Fontane – Time Management


“Ours is the hour only. And an hour, if happy, is much.“


Don’t we know these moments in which we feel totally off balance, in which we desperately long for more free time, time for ourselves – and still, we don’t take time off because of fear that our jobs could be negatively affected or our families will come off badly? Do we enjoy happy hours now and then or are our days so full of urgencies, thus we cannot enjoy life anymore?

Theodor Fontane was working as a pharmacist, private teacher, journalist, theatre critic, editor, press correspondent; not least he was one of the most important German authors. Surely, his life must have been exhausting sometimes, his days must have been full of work, and he didn’t find fulfillment in all of his jobs. However, he obviously accomplished to spend happy hours.

Chronos vs. Kairos

In antiquity already, people knew that time can be perceived differently. Hence, Greek mythology tells the story of two gods being responsible for time: Chronos as a personification of lifetime ensures that time passes in an exact and linear sequence of moments. His treasures are experiences. However, anyone who doesn’t use his/her time and who doesn’t learn and mature from it will be devoured by Chronos. In contrast, there is Kairos, the god of the right moment and of favorable opportunities. Whereas Chronos represents the quantity of time and the experiences derived from it, Kairos stands for the Now, for the present moment which can only be considered subjectively. This dimension of time, its quality, is much too often ignored.

Importance vs. Urgency

How on earth could we wait for favorable opportunities, if we are constantly rushed and if we submit our daily routines to the strict dictation of clocks?

In order to recognize the right moment we need peace of mind and awareness. We have to know exactly what we want, for in our complex world with infinite possibilities there are millions of opportunities – but not all of them are favorable for us.

Naturally, we want to be engaged, we want to feel indispensable, important, useful, we want to sense the ecstasy of adrenaline driving us to more and more performance. Every day, every minute is filled with urgencies to survive in our meritocracy. Urgency however, only simulates importance. If we never pause to listen to our own needs and to meet them, we will never experience quality of time. Important things don’t force on us; we have to see them for ourselves and to allow for them.

Allow for Importance

Human needs are of psychical, social, mental, and spiritual nature. This also includes long-term planning and constant enhancement of our skills as well as real regeneration and maintenance of worthwhile relations. Seeing and doing what is truly important to us, and managing to integrate these essentials into our daily lives, brings us a huge step closer to quality of life.

Even if we can spare only little time for it: this one happy hour will be much.


Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1995). First things first. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Weinelt, H. (2005). Die zwei Gesichter der Zeit. Abenteuer Philosophie 4, 18-21.

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