The Paradox of Time Management

With all the automation and productivity tools available to us, you would expect that we have a lot of spare time nowadays.

That’s obviously not the case for most of us. More and more people are struggling with time management today. How’s that possible?

The technology that brought us the automation and productivity tools also brought us a wider range of distractions. On top of that, new ways of filling our spare time became available to most of us.

We have more spare time than before, but we have even more videos, podcasts, events, and Tinder dates fighting for our time.

Obvious distractions such as social media and video gaming are easy to be labeled as time wasters. I already discussed several ways of eliminating them.

This post is about pursuits that seem to be beneficial on the surface but a waste of time, energy, money, and attention in reality. Time is only one of the resources that we have to manage in our lives.

An Example

When I first started training with weights, I followed the advice on YouTube and trained with the heaviest weights that I could lift for a certain amount of repetitions.

I had a good workout, but I had less energy for other activities during the rest of the day. My energy allocation wasn’t optimal, because having an athletic body wasn’t very high on my list of priorities.

The solution to this problem wasn’t to give up training altogether but to reduce the time and energy I invested in it. I decreased the number of days I went to the gym and the intensity of the workouts.

Nowadays, I have a moderate workout in the gym three days a week, and I have more energy to invest in other endeavors during the rest of the day.

Resource Allocation Based on Your Priorities

Prioritizing your life doesn’t mean to invest all of your time, energy, finances, and attention to a single endeavor. It means that your resource allocation is in alignment with your priorities.

Robert S. Kaplan points out the connection between vision, priorities, and time management in his HBR article What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, also available in the book HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself.

You draft a vision for your future. Based on your vision, you come up with a list of priorities. Finally, you adjust your usage of your time according to the list of your priorities.

I’d rather call it vision, priorities, and resource allocation because there’s so much more to resource allocation than just time management.

Needless to say a list of priorities needs to be restricted. If you have a dozen priorities, you don’t have any priorities.

Success requires sacrifices because we have unlimited desires but limited resources.


Our desires are unlimited, and the marketplace offers us numerous opportunities to fulfill them. This is a challenge for our time management in particular and our resource allocation in general.

Obvious distractions are easier to detect, but there are other activities in our lives that seem to be beneficial on the surface but wasting our resources in reality.

The road to success starts with defining our vision of our future, determining our priorities, and then auditing and adjusting our resource allocation accordingly.