You Have More Time than You Think

I want to write today about time management. Mostly because I suck at it! I spin my wheels; I spend my day daydreaming and pontificating and then complain that ‘I JUST DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME’! This morning, I decided I needed real world solutions to my real world problem.

Let me begin by saying, I like to think I know a lot about time management (I also believe that about exercise and diet) and I just don’t put what I know into practice. However, you and I both know that a guy who knew how to cure cancer but never shared it would just be some unknown smuck. An expert that can not put the knowledge to practical use isn’t really an expert (maybe that’s just my opinion).

My biggest complaint about time is that I have little free time. However, after putting into practice, what I consider my best way for understanding my time and how I spend my time:

I take a sheet of paper. I draw in seven days. I divide each day in to 24 hour increments. I color code blocks of daily activities (sleep, exercise, eating, work, repetitive leisure activities, etc) then I look at the time left (the white space). I then spend real time pondering the white space and how I want that time to be spent.

I have come to realize I have plenty of free time; I just am choosing to spend the time in ways that are less than satisfying.

As is my practice when I begin to write on a topic I do a little internet research. Today my research revealed a book I am very interested to read: 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think(affiliate link). Every review says the book is chock-full of good tips and tricks for accomplishing more every day and therefore every week. I did read criticism that the author suggests delegating and outsourcing many regular tasks (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc) and we all can’t afford to pay to have those takes performed for us; but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve actually read the book. (You can read an excerpt here).

I realize I am rambling a bit, and I apologize, but here’s my point:

You have more free time than you think – the real question is how do you spend it?

  • Are you watching NCIS (or fill in the blank for whatever show is your time waster) reruns?
  • Are you playing on Facebook (or twitter)?
  • Are you pretending to work?
  • Are you doing something you really want to do?

Try for this week to actually track your hours for a full week.

It won’t be easy.

You may become disgusted with yourself (and how much time you are losing to frivolous and inane activities) – I fully expect I will. But just like in business, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

It is time for me to measure and manage my time – what about you?


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Intentional Television

Last fall during my illness, I was astounded by the number of televisions available in health care facilities! While in the emergency room for hours, I was able to watch a television that was readily available to entertain me at my bedside. Every waiting room is television laden. I was SHOCKED to find a television available for my viewing pleasure as I lay in my hospital bed waiting in the hallway of the radiology department. TV’s were everywhere!

I grew up in a house with one television. We only got three channels! The WHOLE family watched the same show! It didn’t feel strange to be offered a magazine as I waited to see a doctor. I could eat a meal in a restaurant without a television blaring.

I read recently that the number of hours spent watching television is decreasing globally, while the number of hours Americans spend watching television is increasing.

The television media industry is crucial to the modern world – to the economy and to the lives of people. A major study showed that 99 percent of households in America have at least one television. But the hours spent in front of the screen are getting ridiculous.

The average American teenager watches four hours a day of TV and spends almost two additional hours on the computer and playing video games. This is a distraction from studying and interacting with family members. And the numbers are growing and it’s not just kids  in the US, the average adult spends anywhere from three to six hours watching TV every day.

In February of this year we decided to decrease the availability of Television in our household. We dumped Direct TV, and started to watch ‘our shows’ via the web. I thought it would make no difference because ‘we don’t watch that much TV’ but the first month was surprisingly hard. It turns out we had been turning on the television as a time waster (meaning that we weren’t watching because we wanted to see a specific show/event but just because we weren’t involved in doing something specific). It’s hard to just sit and mindlessly watch when you must specifically seek out a show.

Rather than just ‘turning on the TV’ now I sit on my porch and read or play with my dogs. I go for walks or have conversations. The book budget had increased and I am now needing to charge my nook twice a week or more rather than the every-other-week schedule I had been keeping. We still watch some shows via Hulu, but even that number has greatly decreased!

Here’s the thing, no one in our house would have said we watch a lot of TV! Until we got rid of the ability to just turn it on without thought. Then and only then did we see how much of our time was wasted with mindless watching. But my eyes were opened to how much time I gave to something I wasn’t really enjoying.

The experiment is over. We could go back to our old ways. But I am enjoying my life unplugged from the boob-tube.

Now, I am thinking about other thing I may be doing thoughtlessly. What about you? What are you doing that chews up your time without returning great joy?

 

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JUMP

I love the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the movie, there is a scene where Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and The Kid (Robert Redford) are being pursued by a small but skillful posse. At first we see Butch and the Kid try to out run those in pursuit. Then they try trickery and hiding among the mountains. Eventually our heroes come to a point where the only choices are be captured or jump off the mountain into a raging river. At times responsibilities and pursuing goals can feel this way.

We run, we avoid, we try tricks and eventually our only choices are to admit defeat or JUMP!

