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You: Can you list out some time management strategies?

Me: Of course. There are so many tried and tested ones that you may have experimented with too. I can go on. To list just a few:

● Set realistic goals

● Prioritize the goals

● Create a Master Schedule

● Create a daily schedule

● Stop procrastinating

● Seek others’ help

● Stay organized

You: With no offence to you, and with due respect to the great minds that have spent time and effort in putting together these sound strategies, I just can’t get myself to strike a chord with them for more than a month.

Me: That is why the term “Determination” has been coined, right? Giving up after the 109th time, neither calls for pride that one determined at something 109 times, nor does it call for frustration due to not having attained something despite determining at it those many times. Determination is of “indefinite” nature, ain’t it? It has got to be till one’s final breath….At least, that is what we can gather when we talk of “determination” in its crudest sense. Your thoughts?

You: I sure find sense in what you say, though I also feel that it is easier said than done. Then, I guess, I am after all not struggling with the time management part, but instead, the determination part. Ultimately, is there a way to stay determined at determination itself? :P

Me: Haha, that is a nicely framed question, but again, easier asked than answered :P Anyway, I shall offer a perspective. Since your question was a little too meta, bear with my answer also being a little too meta. My answer to this, however, depends on how you look at ‘determination’ itself; whether from a finite or infinite/indefinite standpoint. If it is the former, then it is just about determining something for a stipulated time frame, for example, working one’s heart and soul on an assignment, knowing the deadline is a week away. In this case, there are high possibilities that one will be able to invest a great deal of effort for the one week period, with the solace that determination would after all not be required to post the submission. In case it is the latter, it becomes a matter of determining something indefinitely, for example, attempting the UPSC exam every year until one crosses the age bar to appear. In this case, there are two eventualities: one, the individual may invest a great deal of effort consistently, as a result of their substantial attraction towards the idea of determination, or, two, the individual may experience phases of low and high determination alternatingly, due to mental fatigue or oscillating emotions arising in the process as a result of having to consistently determine at a target. Let us closely note that, in the second eventuality, there is a clear contradiction, in the sense that, when one has decided that they would indefinitely determine at a target due to having chosen the latter standpoint, one cannot allow the ‘self’ to give in to the fluctuations in determination, therefore, we are left here, with the first eventuality and thereby the only option of unflinchingly pursuing what we set out to, once we have determined to do so, at least so that the solace, that we are not contradicting our own selves, is retained.

You: I am intrigued by all this as a theory, no doubt. But again, the practicality presents itself differently, which you wouldn’t deny, I hope.

Me: What if I denied it? :P

You: Then I would say you are not being practical :P

Me: Practicality is after all a reflection of whether or not we have been able to execute determination, ain’t it? ☺

You: You got me there :P

Me: The intention was not that though ☺

You: Glad to know that! So, let us break it up a little here and get to the sea bottom. For your kind info, I still haven’t figured out whether I am the finitely or indefinitely determined one. In that case, let us first explore the possibilities and challenges of the finitely determined one?

Me: I’m up for it! Can you share an instance from your own life situation, so that we can explore along those lines?

You: Sure, I don’t mind. I have two exams coming up the following week. I know I have five solid days in hand, and that is quite a good amount of time, but I am looking at some magical ways towards determination here, rather than the tried and tested ones :P

Me: Haha, magical was quite a greedy word :P But I understand the intention behind the greed here; possessing an intention to develop determination itself entails a lot of determination. So, my heartfelt appreciation goes out to you for that ☺ To put it very straightforwardly, you know you have two exams lined up and five days to prepare for it. You also of course know how long each course is going to take you, keeping in mind the portions you have already covered; so what is left over here is just to prepare the remaining parts and appear for the exams, right? What are we seeing here, as areas requiring determination?

You: I was probably right when I accused you of not being practical :P

Me: Okay, don’t get offended :P I will try to be “practical” and break it down for you ☺ Of course, I understand it is not as easy as it sounds because we have a whole array of challenges, that include, mobile-related distractions, familial conflicts, self-esteem issues, career confusion, contemplations about existence on the whole and so on and so forth, and most important of all, over-thinking about the aforementioned.

You: You’ve finally started to TRY to be practical :P

Me: Haha :P Determination is very selfish and adamant, you see; it goes all the way out to get what it wants, and gives no consideration to the array of challenges we just spoke about. So, it goes without saying, that, the determination cannot ever adapt itself to the demands of practicality, hence my inability to be practical when I talk of determination. Anyway, I shall determine at “trying” to be practical, however ironical that may sound :P

You: Haha :P I wish I were as adamant as determination so that I need not ever look up to determination, because I wouldn’t anymore be different from determination itself :P

Me: That was beautiful :D

You: Now you are pressurizing me to become one with determination :P

Me: You got me there :P

You: Okay, so, instead of discussing determining what determination calls for, let us discuss determining at avoiding what determination does not call for. That may be a more meaningful route for me because I am assuming that my elimination list will be larger than my to-do list, hence, mere elimination might take me to a favourable spot. Now do not accuse me of choosing a round-about route and at the same time wanting to practice determination :P

Me: I will not accuse you as long the QUEST, be it straightforward or round-about, is ON :P Because Quest=Determination of a sort ☺

