In July 2013 I posted this article and it has become very relevant again due to many of my clients and friends feeling overwhelmed by time management. I’ve added on to it, and I hope this helps anyone out there who feels time is their enemy.
To most of us, the passage of time is always changing. While time flies when you’re having run, it also ticks by with excruciating slowness when we are impatient for the future to arrive. Which begs the question: do we manipulate time with our perspectives, or does time manipulate our emotional state? There’s no correct answer to that except to say (as all scientifically minded people will tell you) time is a constant – it does not change in speed or value.
There are those who strongly control time. They manage time in precise increments, being never late, always aware of how long they’ve spent at any chore or event, and place high value on how much they can get done within time.
Then there are others who allow time to float in and out of their consciousness. They use it when they need it, begrudgingly follow it when it is imposed upon them, but in general, prefer to be blissfully unaware of time. These are the types that are chronically late, and despite their good intentions, rarely get all their desired goals/chores done.
Which ever time-personality type you are, you might want to consider what is time taking from you? If you have such a tight (and restrictive) grip on your time, you’re likely not open to the joys of spontaneity. A lot of wonderful life moments happen in between planned situations, and those are little jewels you don’t want to miss. Being flexible enough to go with the flow when life says hey, go this way will often reward you with positive “ah-ha” experiences.
Conversely, if you are so resistant to managing your time with a little more structure, you will find a lot of events and moments are missed because you were late, or too far behind in achieving things you truly wanted to achieve/see/experience. Being a touch more organized with your day will allow you more time in the long run – time to enjoy being fully lost in the moment, and enjoying every non-minute of it!
Time is a constant, but it is also tool we can use to get the most out of our time in this life. So here are a few tips you can utilize to either manage your time more effectively or loosen up on your fierce grip of every minutia:
Prioritize no more than three must do’s for each day (i.e., eating at regular intervals, 30-minutes of exercise, and an hour of game play with the children)
Set your clocks five minutes fast, and set your alarm 5 minutes earlier than normal. You’d be surprised at how these little manipulations of time will allow you to possibly be on time, while still padding for the habitual “delaying distractions” that plague the more free spirited types.
Plan for (schedule) at least one period of time per week (an hour or an afternoon, etc.) where you have nothing planned except to play, or be with a loved one, or hit the great outdoors for the purposes of just being.
If more structure is needed in your time management: make a chart of the must-do’s, have-to’s and want-to’s and once they are placed in an outline form that you feel is follow-able – follow it!
If less structure is your desire: make a commitment to yourself that once a day you’ll do something completely spontaneous and even frivolous. It can be five minutes or an hour, but telling your overly-compartmentalized brain that there’s a time period with nothing to do but go with the flow will actually rejuvenate your energy for the rest of your jam-packed day/week.
Play around with these concepts, and please let me know what works for you and what discoveries come from these experiments. Remember, time is not against you, but it can take away a lot from your life if you let it.
In a life where so often we have to ignore or postpone those things that give us the most joy, today I want to suggest that perhaps we all need to do a few more things that make us feel good. I’m not talking about selfish-joys that are detrimental to others or negate your responsibilities (and I also am not referring to adult-fun either). I’m talking about hobbies, passions, and pursuits that bring you personal pleasure (like artistic endeavors, being outdoors for fitness or sports, reading, seeing movies with friends, etc.). With lives so full, and martyrdom often prevalent (women in particular), many people consistently negate caring for their creative/fun sides.
Remember, life is short and the things that give us joy in life, the passions and hobbies we pursue, the moments of fun and happiness we share and experience, are essential to living a long and healthy life. Too often we isolate those moments into rare and even accidental instances, as our priorities lean heavily on jobs, family needs, and mundane chores that keep our lives chugging forward.
If you do not plan, schedule, and commit to decent chunks of time for you to do what makes you feel good, then you will not spend much time in that happy zone. It’s been well documented that people who maintain elevated levels of stress without a constant and regular outlet for their creative juices (the “happy zone”), suffer serious detriment to their bodies and minds.
When stress levels stay high, muscles and organs do not get enough tension release, which causes reduction in your immune system (more illnesses), increase in inflammation to tendons and muscles (tendonitis, arthritis, and muscle spasms), and your mood will be and stay suppressed (depressed). Life is meant to have a balance between hard work and playtime. Our bodies and spirits require the “peaks” to balance out the “valleys.”
