“I don’t have enough time in my day.” If only I received a nickel each time I heard those words. Come to think of it, I do. Sort of.
Plenty of smart, successful people hire me to help them deal with the issue of time management. Some have read the latest time management books. Most use the perfect day-planner or latest hand-held computer. Yet, they still struggle with the ever-shrinking twenty-four hour day.
Even I, on occasion, have suspected some sort of global conspiracy to rob me of my most precious commodity. Do each of us really get only 24 hours in each day? I’m certain some fortunate souls get more. And some, it seems, get far less. Have you ever wondered why?
Having more time. Is it really as simple as learning a few new skills? Is it enough to make your daily list, prioritize that list and check them off as they’re completed? I don’t think so.
I propose the root of the problem lies not with a lack of time but with how you experience your life in relation to time. How is your experience of time different when your day is filled with things you love to do versus filled with things you feel you HAVE to do.
Already, I can hear you passionately interjecting.
“Helaine, be realistic. How can I only do things I love to do? I have to work. There are mouths to feed, tasks to achieve and responsibilities to fulfill. People rely on me.”
I agree, and here’s a taste of some foundational strategies I invite my clients to adopt in conjunction with any time management program. I challenge you to consider how these strategies might positively shift your thinking about not only managing your time but enjoying it.
You Come First
This strategy applies to everyone, but it especially applies to women. People do rely on you. Which is why it’s so important to take care of you first. Surely, you’re aware of the golden goose idea. It serves no one to starve the goose.
Oprah said it better in a recent “O Magazine” article. “If you allow yourself to be depleted to the point where your emotional and spiritual tank is empty and running on fumes of habit, everybody loses. Especially you.”
Our culture teaches otherwise, but the paradox is that you owe it to yourself and those who rely upon you to become more selfish. Yes. Selfish. You can put yourself at the top of your list without being mean or taking away from those who are most important to you.
Just let the idea sink in. I’ll admit, in practice, it’s not easy initially. But try it for 30 days. I can almost guarantee your life will look and feel dramatically more fulfilling than it does today.
The Purpose Driven Life
Yes, it’s a recent best-selling book. But it’s also a strategy I’ve been teaching my clients long before the book was published. Your life is always being shaped and driven by something. For most, it’s the past — beliefs and habits based upon survival and fear.
There’s another option. You decide what’s going to shape and drive your life. You choose the vision for what your life is to be about, the values you hold most sacred and the kind of person you are to be. And you allow those three to shape and drive your actions in each moment. Life becomes much more joyful and productive when you can filter out all the things that are not in alignment with your self-defined life purpose.
Just Say No
Once you’ve determined what’s important to you and how you want to spend your time you’ll need to protect it. Despite my aforementioned conspiracy theory, the fact is everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day. It’s up to you decide how you’ll invest those hours. And if you can’t say no, you’ll end up doing some things you don’t want to do. Learning to say no creates boundaries that preserve precious time and will serve you and your purpose.
Be Here Now
Ram Dass brought this idea to the fore in the early seventies with his book, “Be Here Now.” As busy humans living in the 21st century, the concept is no less important. We are geared and driven to do, do, do. She who gets the most toys wins. There’s a balancing perspective to add to the formula, however. Be-ing.
How might your experience of time, regardless of what you’re doing, feel different if you were aware, present in the moment and full of a sense of be-ing? In other words, conscious of you — your essence, your presence.
Get It Off Your Mind And Into A System
If it’s on your mind, it’s draining your energy. Keeping what you have to do on your mind creates mental stress. Think of your brain as the RAM of your computer. There’s only so much it can hold until it crashes. Not only does your brain get clogged with the 100 things you have to do, it can’t differentiate between their importance. Utilize a trustworthy collection system for your priorities, projects and tasks.
There are many time management systems available. Whether it’s a notebook you carry around, a mini tape recorder or a PDA, use a system to keep your brain available for higher functions. It’s important to find one that fits your style and needs. For example, if you are technologically challenged, perhaps a computer-based time management system isn’t the best bet for you.
As another example, if you are not a morning person, it might be more prudent to schedule your most important tasks later in the day, if possible. Think of a time management system as a pair of shoes. Make it fit comfortably and support you as much as possible.
Can you identify which of these foundations would be a good place for you to start? Where do you need the most support? The result of these perspectives could open a new relationship to time and a more purpose driven life. Why not give it a try?
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!