Time Management – A Lost Art

When I was your age, I had to walk to school 10 miles one way, in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways. I was able to get straight A’s, get all my chores done, play on the football team, and keep a part-time job.  Sound familiar?  We’ve all heard stories similar to this from our parents and elders.  As I get older, I sometimes find myself going off on a rant about one thing or another that seemed “harder”. This happens a lot when talking to younger students, namely high school and college age kids.  Bear with me but this article will have that kind of feel to it.  What does an article on time management have to do with martial arts you may be asking?  I’ll get to that too, just be patient.

In teaching kids over the last 20 years, I have noticed a steady trend.  Kids seem a lot busier, stressed, and overwhelmed then I ever was.  The onset of this also seems to start at a younger and younger age.  Middle school kids seem to have more homework and tests than I remember having in high school.  For a while, I thought this was simply due to kids having more, difficult things to do.  After further examination, I realized this was true, but it wasn’t the only reason. I also realized they are in serious need of better time management skills.

Now to the old man, when I was your age story.  It is important to know that I started martial arts at 8 years old and continued with it consistently.  There were ups and downs and times of inconsistency in the training but I stuck with it.  When I was a sophomore in college, my instructor asked me if I wanted to be the chief instructor at one of his schools.  Without hesitation I said yes. What could be better than getting paid to teach martial arts?  

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At this time, I was attending college in Ann Arbor, MI and the studio was in Flint, MI.  This amounts to about 50 miles one way, about an hour drive.  I would leave right around 3pm to make sure I got to the studio in time for the 4pm class, cutting it close several times.  Sometimes I would leave right after classes. Sometimes my classes would finish earlier in the day, but I never left classes early.  I would finish at the studio around 8:30pm-9:00pm and drive back, getting back around 10:00pm.  I did this 4-5 times per week until I graduated with honors in Aerospace Engineering.  

Now, during this time, the following things happened: 1) I never missed an academic class, 2) I never stayed up all night studying (I stayed up all night doing other things though at times), 3) Always got at least 6 hours sleep on school nights, 4) had a full course load every semester (except the last term of my senior year because I only needed 3 classes to graduate), 5) was on the Dean’s list my entire sophomore year, and 6) had a very active social life.

I am not trying to brag and I ain’t no genius; I am just trying to set the stage for my point. There are plenty of really smart people that fail miserably all the time.  I attribute my ability to do this to hard work, dedication, and…wait for it…time management.

Now, I don’t plan on writing out how to be better at managing your time, this is a martial arts article after all, not a self-help seminar.  In fact, martial arts do not teach time management per se.  What it does teach is respect.

My first instructor, and every instructor I’ve ever had in fact, was very adamant about being on time.  So adamant that it frightened me. I made sure my parents got me there early.  The instructors I had after that were not as scary but still instilled the importance of being on time.  This taught me to respect another persons’ time.  There are many other lessons I’ve learned over the years that have taught me respect, too many to mention here in fact. Perhaps in a future article.

How does respect translate into time management?  If you have respect for other people, other people’s time, as well as yourself, you can’t help but manage your time better.  

Here’s an example using my old man story from before.  It is a Wednesday; my academic classes finish at 2pm.  I have to be at the studio by 4pm to teach classes.  I have an exam at 8am the following day. This is not a problem because studied for several days prior. I knew I could not do it all when I came home from the studio at 10pm.  When I get home, I study from 10pm-12am then go to bed.  I wake up at 7am, rested, with enough time to have a good breakfast and get to the exam early.  I don’t see where the respect comes in, you may be asking.  Read on.

  • Respect to my martial arts instructor was shown by fulfilling my commitment to teach even though I had an exam.  He expected me to be there and I could not let him down.  
  • I was respectful to the students at the studio by being rested and focused to teach good classes.  They took the time to come to class, it is my job to show them I value it by doing my best for them.
  • I was respectful to my academic professor by being prepared to take the exam.  He put in a lot of hard work trying to teach me the material and I owed it to him to show up prepared.
  • Respect for myself was shown by getting enough rest and nutrition, so my mind and body were in the best condition to take the exam.
  • I was respectful to the other students in the academic class since if I fell behind, I would require extra help from the professor or assistants which takes their time away from them.

I could go on, but I think I made my point.  It seems that many people are not being respectful these days, especially when it comes to respecting other people’s time.  I don’t attribute my martial arts training to my time management skills, but I know for a fact that the respect for others I learned at an early age had a direct impact.

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