There is, fortunately, only one item I am going to put on your elimination list, in our journey towards determination (Oh, sorry, in our journey towards avoiding what determination does not call for :P), which is, “DOING THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF YOUR PSYCHOLOGICALLY WEAK REFLEXES”. To do this, you must first be able to identify the psychologically weak reflexes operating within you. In your own situation, once you have decided that you ought to make use of the five solid days in front of you, so that you may experience a sense of fulfilment at the end of the exam week, anything (I am particularly talking about the array of challenges we spoke about sometime back) that comes in the way of that, maybe considered as psychologically weak reflexes, because we give in to those, without our awareness, or in partial awareness. It is at this point that 5 days become 4, 4 days become 3, 3 become 2, and we are finally left with just 2 days to prepare, and this is also the point where guilt and pressure may start building. This is where I say we have to engage in the exact opposite of what our weak psychological reflexes do unto us. This is possible through heightened awareness only. For instance, on Day 1 when you sit to prepare and a friend invites you for an online game of Ludo, the weak psychological reflex will get us to accept the invite, because, we after all have FOUR more days left. This is where things snowball and go for a toss. This is also where heightened awareness ought to begin. Assertively declining the invite would be the first attempt at acting the opposite of the weak psychological reflex and thereby putting into practice determination with its complete essence. Once this journey has begun, there is no looking back, because, having commenced it itself would mean so much to you and you would evidently not want to get in the way of that streak.

Therefore, be it an elimination list or a to-do list, all it takes is a FIRST TIME, after which, we either persist at it or dishonour the entire journey towards the FIRST TIME and fail to create a SECOND TIME.

You: This makes me wonder if time management, planning, scheduling, all boil down to plain determination and did not after all require to be hassled around with so much! It would be worth some lone contemplation!

But, I somehow am unable to buy that determination is also the only solution to the array of challenges you mentioned. How can we trivialize our challenging life situations to that extent? We lose ourselves in them when they occur, don’t we?

Me: Good query, that one! Before we begin a discussion on that, I just have to clarify that I did not say determination is also the only solution to the array of challenges we face. Of course not! It would also be unreasonable if I straight off said that. I only said determination gives no consideration to the challenges once it has set itself all out towards a target. Having said that, determination comes into the picture only after four steps have been graciously fulfilled, namely,

  1. Define the challenge, for e.g., I have a low image of myself

  2. Identify the sources that contribute to the challenge and associated emotions, for e.g., being overweight, procrastinating, and losing temper

  3. Explore the sources individually, for e.g., I am overweight because I can never get myself to keep up with a diet and exercise regime

  4. Bring logical closure to the individually explored source, for e.g., I have only two options with my being overweight, one, I either stick to my regime and that would steadily provide me with the desired results, that I can use as an incentive to intensify my self-discipline towards my regime, or, two, I can keep failing at sticking to my regime, and that is evidently going to present nil results, but, the genuine realization (or, at least being non-denying of the fact), that I can see results only if I double up my efforts and self-disciplining, will prevent me from experiencing emotional incompatibilities.

In essence, it is at this point when action-oriented paths such as the above have been realistically devised, that determination comes into the picture for the first-ever time and stops giving consideration to the challenges per se, and rather pays attention only to the execution part, because, one has enough reason now more than ever, to pursue a target.

The rest of the journey, therefore, needless to say, would only comprise of some determination from our end :P (and I am sorry if ‘some determination’ sounded to you as an oxymoron :P). Hope I answered your concern at least minimally.

By the way, though I am truly amazed by your quest and all of that, why so much attraction towards time management, determination, etc, in the first place? Why take so much pressure on yourself? :P

You: Haha :P I never knew it was wrong to be attracted to an idea, particularly if it had the potential to be life-changing :P Maybe times are changing, after all, :P Anyway, I understood the essence of what you wish to understand from me. My response: Any unrest experienced in the journey either towards the essence of existence or away from the same, is indicative of an inherent desire in one, to explore the “SELF”. Since I have felt unrest whenever I have even mildly deviated from my chalked out schedules, I began realizing that it was not the deviation from the schedule per se that made me feel the unrest, rather, the aspects of my SELF in the process, that actually caused the unrest, and that is when it also occurred to me that I was actually beginning to passively explore my dimensions. Today, I wanted to do an active exploration ☺ Thanks to you for professionally journeying along!

Me: It is wonderful indeed, to hear about your highly meaningful revelations and self-discovery! Further, it was a pleasure to be granted access to journey along ☺

You: Thank you for lending your ears. Further, I realize that there is no more necessity to talk about the difference between a finitely determined one and an indefinitely determined one, because, ultimately, the word common to both categories is “determined”, hence, the mechanism remains unaltered, despite the difference in the time period for which one has got to stay determined.

Thank you for your enlightening theorizing and presence. Really appreciate. I am sorry, but I have got a schedule to determine, hence, I have got to take leave though I would have loved to continue this conversation.

Me: That was a beautiful realization ☺

Haha :P I love the way you are determined at ending this conversation in order to determine the schedule you’ve left behind; impressive indeed ☺ I am equally appreciative of your enlightening questions, ideas and presence.

You: Thank you ☺ Hoping to connect again. Your good name, by the way?

Me: You’re most welcome. I am Me. Your good name?

You: I am U.

Me: Nice to know you ☺

You: Same here ☺

To be continued…

This write-up was inspired by the idea that, in our lives, we either do, or not do, and it is either of these that leave us behind with a set of emotions, be it favourable or unfavourable.

If you’d like to connect with me, please do. These are unique times in the evolution of mankind and it would be my utmost pleasure to take on questions or queries and engage in a dialogue with you.

Madhumitha Sriram

Clinical Psychologist

Wellness Centre, IITM

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