Why The Old Solutions Don’t Work
Certainly, this wide-reaching problem requires a radical solution. But most classic approaches to “Time Management” only ask us to modify our practices, as if all our conflicts with Time could be taken care of simply by “establishing our priorities,” “sticking to a concrete schedule,” or “organizing our files.” These extraneous solutions are rational, but they’re not psychological; they pay no attention to the internal emotional conflicts and pressures that influence us on by far the most fundamental levels.

While it must be recognized that external pressures and distractions overwhelm us constantly, their impact on us can trigger internal psychological conflicts. These conflicts are not able to be addressed only on an external or behavioral level. The reality is, when left unaddressed, internal conflicts influence our behaviors profoundly, potentially wreaking havoc on our potential to maintain a healthy equilibrium with Time.

When we only try to alter our behaviors, in neurobiological terms we’re using the left hemisphere of our brain to logically decide how to manage our time. These external, behavioral resolutions, however, can easily be undermined by reactions from the limbic brain, which push us into a fight or flight survival state. This disrupts even our best-made plans, from completing tasks to following schedules, and makes interpersonal relationships more difficult (Siegel, 2007).

Here are two examples of how internal psychological issues can interfere with efficient Time Management:

* Imagine you’re the director of a branch of a real estate company. You’re writing a promotional piece to advertise a new housing complex. Each time you sit down to work, you’re inundated with interruptions. A co-worker asks you a timeconsuming question. The phone rings while your secretary is out to lunch; it’s your daughter calling from school to say that she’s sick. By the end of the day, exhausted, you realize that you wrote your piece within scattered, fifteen-minute chunks of Time.

* Imagine you’ve been assigned to prepare a presentation at work for a group of your colleagues. With the best of intentions, you come to a decision to start working on the project in the morning, when your energy is at its very best. Even though you’ve planned to leave your whole morning free, you put off working on the presentation until the last minute. By procrastinating, you’ve wasted your best energy and wind up rushing to finish the presentation.

Although the first example might seem to describe only external factors interfering with time, varying degrees of internal conflicts might be at work under the surface as well. These could range from the inability to create professional boundaries, to trouble setting limits, to fear of delegating responsibilities and giving up control. In the second example, no amount of external time management solutions can address the unconscious internal conflicts that cause procrastination. These could range from beliefs rooted in childhood experience, such as “They’ll judge and attack me,” “I’m not good enough to do the job well,” or “I’m terrified to speak in public.”

In both of these kinds of situations, old neural nets from childhood are likely suppressing our ability to function from a balanced state of mind. From infancy, neural nets that can hamper us as adults are generated when early caregivers aren’t sufficiently attuned to our physical and emotional needs. These experiences create implicit memories, including nonconscious mental models about our worth, our abilities, and the way the relational world works. When there is not sufficient empathy in our early environment, such neural nets remain dissociated from the flow of the integrating brain, so when they are triggered in adulthood, our rational choices are overwhelmed by the super-fast limbic rush of these mental models. We may fully intend to work on a pressing project, and find ourselves ingesting ice cream instead. Because these experiences are dissociated from connection with your middle prefrontal cortical regions, we are deprived of the complex processing obtainable there, including the capacity to see a range of options and the response flexibility to choose the best option and act on it. Consequently, we’re less able to address clearly and potently the issues that arise regarding ourselves, others, and the task at hand, making it virtually impossible for us to make decisions from a place of choice and freedom (Siegel, 2007).

Although we can’t always change our external situation, we do have the ability to influence our degree of neural integration, giving us the power to change our internal and external responses to challenges. The freedom given by increased capacity for choice is an effective time management skill that frees our energy for the task at hand, while changing the quality of our work and life.

Ideally, each of us experiences the integration of body, thoughts, and feelings – or, to say it neurobiologically, body, left hemisphere, and right hemisphere. Any successful approach to time management must incorporate all of these aspects of our being, each of which shapes the way we interact with and relate to Time. In order to manage Time safely and effectively, we first will have to learn to manage ourselves. It’s vital to recognize the significant difference between “management” and “control.” Rather than closing off from complex feelings or beliefs in order to regain control, true self-management involves being in touch with all parts of ourselves. In this way, we can gradually develop the capacity to respond to any situation from a place of awareness and choice, rather than be pulled off track by external pressures, old neural nets, and our own feelings and beliefs. As we become increasingly aware of internal (psychological, emotional, and bodily) factors that inform the way we relate to Time, our middle prefrontal cortex begins to integrate with previously dissociated limbic firing. So the next question is, “How do we promote the neural integration that will lead to greater freedom in regard to Time?”

Learn more about t Time Management and Mindfullness at Dr. Klau’s Website, http://www.drlyndaklau.com/TimeManagement.html. Thank you.

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