The Need Does Not Constitute the Call: The Simple and Strategic Side of Time Management

J. Hampton Keathley, in his essay The Stewardship of Time offers a solution to the time management failures of modern society:

“The need does not constitute the call.”

This statement is founded on the following principles:

  1. That we only have 24 hours in a day and not a minute more.
  2. There will always be more things to do (needs, opportunities, desires) than what you'll have time for.
  3. All the time management tools and techniques in the world will not relieve you of the basic truth that there will always be more things to do (needs, opportunities) than what you'll have time for.
  4. A feverishly lived, or rushed life, constitutes an individual's attempt to meet more needs than what they are capable of, or called, to meet.
  5. Interruptions in schedule are generally not considered to be opportunities for relationship, but disruptions in expectations rooted in unrealistic time management goals that are falsely driven by the objective of meeting as many needs as possible, rather than the right ones.
  6. Failure to meet every need does not constitute a lack of caring, interest, or desire to meet that need.
  7. Being called to meet needs should not be driven simply by those needs (that they exist, or by their perceived importance, because all needs are important to some extent), or by your own compassion or abilities or sense of importance, but by the prioritization of your calling.

Keathley uses the illustration that we are laden with the burden of pulling boxcars full of unfinished tasks, guilt, and frustration. Why is this? Because we live in a society that worships work, Keathley claims.

“It is a society that has made work and the accomplishment of work the primary source of fulfillment, security, and satisfaction. Many have cultivated such an unrealistic standard of achievement that they have developed a neurotic compulsion to produce and perform. It has become like an intoxicating drug that they use to get a high. But why such a compulsion? It is undoubtedly prompted by a desire to succeed, to have what others have, or to have more than others have, to feel good about themselves, or to prove something to someone, perhaps a parent, or just to themselves.”

If success as defined in the statement above (note that more than greed drives corporate decision making) is not the very reason for the crumbling of world economic markets today, then perhaps I've underestimated the extent of the blindness pervasive in today's society.

I've spent a great deal of time wondering what litmus test for success that I will apply as CEO on behalf of the company to which I've been entrusted, Backpacking Light. Will it be the micromanagement of my time and the resources of the company so that every minute and every dollar is wisely spent for maximum profit and productivity? What a miserable existence! I'd surely think that God does not command me to become busier or richer for the sake of being busier or richer beyond what is required to be sustainable for the purpose of allowing it to have a higher calling.

Therefore, I must step back and take a larger and more strategic view. How does Backpacking Light contribute to the strategic growth of the world's well being? This question is answered by subdivision into Keathing's three questions:

Who am I?

Am I another someone futilely searching for meaning and purpose in life from the rewards of this world alone?

I'd rather believe that my time here on earth is transient and short than permanent and eternal. This does not absolve me from making the most of my time on earth. It is, in fact, a calling to ensure that I don't waste it on the pursuit of futile profit and meaningless productivity.

Where am I?

I live as an American, and serve as a CEO in a capitalist, psuedo-free market society where corporate values are rooted in materialistic definitions of success.

From this context, I'm well aware of the standards and pressures that are placed upon me by peers, customers, employees, and others to conform to these standards. Knowing that I tread on rotting logs in this mire of quicksand, I'm careful and cautious about every step lest I be led to the middle of the quagmire with no path of escape. [cf. Lehman Bros. et al., September '08.]

Why am I here?

Aside from the obvious practical goal of ensuring the sustainability of Backpacking Light, I have a higher calling to ensure that Backpacking Light contributes to the well being of the world in a way that helps the world.

It's not hard to see how corporate corruption, greed, unethical practices, and unbalanced time spent on productivity and profit has had a net negative impact on society. Does there exist the delivery of a product or service to society that is worth that sacrifice (see “Who Am I?” above)?

It would seem that this transient time might better be spent on relationships. To what extent, then, does this contribute to Backpacking Light's mission? I believe that Backpacking Light has a philosophy that can change the world: that philosophy which, when applied to one's life, can simplify it, create a greater sense of enjoyment in it, and allow those boxcars of unnecessary stuff to be left at the rail yard while you live it. The result of this? Personal growth, relationships with less baggage, and a greater sense of spiritual intimacy, meaning, and purpose.

Conclusion

The axiom proposed is a simple one, and is as applicable to relationships, business strategy, and financial management as it is to travel through the wilderness, or for that matter, the stewardship of time:

Pack less, be more; let the call – not the need – drive your priorities.