Consider again the person who is trying to plan their actions, or using the oxymoron, “manage their time”. The traditional approach starts with a time measuring device, a clock, a calendar, or a schedule. One then tries to squeeze an action, really a series of actions into the time allotments. There is little consideration given to the thoughts that must precede these actions. There is some lip service given to Intention, but no consideration have I ever seen given to “reaction” in the traditional “time management” consultations. I submit for your consideration that this unbalanced approach, like fad dieting, quickly fades into oblivion, frustration, and a profound sense of failure. Trying to control the uncontrollable does that. It cannot be lack of will power or motivation, because Intention is the one item of the “thought-Intention-action” process that traditional time management suggestions DO emphasize. No amount of Intention by itself can lead to satisfaction. Yes I am implying that the person trying to plan their actions would be well advised to first consider the comprehensive thoughts preceding and causing the action. Intention is relatively easy and almost takes care of itself. That leaves action to take and reaction with which to deal.
Before moving on, let’s take a brief look at reaction. I think we can all agree that some reactions are involuntary reflexes. This is particularly true in a physical sense, where striking a knee in a certain way causes a kick. The reaction is largely uncontrollable because that is how our bodies are built. Similarly, our bodies react involuntarily to external and internal influences causing stress in one form or another. Some reactions are a result of a “logical” thought process. “He offended me, so I am angry.” While we cannot always control our thoughts, (spontaneous creative ideas, for example) there are many reactive thought processes that we build over time that become very predictable. The combination of these processes results in actions that taken together become our habitual character. We are indeed known by our reactions even more than our actions.
Without being aware, we create habits. Those very predictable and controllable processes mentioned above are the basis for habits, the repetitive action that becomes so familiar we don’t even consciously monitor the action. Habits are not inherently good or bad, they are simply repetitive actions that have become routine. Little thought is required. This can be very helpful, powerful even. They can be comfortable or uncomfortable (compulsive). They can be safe or dangerous. They can be moral or immoral. They can be ethical or unethical. You get the idea. They take on a life of their own and that is what makes it so difficult to know ourselves as others see us because we don’t (often cannot) continuously monitor our habits. When habits are so automatic they are a reaction.
All of the above planning deals with controllable items. A real departure from traditional time management is contemplating reaction. If one considers reaction potential, reaction can be divided into reflex, essentially uncontrollable (perhaps controllable within limits), and controllable. (Habits are controllable.) Either can be anticipated, thus prepared for. I suggest that successful action planning anticipate reaction of both types.
Earlier I mentioned prioritization. What does this mean in the context of planning action? The root of priority stems from desire. Desire is a very complex influence unique to humans. All of a persons experience goes into desire. It heavily influences motivation (will, or will power). I’m not going to suggest that we just do what we want when we want. It’s not that simple and would ultimately be uncivilized and lead to anarchy. I am going to suggest that desire plays such a critical part in our successful actions that it should be carefully respected. “Successful actions” means those actions that started with carefully crafted thoughts, moved through Intention, and initiated a desirable action and reaction. The closer the match between the original desire and the desirable reaction, the more success is experienced. Satisfaction is one of those reflexive reactions resulting from striking the sweet spot intentionally. A careful examination of desire is helpful in matching the thought process, the expectation, the Plan, with the action. In other words, satisfaction, success, can be thought of as setting and reaching a prioritized expectation. Desire is found in a wide array of colors and intensities. It can be a foggy notion or very intense. Desire has a profound effect on the entire process.
Let’s summarize and condense before moving on. We have “thought (desire and planning)” leading to “Intention” which gives way to “desired action” resulting in “reaction”. Desire fosters the arena for more focused thought, the beginning of setting an expectation, a part of planning, all of which is categorized in thought. As this process matures into action, then personal success is achieved when the ultimate reaction closely matches the original expectation. So far time allotment has not been mentioned in this process because we must clearly understand how the processes leading up to time allotment are related.