Metaphors for Better Time Management

I started reading Metaphors We Live By this week, continuing to make metaphors top of mind for me. My interest was re-piqued on the topic after finishing The Knowledge-Creating Company, where they discuss Metaphor and Analogy as the most effective ways to externalize tacit knowledge.

The prevalence of metaphor to think and understand concepts has encouraged me to consider some helpful metaphors in my own life.

Below are a few of metaphors I find helpful for personal time management. Most, if not all of these are unoriginal and pulled from sources I have come across over time. I will link to the latest/memorable ones, but it’s hard to pin down everything that has influenced my thinking.


Note: This list is by no means exhaustive.

Your calendar is a hard drive

This is an interesting one because I used to approach my calendar as a reminder tool for meetings instead of a record-keeping system.

  1. You can organize your calendar in a variety of ways to make it easier to use. This can include categories for work/home, categories for projects, categories for fun/un-fun activities, or whatever you choose. This gives you a birds-eye view of how you are spending time.
  2. By analyzing how your time is spent across a variety of activities, you can defrag your calendar and chunk together similar activities to increase efficiency.
  3. By being more deliberate with your calendar it can act as a resource for record-keeping, providing a ‘source of truth’ for how your days/weeks/months have been spent. I find this piece especially helpful for doing time tracking after the fact. I try to keep records of how my spending time by ‘recording’ it in my calendar, not just using it for meetings.

Time is money (a resource)

This conception allows us to apply standard money-based activities to our time in order to earn a better return on it.

  1. Using your calendar as a budget, you can see where you are spending your time. How well does this align with your priorities?
  2. Consider how you might use leverage with how you spend your time; if you are teaching someone, a one-to-many type meeting can increase your output.
  3. You can allocate your time pro-actively based on what you wish to achieve – instead of using your calendar reactively, block off time in advance to spend time on your priorities.

Time is a stream

This thought illustrates how uncontrollable time is – it’s something we can direct with intention, but not fully control.

  1. Time flows by whether you like it or not. It’s not something you can save to spend later, only divert to other more beneficial paths. This represents a comparison in how time is not like money.
  2. There can be “dams” in your stream, preventing your intended activities from flowing. I don’t know how accurate this metaphorical comparison is, but it reminds you that there are blockers that need to be removed to keep time flowing smoothly.


An interesting thought experiment: can these metaphors help you conceive of new product ideas? I believe people who can create new metaphors are able to create successful/novel products.

Perhaps I will write a future post about new metaphors that have been created through new products.


High Output Management

The Effective Executive

Defrag Your Calendar


Deep Work

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