One day you’re going to college, studying and having fun; the next thing you know you’re working long hours, eating on the run, rushing home to take care of your kids or your spouse/significant other. Where does the time go? Managing time means more than managing your life against the clock. It means taking time to look at the priorities that you say are important to you. How many times do you say “I don’t have time?” Are you really saying “that is not my priority” Think about it? We are always telling others and ourselves “I would if I had the time.”
We think we have no choices about how we spend our time. Technology that was supposed to make life easier has actually done the opposite and is eating away at our personal time. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), computers, email, cell phones and pagers all compete for our attention. Electronic organizers and communication devices create an “on-call” work mentality that takes priority over personal responsibilities. Lack of time is more perception than reality. The problem is the lack of commitment to your priorities after you’ve set them. People overwork, set time to watch television and surf the Internet, but many people don’t set time to do the things that they say are important to them; for example; exercise, interacting with family or just spending time clearing your mind and doing something you enjoy. In one of my previous articles, “Wellness After 30: Getting The Most Out of Later Life”, I talked about the importance of taking a closer look at how you spend your time on an average day; writing down your daily activities to find opportunities to include things you might not have known existed.
In order to free up some of the time you spend watching television, you may want to record the TV shows you enjoy watching, and when you play them back, fast forward through the commercials. You will gain 12 minutes of personal time for every hour of TV you watch. Don’t be forced to follow programming schedules. Watch fewer shows but take the time to enjoy the ones you do see. Try limiting your time surfing the internet to one hour per day. Analyze the total number of hours you are spending at work versus how productive you really are on an average day.
Time is finite: 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 7 days a week. You can’t save it, but you can waste it. The amount of time we have does not matter, but rather the way we use it. Life can change in an instant so it’s important to make the most of what we have. Make time for what’s important to you: connecting with others, working in a career you’re passionate about, being proactive about your health by being physically active. Here are five steps you can take right now to get started.
1. Establish priorities that are truly important to you.
If your life is already full of things to do and you have no more time to add anything else, which is the case for most people. What do you do? Well you definitely don’t want to add anything to an already full plate. You must take some things away in order to free up time.
If I examined your life right now, would I be able to see what’s really important to you? Ask yourself what’s working, what’s not working and what could be better.
2. Re-evaluate your priorities using your time the way you really want.
As a mom, I have an ongoing struggle to get my children to realize that as they get older I need them to be accountable for the things that are within their capacity to handle, so that I can have more time for what I want to do. I have easily done this in every other aspect of my life, but this particular area is not so easy. I work consistently to get to what I really want in this area of my life everyday.
Take an inventory of your life; Are there areas of your life that need your attention, energy and resources? Look at the people that are in your life and assess why they are there. Do they fuel you or drain you?
3. Make time for yourself.
Make yourself number one as a priority. Spend your time and energy on things that bring you joy and make decisions based on what you want instead of what others want.
Practice excellent self-care. Focus on yourself in order to strengthen your balance, well-being and quality of life.
4. Set boundaries around your life.
Say “no” with respect when you already have a full plate. Don’t let your guilt talk you into saying yes. Explain to others that in order to honor your priorities you cannot add anything else right now. You can reschedule or just decide that it does not contribute to your overall priorities.
Learn your limits. We don’t say “no” frequently enough and we end up paying a price. For example, your best friend asks you to go to the mall today, your son has soccer practice, your daughter has violin lessons and your spouse/significant other is working late. What do you do? You can tell your best friend that you have to reschedule the mall trip for another day in order to honor your priorities.
5. Time is a gift.
If you found out today that you had 30 days left to live. What would become important to you? You shouldn’t wait for a message like that to live your life to the fullest. Spend your precious time right now being alive and enjoying your life fulfilling your purpose on this earth everyday.
Now that you’ve freed up some time, create an action plan and set goals to achieve what you say is important to you at this very moment.