Necessity, Repetition and Time Management

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. This quotation and others derived from it have a long and varied history. Less well known,and never quoted is an equally valid phrase “Necessity is the father of repetition”. How do I know it is never quoted – because, as far as I know, you are reading it for the first time here!

Please think about these two phrases carefully. Invention, or originality, could not be more different from repetition. In fact they appear to be contradictory. Yet they are both certainly true! For sure in many ways, on many occasions, necessity has provided the spark that has prompted original thinkers to devise unique and creative solutions.

Less attractive is the simple truth that necessity has also given rise to repetition – those things that must be done habitually.

How is this relevant to time management? Well, I could also have said that necessity is the mother – or father – of time management.

You will also have heard of the expression “use it or lose it” used in connection with the ability to do something athletic, or skilful. In essence it means that if you get into the habit of doing something, then it is a lot easier to keep doing it than if you stop and expect to pick up later where you left off.

The same applies to being well organised for which you must decide what works well and suits your needs – and then to keep doing it. Mindless repetition is pointless – so of course you need to be sure that systems you have in place continue to suit your needs. However in many cases these tasks are carried out more efficiently simply because they become so well known to us.

Like it or not, the simple truth is that for most people in most situations, their life is dominated by things that they do routinely and repetitively. Even those who engage in creative employment find that the means to express their creativity involves much that is routine. Does that sound tedious, dull and boring? Well it can be! Expect nothing inspirational to come from repetition.

Furthermore, for most of us we are simply stuck with it. Almost all of us must complete some uninteresting monotonous tasks. For example we make few changes to the way we get up, shower and dress for the day and much of what we do in order to run a family home is routine – ask a parent if one laundry basket offers anything very different to any other.

In fact much of what we do routinely actually contributes enormously to our identity as the person we are and how others see us. We need that routine and continuity so that we might be able to express ourselves in other ways and do those things that really interest us.

It is therefore quite accurate to say that necessity is also the father – or mother – of repetition.

What you should avoid, if possible, is delay in completing tasks because they are repetitive and you find them boring. Interrupting or even putting off routine tasks nearly always results in the need for more time to be spent on them at some later time. But if we ask ourselves whether we can do those things more quickly, or make better use of the time spent doing the repetitive tasks – in other words think of what we do in terms of time management – then we can begin to make a difference to the tasks and alleviate the boredom that comes from repetition.

It really is possible to approach routine chores whilst simultaneously looking beyond the immediate task. The key lies with the attitude you adopt. If you incorporate the task into wider circumstances, then you can shift to a more positive frame of mind. For example you can keep in mind how the task contributes to a larger goal, or is timed so that other more interesting tasks are dealt with immediately before and after. You might also try to think of ways in which routine tasks can be done together and not one after the other. You might set time limits for completion of tasks and then try and finish ahead of time – in other words challenge yourself in some way. That part of you that would otherwise be aware of the tedium will be diverted to meeting the challenge.

Be imaginative in incentivising yourself with the trivial and in setting different rewards for different tasks at different times. Everyone has some inducement that will provide motivation to conclude tedious tasks. You might decide to reward yourself on completion of a task – but be sure to do so. You might time rest breaks to be taken when a task is completed rather than at a set time.

To summarise, we must do the routine less attractive and more boring tasks – and they will always be a part of our lives – so we must find ways in which we can reduce that boredom and incentivise ourselves to complete them as efficiently as possible.

So we come full circuit. We have been reminded that necessity is the mother of invention, but learned how necessity is also the father of repetition. The key is to ensure that these two parents work in harmony and not in conflict in order to nurture their child – time management. The child will flourish with a healthy balance between the routine and more interesting aspects of our life. Getting this balance right is fundamental to good time management.
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