Now if you tell me you have no hobbies or passions (as some of my clients have attempted to do), I will call bull on you (everyone has at least one thing that gives them that personal inner-joy, even if it’s just relaxing with a good book). The excuses most often cited are time and money. Well time is not the enemy, it’s your management (or mismanagement) of it. As for money, while some hobbies are clearly expensive to pursue, there are ample simple joys that everyone can partake in.
So start by figuring out what it is that you find enjoyment from while simultaneously stimulating your imagination and/or body (i.e., reading, arts & crafts, walking, hiking, dancing, playing games with the kids, etc.), then schedule in your calendar (and with your family) WEEKLY time where you will do just that thing (or those things). Make it important enough … see the importance to you … and then it will be a priority just like all the other necessities of life that you pay attention to.
Give it one month, and I know you will see and feel a difference in your life and your outlook. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback about what made you feel better.
How many times a day do you put off doing something that you really want or need to do? A chore, a desired goal, an important conversation, or even something to enhance your life like exercising or reading a book? How many of those “somethings” can you look back and see trailing behind you like a ball and chain?
Yet still you put them off, procrastinating your life away. There is always a good excuse why we don’t take care of business right then and there. You are tired, you haven’t the necessary enthusiasm or focus, too many other things still need to be done, or simply that the moment’s not right. You want to start on a Monday, or a new month, or even a new year.
But the longer we put something off, the more daunting it appears. Even though we know there’s no time like the present, still we take no action. Instead we stress over these neglected tasks/goals, allowing them to weigh us down. We make lists and more lists, hoping that written organization will help lighten the load. That’s a good start, but we drop the ball on taking action from these lists.
It comes down to this: what’s stopping you? Procrastination! The dictionary definition is: to defer action; delay; to put off doing something, especially out of laziness…to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost. Why do we procrastinate? Because it’s easier. Taking action is scary, and more importantly, it’s hard when you are already spent to exhaustion.
Many clients have sought my help in teaching them how to end the vicious circle of desire vs. time vs. drive vs. knowledge. In other words, they have a desire or need, but feel so inundated with obligations they have no perceived time in which to tackle the new desire/need. If time is not an issue, then they have no motivation (drive) with which to handle the task. Lastly, they cite lack of knowledge as a stumbling block. How, where, when to begin?
While there are a lot of ways/tools that I can teach you to become a proactive “do-er”, here are a few quick tips to help you overcome procrastination:
1. Organize: Create two lists of all tasks/goals. Designate which are NEEDS and which are WANTS. Make sure that your goals are realistic and achievable.
2. Prioritize: Now create one prioritized list of your needs and wants. It is good to have wants interspersed with needs so that your time and energy is not exclusively spent on needs. We tend to feel a better sense of accomplishment when we take care of want to’s along with must do’s.
3. Start Fresh: Clean up your environment. Piles of papers, or disorganized drawers, cupboards and closets, should be your first line of attack. Sort the piles, throwing out everything truly unnecessary. Place the remaining into neat labeled piles (i.e., filing, receipts, projects, etc.). Organize rooms, desks, cabinets, closets – one at a time until your space is in order. It may seem overwhelming, but just grab a trash bag and start the process. If you organize just one room or space a day (a single drawer counts too), then before you know it your house is in order. This alone will go far in keeping you motivated for more aggressive goals.
4. Start Small: Tackle each task one at a time. As you get better at prioritizing and time management, then you will be able to multitask and handle more than one goal at a time. If any particular goal is multi-layered, break it down into manageable chunks. It is always better to have a week of mini successes rather than forging ahead towards one big achievement months down the line.
5. Stay Positive: Focus on what you accomplish rather than what you do not achieve. Remember, the cup is half full, not half empty! Crossing items off your list is a visual confirmation of successes.
6. Just do it: To quote Nike – JUST DO IT. Get up, take a step, and do what your brain and body is fighting against. Pick up the phone, grab that book, clean out your closet, go to the gym – whatever it is, just one foot in front of the other and do not accept a NO from your brain.
Please understand that resisting procrastination does not mean you must constantly be in action. It’s important to take time to relax and rejuvenate. But ultimately, nothing elevates your mood more achievement and completion. The opposite of procrastination is urgency. Urgency motivates us to achieve. So if you need rallying, just reclassify that need or want as urgent, and ask yourself what’s stopping you?