As I mentioned in a prior post on the topic of time demands, this distinction is one that we at 2Time Labs were forced to create when the old definition of a task just simply stopped working.
One of the major differences has to do with agency – where do time demands come from?
I’m reminded of the following quotes, the first of which is from A Course in Miracles:
“The default way of thinking about conversation is that it is ‘just talk’ and that it is is a poor cousin of Action. But that misunderstands the formative power of language. My promise is to bring you a way of utilizing language so that what you need is created rather than ‘just talked about’.” David Firth TEDxCSU video
The power of using the concept of a “time demand” is not just a matter of labeling “the stuff we have to do” with a different name. New language opens up new meaning according to David Firth, and also a possibility. Here’s the definition we share in our classes:
A time demand is an individual commitment to complete an action in the future.
Implied, but not stated in this definition is a new kind of agency or responsibility. No time demands exist until you, the individual, bring them into being. Picture this – nothing is there, and all of a sudden you create a time demand, triggered by a conversation, memory, television advertisement, etc. Someone else sees the same ad and nothing happens, demonstrating that your willpower is required to create a time demand each and every time.
Some people in my programs tell me that their boss or spouse creates time demands, and I ask them not to confuse the trigger with the source. You can always elect to refuse a request, while accepting the consequences. Or you can simply ignore it. Failing that, you could quit the job or get divorced. Ultimately, you even have a choice whether to live or not.
Something psychological happens when we create a time demand, however, and it always involves some obligation. When it gets created in your mind, it includes some action to take, by definition. General commitments (to one’s family for example) are not time demands, but a promise made to oneself to pick up the milk on the way home certainly is.
One the other hand, when you don’t have the distinction at work in your way of being, you are left in a delusion that the stuff flying at you to be done everyday is out of your control, like being caught in the middle of a blizzard in which each time demand is a snowflake.
In their experience, they are victims. The best they can do is struggle and fight to stay alive against an onslaught of overwhelming data, information, requirements, invitations, obligations, promises, etc.
It’s what we do: sign up for every newsletter in sight and then complain about getting too many messages while griping that we don’t have enough time to read them all.
The great thing about taking responsibility for _all_ the time demands we create is that doing so empowers us to stop creating so many. At the same time we can start a serious efort to manage the ones we do create.
This isn’t ordinary thinking, but it’s the start of a transformation.
If you examine your day, you’ll see that your mind is always creating time demands. At the moment of creation, your mind simultaneously might tag on some more information: a likely start date/time, the duration, plus some level of commitment to get it complete. You may also add other information such as who else must be involved, where it is to be performed, other resources that are required, etc.
Skillful professionals don’t allow all this information to float around in their heads – they immediately capture it somewhere so that they can keep track of it outside their heads. They appreciate the fact that it’s much less risky to do so.
What do you think?
P.S. This distinction is at the core of my book – Bill’s discovery of time demands is where everything good starts happening for him. It’s so important, I have created a new page here on the website to bring together my most important posts, a podcast and a video on the topic of Time Demands.