Space-time Management: What the Heck Is That?

Leonard Bernstein said, “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.

Michael J. Motta
5 min readMar 19, 2018


Don’t engage in “kitchen table productivity.” When you need to get stuff done, consider your surroundings. Go somewhere quiet. Go somewhere where you are less likely to be interrupted. A plan and time is not enough.

But that’s only 2/3rd of the equation. You need a plan, time… and space.

Huh? Why?

Because even with a meticulous plan and solid block of time, you need space to implement the plan and spend the time. If that space is no good — if, say, your daughter keeps throwing her shoe at you (true story) — then the meticulousness of the plan and the solid block of time mean little.

So, instead of thinking in terms of time management, think in terms of space-time.


You plan to write your paper from 6–7 AM every day. That’s great. It’s pareto. If you stay committed, you’ll finish the paper. But that’s purely temporal thinking and is suboptimal. If you take it a step further and also think spatially, your paper will be finished sooner and it will be better.

Productivity “space” breaks down into two components: inner and outer.

“Inner” and “Outer” Space

Inner space is, well, inside you: your level of energy, amount of focus, and reserves of grit.

Outer space is your external environment: how able you are able to guard your space-time from the outside world; your degree of organizational efficiency; and your ability to nimbly deal with inevitable interruptions.

Inner Space

Level of Energy

Some tasks require more or less energy than others, and our energy levels ebb and flow in reasonably predictable ways (e.g., “morning people” versus “night owls.”) It thus makes sense to proactively match the high-energy tasks for when our energy is high, and lower-energy tasks for when our energy is low.

The short term world loves to distract us when we are at our best. It also loves to trick us into sacrificing energy and making more time through skipping sleep or other bad habits. Good energy management is critical.

Amount of Focus



Michael J. Motta

Asst. Professor of Politics. Writes here about productivity, learning, journaling, life. Author of Long Term Person, Short Term World.