Time Management : The Philosophy of Time Management by Brad Aeon

  Time Management : The Philosophy of Time Management by Brad Aeon

when I was six years old my biggest fear

was to get bored I used to make to-do

lists every single day so to always have

something to do

but one day I was watching this

documentary on sea turtles and it said

that sea turtles can live up to 150

years of age and I realized as a

six-year-old kid and I'm probably not

gonna live that long I'm gonna die it

was such a strange realization don't you

feel weird sometimes when you realize

that no matter what you do in life still

gonna die in the end so I ran to my

mother and asked your mom is it cuter

we're all gonna die someday you me dad

my friends and she said yes we're all

gonna die there's nothing you can do

about that and I was terrified I started

to cry I cried so hard because of what

death meant it literally means the end

of existence the end of everything and I

wondered what's the point of all this so

I turned to my mom still crying and said

so why do we work why do I have to work

what does dad have to work so much if he

and everybody else are gonna die anyway

she never answered my question

but that question stuck with me ask

myself a lot of questions and I'm sure

you do too

that's what philosophy is all about

asking questions and what could be more

important than asking questions about

how to use your time probably nothing

because time is all we have so naturally

you would expect the hold time

management movement to be very


after all time management is a concept

that started out in philosophy the

ancient philosophers were obsessed with

this one very important question how can

we use our time in a way that makes our

lives meaningful but modern time

management is philosophically empty time

management books are written by

consultants not philosophers it's always

about tips and tricks and techniques to

get more things done to do things faster

to be more productive more efficient and

to work better time management has

become philosophically empty time

management has moved away from his

philosophical roots but if we really

want to live a meaningful life we have

to once again reinforce and philosophy

starts with questions here's a very

simple question why do we need to manage

time some people might say it's because

time is precious very precious so we

need to manage it but how precious is

time exactly see whenever I introduced

myself to people as a time management

researcher the first thing people say is

oh yeah time management it's that's

really important because because time is

money time is money

every time I hear time is money it

reminds me of this conversation I had

over coffee with this acquaintance of

mine he was a he was a contractor as

what we're talking he looked slightly

annoyed and impatient so I asked him

Jeff what's going on man everything all

right and he said she said I hate

wasting my time makes me so so angry

it's awesome what do you mean and he

said look I make on in 60 dollars an

hour that means every hour I spend with

you I'm losing 160 bucks I was slightly

offended to be honest but it's what he

said next that really shocked me he said

whenever I'm spending time with my own

kids it makes me so angry because yeah

i'm spending time with them but every

hour i spend with my kids I'm not making

$160 and it's not just an anecdote you

can see this everywhere experiments show

that whenever people start to think of

time as money they become more agitated

less happy always in a rush and

importantly they get greedy they become

less likely to help people out to

volunteer or to think about the

environment because nothing else matters

when you're making out in $60 an hour

the real question is is money the real

value of time the Roman philosopher

Seneca said that if we think of time as

money we're actually valuing our time

very cheaply we value our time very

cheaply because we think we're we have a

lot of it because we think we're gonna

live forever but we're not gonna live

forever we're gonna die and the moment

you realize and I mean fully realized

that you're going to die on an $60 an

hour it won't mean much time is not

money anymore now some people might say

that thinking about death is not exactly

cheerful maybe but it's very helpful the

French philosopher Albert Camus

said that the most fundamental question

in philosophy is why shouldn't I kill

myself right now it's true why shouldn't

kill you why shouldn't you kill yourself

right now your answer to that question

will remind you what you're truly living

for your answer to that question will

remind you of the true value of your

time because time is not money when you

know you're going to die and this is how

philosophy helps with time management

it helps us ask meaningful questions

about time

here's another seemingly simple question

can you manage time back in college I

had this uh.this professor used to tell

me that you can't manage time time

management is you can't manage

time because there's too much too many

things to do too much work to do too

many obligations you can't manage time

she's to publicly brag about how she

never sees her daughter because she has

she never has time people admired her

because she was so productive but what

people didn't know was that her work

obligations also made her depressed they

cost her a marriage and of course she

never really got to know our daughter

but what truly pains me is that things

could have been otherwise she could've

been all out she could have been alive

today and see her daughter grew up but

she didn't believe that time could be

managed so she never tried whenever I

used to drop by her office she would

tell me sorry kiddo I don't have time

but that was a lie I don't have time is

the biggest lie in the history of

mankind you know who really didn't have

time your great grandparents those guys

had no time at all they had to work 12

hours a day every single day it's not

just work everything back then was more

time-consuming people didn't have

washing machines so they'd have to wash

everything by hand they didn't have

frozen meals so that to cook everything

from scratch and all those things took

hours to do back in the days that's why

a great grandparents really didn't have


but here's the incredible thing our

great-grandparents did not complain

about not having time we do it's a

paradox we have more time than they did

and yet we still complain that we don't

have time why because we have more

options more freedom to choose our time

options as we please

look at how we live today we can shop on

Amazon 24/7 any day of the year

women can delay pregnancy by freezing

their eggs more and more companies offer

flexible work schedules we can watch our

favorite shows any time I want on

Netflix so not only do we have more time

but we have also have a lot more

flexibility a lot more a lot more

freedom to use our time as we please

and we still say that we don't have time

why the philosopher jean-paul Sartre has

said that we have this tendency to trick

ourselves into thinking we're not free

because being free to use your time as

you please means that you have to make a

choice and live with the consequences of

that choice that mean that means

whatever you do with your time it's on

you and that's the scary part it's scary

because what if we made the wrong


what if we're missing out it's this

constant fear of missing out would your

life have been better had you spent more

time with your kids or more time

studying or more time partying maybe we

don't want to know that's why we say we

don't have time it gives us an excuse

it's reassuring but in reality we do

have time and time can be managed it's

just that we don't have a lot of it so

they have to be sacrifices we can't have

it all when it comes to time we can

either make sacrifices or make excuses

but only one of them will allow you to

live meaningfully we live in an era of

unprecedented flexibility where we

actually afford to work less and do more

meaningful things with our time so why

don't we and by we I really mean us you

me and everybody else in the city

because time management is not just

about you it's about all of us it's

about all of us as a society the way you

manage your time has huge consequences

for our world what do people say when

they don't vote I didn't have time what

do people say we didn't read I don't

have time why don't people relax go the

museum or volunteer I don't have time

but this wouldn't be the case if we

thought about time management the way

philosophers do by asking questions the

right questions instead of focusing on

tips tricks and shortcuts so what kind

of questions can we ask ourselves well

is it reasonable to let you boss call

you on weekends is it worth it is it

worth your time and buy time I really

mean life not money because you're not

paying your bosses with some with some

commodity you're paying them with your

time you're paying them with your life

if that's not precious I don't know what

is next time you tell a friend you don't

have time to hang out ask yourself if

you actually have better things to do

or if you're just making excuses because

there's a growing sense of isolation in

Western societies people feel alone

partly because people feel they don't

have time to hang out anymore though we

do have time so please share it with the

people you care about if you can

remember if you want to if you want to

manage your time meaningfully embrace

philosophy and never stop asking

questions thank you


Who is Brad Aeon

You are going to die eventually. Will you fill whatever lifetime you have left with so-called time management techniques and shortcuts? Or will you see time management as a way to infuse your life with meaning and purpose?

Brad Aeon studies time. Thank you for your time. Aeon is a Ph.D. researcher at the John Molson School of Business focused on time management, temporality, and work-life balance. He focuses on the improvement of our temporal decision-making as a solution to achieving more success by leading a less busy life. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at 

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