2006 post on Pascal Veniers blog made me think a little about a topic that I’ve long considered and held some thoughts on. This topic is that of time management.

It is clear that I am an example of what you could call a productivity geek. I’ve studied various methodologies and used various tools. I’ve been on a search for the holy grail of personal productivity. You’ll note that I rarely use the expression time management. This is simply because I don’t believe in it.

You see time cannot be managed. It is a constant. There are 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. That makes a grand total of 1440 minutes in a day. No matter how hard you “manage” your time, you cannot possibly produce even one extra minute in a day. 1440 is a critical number — it is rock solid and rock steady. Time frankly refuses to be managed, despite our best efforts and great intentions.

I’ve held this view for many years, so when I stumbled upon Getting Things Done a few years back, I was instantly intrigued. Why? Because David Allen never talks about time management. He talks about action management.

Actions are the only things we manage. Eating, sleeping, meditating, exercising, work, rest, play are all actions. Some actions are standalone, some are part of a greater “project”. But actions are, by definition, the things we do.

So give up trying to manage time — time is an external concept, and steadfastly refuses to be managed. Instead, look within yourself and focus your efforts on your actions — on making the most use of your 1440 minutes in a day. You will be more productive.

This post was originally posted on my personal blog back on 19 January 2006. It has been edited slightly to bring it up to date.

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