The Famous Jump

I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but my favorite trick for avoidance….the internet. I can spend hours in ‘research’. Or another ruse is ‘let’s go get lunch’ or ‘run errands’.

How much easier would our lives have been had we just jumped from the start?

How much more could we accomplish if we took the bull-by-the-horns first? What if instead of making excuses or rushing to meet a deadline we did things early? Imagine a world where instead of wasting time in avoidance we had time for the things we love and want to do.

Try it today.

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Today is the Day to make a Memory

Last night I was sharing a story with a friend. It is a story I have told over and over in the last 30-plus years but one I have not related here. In 1979 or 1980 my dad and I cut down an oak tree. I wish I could tell you more about the tree, but I really don’t remember. What I vividly remember is loading the logs onto a trailer pulled by my family red belly ford tractor and hauling the tree to the sawmill. The sawmill was run by an old man, Mr. Tuttle, who walked with the benefit of a cane.

I can not recall how many days we worked with Mr. Tuttle, it may have only been one but we worked. It was hard manual labor. However, when we were done we had a stack of beautiful oak lumber. And an idea for what I wanted it to become. Being a teenager, I had no concept of time and wanted to hurry the process and begin to build right away. However, my older and wiser father said we should stack the wood and let it air dry.

It was a test of my patience. I sketched and drew. I talked about my project and anxiously checked on the wood and its progress. Until one day when my dad told me it was time – Time to take the wood to be kiln-dried. Again my patience we tested.

After what seemed an eternity, we were ready to begin building. We took my idea and my sketch and turned it in to a cabinet. If you visit my house today, it sits prominently in my living room. I’d like to say that my original drawings still exist. And perhaps they do in some random box or among some childhood papers. Nonetheless, I am relatively certain the cabinet we fashioned from the wood reflects my original idea.

 

The Cabinet

You would think I might have learned a lesson in patience from this adventure. But I did not.

What I always thought I learned from this project was the ability to take an idea and add in hard work to create a finished product. But today, looking back, I know the real lesson I learned is that you can never over-estimate how important the time you spend with someone will be.

I believe I love the cabinet, but the reality is that I love the memory of building it with my dad. What memories are you making today? And who are you making them with?

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No Time Left For You

Lately I have been spending a lot of time spinning my wheels about time. Specifically I have been complaining about other people not valuing my time! My days have been filled with clients who do not send timely information then expect that I will be available to rush the work for them. Of friends who call in the middle of the day to ‘just chat’ about nothing. And then a family member who called for computer help and disrupted my ‘downtime’ only to abruptly say ‘let me call you back’ when another call came in. Unfortunately, I then waste more of my time fuming because ‘They don’t value my time’.

This morning I have had an epiphany!

Although I can not control how they see or value my time I can control access. I can control how much of my time I am willing to let someone else waste.

You see, just as I can not expect others to know how I feel, unless I tell them. I can not expect others to respect my time unless I create boundaries.

So here is my three steps I am going to try (film at 11 <grin>)

1. I am going to try the line: “If I take the time right now – as much as I would love to chat – it’s going to make me late for my rest of my day.” (Or something similar). Conversely, I am going to begin my daytime ‘dish sessions’ with friends by asking ‘Do you have time to talk?’

With one particular friend we have sent private messages, emails or text to ask ‘do you have time to talk’. Often we begin our conversations by sharing our time limit. Even if it’s just ‘I only have a few minutes’. Try it with your friends, co-workers, or even clients.

2. I am going to be clearer with my clients about what I need and the time-frame in which I need it. My problem client likes to ramble about how busy they are as an excuse for why they can not get me the information I need in a timely fashion. My bottom line has to be that I can not work late every week because of a lack of organization of their part.

3. I am going to remember that I am not obliged to answer my phone just because it rings.

I’ll leave you with the song that inspired the title. But before I do….What tips or tools do you use to keep others from wasting your time?

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Time is limited – Don’t waste it

How often do you think, ‘I’ll do that when…..’ We have ever intention of practicing a musical instrument, or reading a book, or going for a run or even walking the dog but we end up waiting for some magical burst of motivation to make it happen. Perhaps, we are just so confident that there will be more time in our lives soon. Maybe we just live in perpetual procrastination. How do we snap out of it? How do we do the things we want to do?

I was pondering these questions yesterday when I received my breaking news text informing the world that Steve Jobs had died. I don’t think this news was particularly surprising to most people but it was somewhat disconcerting. You realize that if a man with as much innovation and forward thinking; a man with the money and resources, a man whose name is a household world can’t figure out how to survive, what hope could I possibly have?

The news gave me pause. I stopped what I was doing and took the time to stroll with my dog. I stated that book I’ve wanted to read. I took the time to live! What about you? Are you so busy that you are forgetting to live?

Take some time today and figure out what is important in your life. Than carve out the time to engage in that activity.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)

 

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