Constructive Time Management


Wednesday is Productivity Day at

Are you a productivity junkie? Do you think that time not spent directly related to a goal is time wasted? Do you plan out every minute of your day, every day of your week, every week of your year? Do you always have to be getting things done? Is time wasted nonproductive? Or is it constructive?

I’m Rick Cockrum. Alex has been kind enough to invite me to write a post about productivity and time management. Maybe because of my experience. I’m a full time social worker. My wife and I own and operate a movie theatre. I write one blog, Shards of Consciousness, where I also host a biweekly podcast. I’ve also been known to work in software development, having written my own pim and the software we use at work for all the social workers. All in all, it makes for a full life. To do everything I want to do, I have to manage my time, and manage it so it isn’t just productive, it has to be constructive.

What’s Wrong With Being Productive

The details of our lives are important. It is in the details that dreams are brought to birth, thoughts made manifest in the flesh of the world. But it seems to me that much of our lives have become increasingly mechanized.

Time management is important. Scheduling is a tool that helps us find the mental space to accomplish our goals. All too often, and it appears that with increasing frequency, scheduling has become an end in itself.

We have forgotten the difference between that which is productive and that which is constructive. For all too many people efficiency and productivity has become an end in itself. Productivity isn’t bad. It is a way to conserve resources and maximize our talents. But when it becomes an end in itself it becomes as much a blight as aimlessly wandering through our lives.

It is another way to remain unconscious, handing over the tools of living to the robot. While my wife was in the hospital her sister came to stay with us to help run the house, something for which I am unendingly thankful. She always had to be doing something. She didn’t make a schedule on paper, but she was forever cleaning, going from one task to another.

Relax, I told her. Do something constructive instead. What do you mean? she asked. Meditate, write a poem, draw a picture, listen to the birds. Watch the clouds. She was endlessly productive, but never took time to be constructive. When something is constructive, it allows us to express who we are, who we want to be, where we want to go. It isn’t busy work just for the sake of being busy.

How to be Constructive

I can’t overemphasize the importance of writing in leading a constructive life. The act of writing down your mission, your goals, your tasks transforms them from dreams to commitments. It forces you to focus and makes what you are doing more real.

  • Know what you want the mission of your life to be. In some ways our lives are stories. Our mission is the theme that our actions are creating.
  • Have one to three goals to work on that embody your mission. Goals are specific targets. They can be long term. They can be short term. If you have too many goals at once, you will scatter your attention and something will end up neglected.
  • Goals are generally reached through a series of steps. These are the tasks you complete to reach your goal. Some may themselves be mini-goals.
  • Plan the major tasks of your day at least a day ahead of time. When you get up, you’ll know what you want to accomplish. Don’t overload yourself by scheduling every minute. Make sure what you have planned actually furthers your long term goals. If more than these tasks get done, fine. If not, that’s fine too. The purpose in scheduling is to give yourself psychological space in which to work, not to be a straitjacket. The scheduling is to work for you. You’re not working for the scheduling.
  • Take some time every day to do something purely creative and for the joy of it without an expectation of outcome. Meditate. Take a walk. Go fishing. Go canoing. Write a poem. Sing in the shower. It doesn’t really matter what. The point is to do it for the sheer joy.
  • At the end of the day look back over what you’ve done. Did you complete your major tasks? Congratulate yourself. If not, try to see where you got sidetracked and how you can change it in the future. If you continually find yourself not able to complete the tasks you’ve scheduled (assuming you didn’t overschedule), you need to find out if the goal you’re working on is something that is really important to you or if it’s something that you feel like you should be doing. If it’s the latter, the chances are you won’t get very far with it and you should discard it now.

The interesting thing about maintaining a constructive life is that it is also productive. It’s a lot more fun than a purely productive life. It leads to personal growth. The reverse isn’t true.

If you enjoyed this post, than please add it to, I’d appreciate it!

Posted by in Productivity, Time Management | October 10, 2007 | Digg | | Stumble | Print | 9 comments

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  • Manda

    I really enjoyed this article. So much, I’m passing it onto my husband who leads a very “Productive” life. I hope this will encourage him to “Stop and Smell the Roses”. Excellent work!!!

  • Alex Shalman

    Great to hear that Manda… maybe he’ll even pluck one and bring it home to the wife! =)

  • Robyn

    Very timely, Rick. I came to investigate Alex’s site and was extremely surprised to start reading this and discover it was you…

    In relation to what you say here, Rick, I’ll never forget Liz Strauss’s post on Spend time and save time simultaneously. Just that phrase is enough to prod me to plan ahead.

  • Alex Shalman

    Hey Robyn, I’m happy that you enjoyed my guest of the day =)

  • Rick Cockrum

    Hello Manda,

    It’s a lesson I’m still learning, with a great deal of help from my wife. ๐Ÿ™‚

    We need goals to strive for, but the purpose of the goals is to live and enjoy what we have now, not in a tomorrow that somehow is always one step away.

    Here’s to a rose.

  • Rick Cockrum

    Hi Robyn,

    Surprise! ๐Ÿ™‚

    That line does say so much. A little time in the right place does save so much time ahead.

    Be sure to look around here. Alex has a great deal to give.

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