It is all about time
Have you checked your time lately?
What are YOU waiting for?
I love the Nickelback song, What Are You Waiting For. The song asks the questions: are you waiting for lightning to strike, a perfect night, or for the time to be right? It encourages us to take the wheel and steer, to learn to deal with the fear, and not wait another minute to give it your all. We need to take the leap of faith, believe in our dreams, and not be afraid to fall.
Do you have a dream that is just a dream, or do you have a dream you are working to make a reality? If it is just a dream, ask yourself why?
If I were to take a guess, you are waiting for someone else to tell you it is a great idea. In reality, the only person who can take you from dream to reality is you.
Often, I hear clients talk about time as an obstacle to realizing their dreams. So let’s get clear about what time is and is not.
We use “time” in so many ways:
- Time is how we measure how busy we are… “I ran out of time, I can’t find the time, I did not have the time.”
- Time can be a set of circumstances… “When the time is right.”
- Time can be a measure… “I’ll do this when I have time.”, “This will take a really long time.” “This will take no time at all.”
- Time is flexible… “I’ll do it sometime.” "i can do this whenever."
- Time is a reward… “Taking time off.”
- Time is a sentence… “It’s time to go to work.”
- Time is our friend… “Party time!”
- Time is a stressor… “I have no time.” “I am out of time…” “There is no time.”
- Time is a placeholder… “I need time to think, to process, to reflect.”
- What do you absolutely have to do? First is caring for your body and mind so you can do everything else! Sleep, bodily hygiene, eat, work, spiritual endeavors, meditation, and exercise all need attention.
- What is the work you must complete today?
- What do you need to do? Errands, shopping, appointments?
- What do you want to do? Learn a new skill, go to a new virtual networking event, plan a vacation?
- Voice your values: “I want to be efficient getting my work done, so I can eat dinner with my family.” “I need two hours of deep focus time so I can work on key customer accounts without distractions.”
- Do not make plans without consulting your calendar. If you receive a call, or email from someone, who wants to schedule something with you, tell them you’ll call them back once you have checked your schedule.
- Write down appointments as soon as you learn about them: avoid conflicts by consulting your calendar before making any new commitments. It is ok to mark appointments as tentative while you await a response.
- Keep your family in mind: Commitments may involve weekends or evenings. If you want to honor your family commitments, you need to know if your work plans conflict with your family plans. Keep the information on all of your family members in one place for easy reference. Consider using different colors or initials to identify different family members. Remember to include the family pet, and all appointments, meetings, and family time.
- Be clear about volunteer activities and the time commitment required before saying yes.
- Be prepared to say no if you are overwhelmed or over committed. If you can’t say no, say, “I’d like to check my schedule”, or “I’d like to talk with my husband/wife, significant other/children about it and I’ll get back with you”. Now you can carefully consider if this is something that you really want to do.
Better Ways to “Use time.”
Make a realistic schedule and stick to it. Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Delores Cotter Lamping in their book; Organizing for the Creative Person recommend the following acronym.
FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Successful
Below are some examples when trying to focus. Before Covid many of these we took for granted. Now it will take more time and planning to be able to focus on work, on your family, and on self care. Having focus time is more challenging. Keeping the lines of communication open with your spouse, coworkers, and family is stressful and trying at times. We all need more, more time, more attention, more self care. We want our "old" lives back! We need simplicity and consistency. Here are a few things to bear in mind as you go about your work.
- Choose an activity and stick to it. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on your chosen task until the timer rings. Then take a 5 minute break. Repeat this process for 4 blocks of focused work. At the end of 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This technique is great to help focus your efforts and avoid going down the rabbit hole. It sometimes helps if you plan a stop time and a reward. (i.e. I’ll work on this report for 4 Pomodoros, then I’ll take a walk for 30 minutes). Repeat this process throughtout the day to be focused and productive.
- Consider getting up an hour earlier to exercise, meditate, plan, eat a healthy meal, or pray.
- Do related activities in one area at a time. For example, if you’ve wanted to clean out the filing cabinet, take out one file to clean out while you are on hold on a call. You will be surprised at how quickly this can make an impact.
- Try “time blocking” activities. For example, if your dental appointment, grocery store, pharmacy, and dry cleaner are all within a few blocks, try to make only one trip; you will save mileage, gas, and time. Return all your phone calls during a specified block of time, rather than as they come up during the day. Designate another block to processing email. Open them once and process them. NO more open close, open close.
- When making a schedule, try to establish beforehand how long you think it will take. If you aren’t good at estimating your time, consider keeping a journal of what you did for a week and how long it took you to complete the tasks. Keep track of any interruptions. Once you learn how long tasks really take, you will be much less likely to stress over getting them done. We often overestimate how long things will take, so we avoid them. As Oprah reminded us many times, “when you know better, you do better.”
- Read your mail over the trash and recycle bins. Get rid of junk mail ASAP and place bills and follow-up items where you will pay/complete them, or sign up to pay them electronically.
- Keep a writing area set up with pens, envelopes, stamps, address labels, address book, checkbook and calculator.
- Resist temporarily storing things. It will take extra time to go back and put them away.
- Ask yourself, “Am I the right person to do this job?” Would your husband/wife/son/daughter/partner do a better job?
- Plan tasks for the times when your mind is clear and you have the needed energy. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- Consider using cooperative arrangements with family and friends for managing children’s activities. Is there someone on your team who can help: spouse, older children, people in your bubble, extended family?
- Make use of outside services to free you for the tasks only you can do.If housework has become overwhelming, consider hiring a housecleaner once a week or every couple of weeks. By now most of us have gained experience in online shopping, ordering groceries for delivery, having restaurant meals delivered not to our table, but to our trunk. Using these services to free you for the new tasks that Covid has added to your day like helping with remote learning, and caring for extended family is a good thing.
- Plan ahead. Lay out your clothes the night before. Have your children’s backpacks or remote learning materials ready to go before they go to bed. Morings are busy with everyone getting ready for their day. Save yourself some stress by prepping for tomorrow before retiring for the night. You will thank yourself in the morning.
Remember—Prior Planning Produces Powerful Productivity!