Avoiding temporal bankruptcy.


The NYTimes's Shifting Careers column addressed the problem of information overload last Friday. The column reminded me of a fundamental reality: that although our time is finite, the demands on our time are infinite. Whether we work 40, 50, or 100 hours per week, there's a definite limit to what we can accomplish.

Even if we were physically able to work 24 hours a day, everyday, we'd never get to the bottom of our to-do list (or our email inboxes). There will always be one more call to make, one more problem to solve, one more email to write. We have to abandon the fantasy that staying at the office later, or working weekends, is the solution to getting to the bottom of the inbox or the to-do list.

We have to treat our time like we treat our money: as a limited resource that must be budgeted. And just as we first allocate money to the most important things in life -- food & shelter -- so, too, must we allocate our time to the most important stuff in our work.

Unfortunately, most people treat their time as though it were limitless. As a result, they either squander their time on the equivalent of a $6000 shower curtain, or they end up spending themselves into the stress and health problems of temporal bankruptcy.

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