What We Can Learn About Time Management From Cats And Gravity

We can control a lot of things in our lives. Things like what we eat, when we exercise, and what we do with our free time? Those are things we can get a handle on for the most part. So let’s talk about three things we can’t control: cats, gravity, and time.

If I do this right, the blog and website are helping you get better at getting from busy to done. Which means talking about how we can be more productive, and inevitably the conversation gets to a point where we’re talking about time management.

Which we can’t manage.

Unless we’re a Time Lord.

That…is not a real thing.

So it’s not about managing time, it’s about managing what we do with the time we have.

Time is one of those things, like cats and gravity, that will do whatever they want no matter what we do to control them.

Observe: a cat, demonstrating gravity.

We own three cats. They do…pretty much whatever they want. And while we’d like to think they have some kind of loyalty to us and we’re somehow in charge of their lives, I know that if we died in our sleep they’d probably start eating us before morning.

What makes us different from whatever the cat in the GIF is knocking to the floor?

We can do something about what happens at the end.

Because it’s not about the fall, it’s about how you land.

You’re falling – now what?

In another life, I went to airborne school. Voluntarily(ish) jumped out of a perfectly good airplane five times. And I learned that if you jump out of an airplane, you are falling.

There’s no gentle puff of cloud coming along to drift you away, you’re headed toward the ground between 18 and 22 feet per second. If you’re a 6’4” 240 pound male carrying his gear, you’re always going to be at the far end of that. Which meant that I always ended up on the ground nearly first.

That there’s something immutable. What was not immutable was my landing. And how well I’d prepared for it. And whether the slightly disgruntled kid with the red baseball hat had done a fine job packing the parachute.

So whether you land in the perfect execution of the parachute landing fall (PLF), or you’re more of a feet-ass-head guy is really up to you.

Sure, there will always be things that affect that landing, but your fate once you get out of that airplane is up to you.

Where will you land?

When we’re hurtling through life, then, we need to be thinking about the landing. All the time. Because otherwise we hit the ground like so much unprepared airborne school trainee and end up with a pretty decent headache on our hands.

Barring an errant gust of wind, and yeah, those are a problem in airborne operations, you can kind of figure out where you’re going to land at some point between airplane and the ground.

Think of your landing spot as a goal you have in life. You’re hurtling toward that goal at the same rate 1440 minutes at a time.

Because every 24 hours is made up of 1440 minutes. You can’t do anything about that. You can’t manage that. What you can manage is where you’re going to be when that 1440 minutes is up.

Stuck that landing…now what?

Every time I landed, I was pretty impressed that I hadn’t knocked myself unconscious.

I’d set the bar pretty low.

But once I’d figured out that I’d made it down pretty much intact, then I had to do the next thing. Which in the case of airborne school was to put all that crap in a bag and find my way back to the bus.

Which is what we should all be doing when we achieve a goal, and that’s moving toward the next one.

That means we had that in mind before we ever left the airplane.

I knew before I stepped out what my goals were for the day:

  • Check chute
  • Thank God I was alive
  • Land
  • Checked all the vital stuff
  • Find someone in charge
  • Get on the bus
  • Go home

I needed to reach all of those goals for it to be a success. If I skipped any step, things would have gone differently. And there would have been varying degrees of bad that followed.

There’s a point here, right?

There is, and that’s this: Stop trying to manage time. Manage what you do with it, instead.

Life is going to happen to you.

How you prepare for it is up to you.

We all get the same amount of time. Every day. We can’t control that.

No matter what we do at the end of 24 hours we’ve gone 1440 minutes into the future. We’re one day closer to the end of the year. So what we do with that time means we’re either the same we were the day before, or we’re better than we were today than yesterday.

When a cat knocks stuff of a table, it knows it falls down. That cat doesn’t care about what happens next.

Do we?

When you get up every day, are you thinking about the landing? Are you thinking about what happens next? Or are you just hoping to make it through the day with a minimum amount of damage?

When I was in airborne school, I was usually just hoping I didn’t break anything. I wasn’t thinking too far ahead, because there wasn’t much I had to do as a trainee.

If I’d been assigned to an airborne unit, that would have been different. Because I’d have to be thinking about what we had to do next a lot more. And the check to make sure I wasn’t broken was to make sure I was ready to lead troops toward an objective.

And that’s how we should be thinking about our days.

About being better tomorrow than we are today.

I’m not talking about big changes. I’m talking about small steps. A little bit of progress every day.

  • Learning a language? Study it for 5 minutes
  • Want to do more pushups? Do 1 more
  • Want to write a book? Write for 15 minutes

Over the course of a year, that adds up to hours. Hours that we’re using to get to somewhere better than today.

Worry less about that fall, worry more about how you’re going to land.

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