GUEST COMMENTARY-Is up. Ready or not, here I come. But I haven’t finished yet. Is running out. 

We all have time but then we don’t. Or not enough. 

In these days of sheltering at home, we were all supposed to have so much time on our hands that our lives have become full of Zoom meetings, streaming recordings and endless calls from friends and family with nothing to do. 

Meanwhile, we are so stressed by what needs to be done that we can’t sleep at night. 

Time management as a concept goes back to the Industrial Revolution and its drive to profit to justify the expense of investing in factories. Previous types of investment were in voyages to the Far East or running slaves to the southern states. It took using people as cogs in a production machine as epitomized by the Charlie Chaplin movie “Modern Times” to objectify workers’ labor.

Peter Drucker, who left Nazi Germany in the 1930s and settled in the United States, laid the foundation for current corporate practices through objectives. This expanded the concept into management and the need to manage business by balancing a variety of needs and goals, rather having a single goal. 

The self-help guides of the 1970s and beyond took this from our work into our personal lives and then to the modern objective of work-life balance. 

But today we have so much to do that most people are overwhelmed by the got-to-dos and ought-to-dos of work and family and even well-meaning friends that we have no time for ourselves, let alone others. No time just to be. 

And our own inner voices keep pushing us to be a human doing, not a human being. 

Time management. Priorities. 

Can we shift the algorithm, so the goal becomes happiness instead of or as well as productivity? 

Realizing that personal happiness includes the happiness of those around us, and those around them. In fact, a whole world of happiness. 

Where to start? 

President Eisenhower is credited to have said: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” 

From this a method has evolved to quickly sort tasks and goals into urgent and important (need to address now), important but not urgent (need to do but can be done later), urgent but not important (delegate these), or none of the above (time-wasters – deal with accordingly). 

Stacey Abrams has her own version in more colloquial vernacular: Gotta Do, Need to Do, Oughta Do, and Might Get Around To. 

Most of us no longer have to toil on farms or in factories from dawn to dusk to put food on the table. 

Use a couple of hours a day for the Gotta Dos, set deadlines for the Need to Dos, push the Oughta Dos (unless it’s something you really like doing) off your desk and out the door and keep the remaining hours for the non-urgent and unimportant activities that you truly enjoy. 

It’s time to find time for ourselves. And for our loved ones and the friends who support us as we walk the paths of our lives. 

Let’s take that time and celebrate just being.


(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She also writes on behalf of the Budget Advocates’ mission regarding the City’s budget and services. In her real life she works on budgets, for film and television, where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today’s world.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.