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Time Management Part 2 - Purpose and Practice

So…did you take the challenge? How did you do?

Did you find any surprises? Did you feel confused by the results and differences? And are you or are you not in control of how you spend your time?

As a reminder, I challenged you to compare your expectations to reality in terms of time commitment and management to give yourself a better perspective of how well you manage your own schedule.

I’ve had some feedback from some who said it was a great idea, and they maybe-kinda-sorta wanted to try it but didn’t for mainly one of two reasons: (1) they knew they were hopefully disorganized anyway, so they’ve learned to live with it, or (2) they didn’t have time.

Does anyone else see the irony?

You don’t have time to figure out where you can save yourself time?

Hmmm…I think I have my work cut out for me. I think we’re dealing with some fear here.

Fear of admitting you have work to do. Fear of realizing and finally accepting that you have unrealized goals and that accountability for that only sits on one person. I use the word accountability because I’ve come to greatly dislike the word blame - it creates too much negativity of thought, and that causes displaced anger, confusion, distraction and additional delay. I much more prefer to deal with positive thoughts and choices.

If you did take the challenge, I’m sure you learned a little more about yourself and how truly valuable time is, and where it can be better invested. Now that you’ve seen the value of paying attention to how you spend your time, take an action item to do it at least once a quarter. I guarantee you’ll find you’ve slipped somewhere (we all do!) and you’ll be better equipped with each cycle to self-correct and re-prioritize. Chances are, in a year (or maybe a month or sometimes even a week) you won’t be focused on the same things you handle today, so frequently resetting your schedule is normal.

If you didn’t take it, that’s OK. Maybe you already have things under control or you’re part of the group I mentioned earlier who didn’t have time to do it (?!?). But I still challenge you to try it. I even do an audit on myself from time to time.

As we venture into new seasons, we find ourselves transitioning out of summer schedules into more structured and hectic times. Back-to-school hits many, from elementary to college - and even if you don’t have kids, your traffic patterns are changing, and it probably takes you longer to get to work so you need to leave earlier. Holidays are approaching faster than we expect, trade show season is gearing up, your kids’ practice and game schedules are consuming weeknights and weekends…let’s face it, the next few months are going to be nuts! Let’s make this year the one where you’re better prepared to make your commitments, while still enjoying yourself and not experiencing as much stress.

But there’s another reason why I believe time management should be something everyone makes an effort to master.

When you have control over how you spend your time, you are in control of your destiny. And it’s not just about getting everything done. It’s training your brain to think and operate in a different, and I think, healthier way.

You find time to pursue other interests. You expand your knowledge and experiences. Your inner growth and power starts to expand. You find opportunities to allow the energy of the universe into your heart, and you begin to realize your goals without the sometimes-felt guilt of owing anything to anyone else.

The more control you have over your time and how you spend it - without feeling guilty - the easier time you will have to live your authentic life and be your true self. You are free to make choices that align with and support your priorities. Sure, there will always be conflicts and things you need to change or rearrange, but you’ll handle those surprises with greater ease and with the ability to remain centered and calm.

Are you convinced yet? If not, if you still think you’ll never even approach having any power of how you spend your time, I will still combat that with a request to humor me and give it a try. Will it be perfect at first? Not a chance. Will it feel natural, and will those around you support your efforts? Nope. No one likes change, even if it’s not for them, and especially if it affects them, and it will certainly do so because you’re going to become comfortable saying “no” and staying focused on what’s most important to you.

I do want to make one small point of clarification here. Some may say that I’m advocating for selfish behavior, and in a way, I am - but only in one way and from one perspective.

I am not advocating for being selfish for the sake of being selfish and disregarding everyone and everything else in your life. To be selfish in a healthy way is to act in a way that allows you to let the influence of positive energy into your life and ensure that nothing conflicts with your priorities and allows you to live a life of authenticity, truth and inner strength. To be the best person you can be for others.

To put it clearly, I do not and will never condone nor support being manipulative or dismissive toward another creature, human or other.

So, with that, I’d like to provide, in addition to the six tips I gave you last week, a few more time-saving practices and tools that, in no real particular order, can have a tremendous effect on your efforts:

  1. First, remember that when and if something doesn’t work for you, try something else. Tweak it to meet your needs. And don’t beat yourself up over it. We’re all individuals and what works for me or your best friend may not work for you.

  2. Learn from your failures. In fact, instead of demeaning yourself for screwing something up - which will happen unless you’re not trying - consider it an accomplishment of figuring out a way that something didn’t work and try another approach.

  3. Time block your day, week, month, and even your year. In case you’re not familiar with the practice, it means you block a consistent time or day for a certain task. Examples include scheduling the last Thursday before the first of the month as the day you pay bills and set the budget for the following month. Expenses at work get submitted every Friday. Meal scheduling is done on Sundays. Exercise is done every morning at 7am. Consistency and commitment is key, but also don’t forget to remain flexible as needed. Life is unpredictable.

  4. Always - and yes, I’m saying always, although I’m not a fan of absolute words like always or never - schedule buffer time. Don’t schedule out every single minute or your day or I guarantee something will need to get pushed to another day, causing a delay or something to be missed, as well as a rise in your stress level.

  5. Group similar activities. If you’re running errands, don’t drive back and forth across town to different stores as you think of things you need, make a list and a plan of attack before you leave the house. And if you’re shopping for frozen or cold food, go there last. Take into account the times of day you’ll be driving and shopping to account for traffic, as well as mealtimes.

  6. As much as I detest the idea of “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” sometimes it’s not necessary to completely reinvent the wheel. Don’t overcomplicate things, but maybe personalize them to meet your personal needs.

  7. Create boundaries for yourself. Don’t allow distractions or time thieves to creep in and steal your time. This includes other people, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. You’re allowed to set your own rules.

  8. Be decisive and start, even if it’s a small step. Small delays snowball into bigger problems and have the ability to derail an entire project. By doing even the most simple part of a task, you start to eliminate the unknown and start making progress.

  9. And finally, when you set a plan or have a goal, look forward. The past is done, and although it helped get you here, for better or worse, it can no longer help you. To remind mindful, keep your focus on where you currently are and how it’s going to get you where you want to be, not where you have been.

The actual practice of getting things done and checking tasks off of your to-do list is an entirely different beast to address, and I will do so at another time. It involves how to be specific, how and why to break things down into smaller chunks and requires the mindset of someone who has accepted that they are in charge of their decisions and actions. You practicing solid time management.

That discussion is going to be good.

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