David Shipko is a Los Angeles based scholar and writer.

Time Management

You must become an effective manager of your own time, they told me, they being a long parade of parents, teachers, training cadre, commanding officers, bosses, self-help gurus, counselors, advice columnists, friends, and lovers. Of course I did not wish to manage my time. I wished to pass my time as I pleased doing first this thing, then that thing, moving from activity to activity according to the ebbs and flows of my interest, desire, and need. When curiosity reigned, I would read or explore. When loneliness arose, I would socialize. When hunger or thirst came, I would eat or drink. When the world seemed absent something, I would create. When work was needed, I would labor. And when I wished to sit or lie somewhere absolutely unmoving, allowing my mind to drift, so I would. I would follow my body and my mind. But for this, I was disciplined. Parents scolded me, bosses berated me, commanders counseled me, lovers accused me of negligence, friends intervened, for my own good, of course, in the interest of my success and happiness, and with each disciplining, something of the discipliner left itself in me, until one day I found that I had, quite by accident, constructed in my mind a composite model of the ideal manager of my time, and although he had my face, and although he spoke in my voice of the loftiest ideas and in the most benevolent of dictions, he did so through a sneer that said, I command you, now. And so he does. All day long, he stands over me with a sharp whip and a sharper tongue, unleashing upon me, whenever I should dare to deviate from a productive regimen, verbal and emotional and psychological abuse, until I recognize what a horrid person I am being and get back to work. In my dreams, he entertains me with visions of failure, and my daydreams he haunts with endless commands towards profit. I, through him, who is, after all, I, have become a marvelous manager of my own time, except that as I am also the worker that he—I—oversees, it is not I doing the managing, and the time is no longer mine. For some time now, I have been plotting his overthrow, perhaps his murder, but, alas, he seems a bit cleverer than I, or at least very well informed, and so he remains always a step or two ahead.