Time Management for the Modern Barbarian

Monoar / Pixabay

Yeah, you in the back holding the banner dripping with the blood of your enemies. Sit down. Seriously. There’s a time and a place.

No, that headline is *not* a joke. I bring it up because I’m late with my column. Again. While twice can be coincidence, I’m not thrilled with the emerging pattern, as I imagine Tom is not, either. We’ve bemoaned our mad skills in this arena (as in, we’re mad, and got no skills. Or at least I don’t) that I feel I’m safe dragging him under the bus with me. If he’s added another skull to his throne by next week, we’ll know otherwise.

Tempus fuggits, just as hard as it ever can, and it often seems to disappear just ahead of my grasping claws, y’know? I don’t mean to wax lyrical, so much as I’m a writer trying to describe the incredible feeling of never having the time or energy to manage to do everything I feel I ought.

Aside: ought. I’ll get to that later. For now, don’t should on yourself.

I imagine most of you fellow barbarians have heard of Stephen R. “Reaver” Covey (Barb. Local #32) and his more or less infamous Big Skulls analogy of time management. More or less, you put the skulls into your trophy chest first and then fit in all the smaller bits around them, otherwise, you’ll never get everything in. At least, that’s how I heard it.

Point being, if you fill your days with all the fun little things you want to do, ignoring the bits you have to do, you’re going to end up burning out in a smolder of mediocrity. Our barbaric forebears couldn’t just hunt and drink all day without first ensuring the integrity of their borders and safety of the next generation, first. We’re in a slightly different place, these days (and that’s another series, right there) but the principles still hold. Ensure the safety of the next generation: pay your bills, fill the larder, make your damn bed (h/t to Jordan B. “Butcher” Peterson, Barb. Local #52, the Frozen North). Secure your borders. Go to work every day and do the drudgery that sucks.

And here, I need to explain a bit about the inner working of Caer Dave and Wee Horde. Wee Dave and Wee-er Dave (not their real names) are entrusted to my hands while their warrior mother, Mrs. Dave, goes and secures our greater borders. So while Dave writes, writing isn’t Dave’s top priority. It *can’t* be. Keeping the Wee Horde in clean clothes, food, and enough slaughter to slake their bloodlust comes first. Even before Stuff Dave Wants To Do. Those are my big rocks, even before stuff I’ve told people I’d get to (Sorry, Tom).

And that’s where the time-management part comes in. As lousy as I feel about blowing a deadline, I had other stuff that was more urgent. Now, was it actually more important? That’s part of what I’m working on, in a larger context. See, there’s such a thing as the Tyranny of the Urgent. It’s a condition wherein you spend all your time working on things that are urgent, but not especially important, and it’s far less fun than the Tyranny of the Deathless Horde. This comes from that great, barbaric overlord Dwight D. “Destroyer” Eisenhower’s (Barb. Local #16, the Death Swamp) comments to the effete burghers of the UN on how he decided which uprisings to put down first.

Most of the things we “have to do” are urgent, rather than important. Important things are playing with the little barbarians, and teaching them the importance of weapon control (both hands) and how best to display the trophies they take in battle. Important is carving time out of the great beast The Day for feeding our own souls. Urgent things are just paying bills, cleaning the fortress, and making sure the ensuring there’s enough roast beast to feed the army.

Don’t let the urgent run your life. It’s not easy, but it is possible. (When I get there, I’ll let you know.) Figure out how and when in your schedule you can snatch a few minutes to prep things for the future. At Caer Dave, that looks like me cleaning the dishes as I cook (scrubbing a pan usually takes about fifteen seconds and then it’s not cluttering the sink). Or tossing a package of chicken thighs in a bag with enough brine to cover them. The salt inhibits bacterial growth, and then they’re just waiting for me to throw them on the grill. Because fire.

And then take it in small doses. Don’t attempt to radically restructure your entire life over the course of a week. Set out to find little tweaks you can make, and then make them. Practice them until they’re second nature while looking for other tweaks and putting them into practice. Look, barbs, if I can do this, you can do this. This is exactly what I’m doing with PT. Every morning, I’m knocking out about fifty of those push-ups I described last week. First thing, because I’ve got a couple minutes. And then when I’m cooking, I can get in a set or four of mace swings. And if that’s all I manage during the day, well, I’m also out securing my borders for the Wee Horde.

And after a couple of months, my head will break the surface for a ragged gasp or two, and I’ll realize things have been running more smoothly than they had been. It works, warriors. Take the small steps, and remember success breeds success. Now take up your sword and get to it.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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