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Tick-Tock: How to Manage and Make the Most of Your Time

Updated on May 20, 2012
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Time is our most precious and valuable commodity. Once spent, it cannot be earned again. We all have a finite amount of time in life to achieve our goals, become who we hope to be, tend to our responsibilities and pursue our adventures. But none of us knows just how much time that will be.

We all get 24 hours in a day, and many of us have more items on our to-do lists than we can ever accomplish. I once interviewed a man who repairs clocks for a living. He mused about how odd it is that the more technologically advanced we become, the more time we have, and yet, the less efficient we are. Everybody goes around saying how they wish they had more time, when in truth, we are the least encumbered generation that has ever been in terms of the time it takes to do basic tasks necessary to life. My grandmother grew her own vegetables, picked them, and cooked them daily for her family of twelve. She washed their clothes by hand. Talk about time-consuming! Now we need only press a few buttons on the microwave and our meals are done, and laundry takes only the effort of dropping in the detergent and turning a dial. And yet, we are a society hungry for more time. We work, work, and work some more. We spend our spare time driving to work and stressing about what happened at work. And still, we never seem to have enough time to get all our work done, at the job or at home. What little spare time remains is full of obligations to family and the practical matters of living. Or, perhaps, to recovering from all that work by zoning out in front of the television, wasting that hard-to-come-by free time.

How can we begin to address this problem of time, or a lack of it? By accepting that we likely can never get our to-do list completely done. There will always be something to add, but no more time provided to accommodate the addition. It's not a comforting thought, perhaps. But freedom begins with truth, and freedom from the torturous ticking of the clock, reminding us that time is running out, can begin with truth, and the acceptance, that indeed, the clock doesn't lie. Time is running out. There's nothing to be done about that. We say we need to 'find the time' to do this or that, but time cannot be found. It cannot be manufactured. Each millisecond exists only for a millisecond, and then it is gone forever. And so the only answer to our quandary is to make better use of the time we have. And all we have is right now.

Quotes About Time

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
William Penn

"You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”
Charles Buxton

“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.”
Lao Tzu

“Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it. ”
M. Scott Peck

“Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

“Do not wait: the time will never be 'just right'. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”
Napoleon Hill

“The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have.”
Henry James

“Only bad things happen quickly, . . . Virtually all the happiness-producing processes in our lives take time, usually a long time: learning new things, changing old behaviors, building satisfying relationships, raising children. This is why patience and determination are among life’s primary virtues. ”
Gordon Livingston

“How did it get so late so soon?”
Dr. Seuss

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

* Get up earlier, assuming you don't already rise before the roosters. "But I'm already tired," you say. "If I get up even earlier, won't I just be more exhausted?" Adequate sleep is important, to be sure. Don't short yourself on that front. But taking some extra time for yourself in the morning can help start the day off on a positive note, and indeed, affect how the rest of the day plays out. Try getting up earlier, even just half an hour, and see if it makes a difference. Don't schedule any major tasks for those early mornings. Instead focus on self-care. Morning is a wonderful time to meditate, or go on a short walk to awaken the senses. Or, instead of rushing through your morning routine, then grabbing a granola bar for breakfast on the way out the door, take the time to enjoy a proper breakfast, perhaps sitting on the patio or porch with a hot cup of tea, watching nature awaken. Such a peaceful start to the day can help you to feel more calm, more focused and less resentful toward your responsibilities, now that you've taken time for yourself. Approaching the day with a clear and calm head can also result in increased efficiency at work and a more level-headed response to stresses.

* Think of activities in terms of energy, both how much you invest and how much is returned. What are the activities that you currently do that are like energy vampires, sucking you dry of all inspiration and creativity? If work is one of them, perhaps it's time to explore a new career path. But if that's not an option, you must find a way to attain more fulfillment from your job. Whether it's approaching your boss about taking on a new challenging and interesting project or simply reforming your viewpoint, focusing on the advantages versus the disadvantages of your work, finding a way to derive some sort of satisfaction from work is essential. For most, work takes up the majority of waking hours. Forty hours a week, at least, not counting the commute, not considering the emotional and physical toll that also robs us of time - not company time, but our own. That's too many hours to spend in drudgery, feeling as though you're wasting time but also feeling there's no other option. Brainstorm ways you can make the job seem more productive, even if your actual productivity doesn't increase. And if no matter what you try, it doesn't get any better, start exploring other options. Look at other activities that also drain you of energy. Spend as little time as possible on these activities, or find a way to change your approach to them, so that they become a positive, versus negative, force in your life.

Also examine activities that ignite an inner spark. Perhaps you've always wanted to paint, for example, but you think there's not enough time in your schedule to take classes. While it might be a struggle to carve out the time, and while learning a new skill can be time-consuming and require effort, it might also ultimately provide pleasure and a stress release. Invest time and effort in activities that are rejuvenating and energizing, and the return on your investment will be much more worthwhile.

* Identify priorities in your life. Make a list - family, work, recreation, spiritual practice, etc. - and rank the priorities in order of importance to you. Use a scale, perhaps one through five, with one being the highest priority and five the lowest. There can be more than one highest priority, by the way. Write out the various components of each priority. For example, spiritual practice might include going to church, prayer and meditation time. Expanding upon the above example, learning to paint could be a priority, and the components might be attending an art class, studying the work of great historical painters and practicing at home. Once you're clear on the various components to your priorities you'll be able to identify the practices affiliated with each one. Now, focus your energies on the priorities you have ranked highest. Those with a rank of one will likely need to be a daily focus.Those ranked a five need be targeted much less frequently.

* If feeling overwhelmed with that lengthy to-do list, practice focusing solely on one task at a time. Set a time limit for doing that task. Set an alarm, do the task for the allotted time, and once the alarm sounds, be done with it. This is an effective method for procrastinators and perfectionists. If there is a known end to the task - say, in fifteen minutes - it seems much less overwhelming. Remember the Nike slogan - set the alarm and "Just do it."

* Look for opportunities in your daily schedule to make better use of your time. If the morning commute is spent listening to the radio, perhaps it might worth considering whether this is an activity that returns energy. If not, explore other options. Use the drive time to brainstorm about whatever is worrying you or needs a decision - birthday gifts for your mom, how you'll save money to take that much-needed vacation, for example. Try listening to a book on tape, a self-help or foreign language course CD. TV time can be important in that it provides relaxation and escape. But too much TV time is a time waster. What else could you be doing? Remember, what activities will provide you with needed energy, versus merely taking it out of you? Watching TV may not require much energy, but it also doesn't provide much. Look for periods in your day that could be more productive, pockets of time that are opportunities just waiting to be wisely used.

* Learn to say no. This is not a popular word, at least not to the one hearing it. But it doesn't have to be negative. Sometimes, "No" is the most positive word you can speak for yourself. If overcommitted, and especially if overcommitted in order to please someone else, it's time to scale back. Take Bill Cosby's advice: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." No sense spending life on an endeavor doomed to fail.

* Eliminate unnecessary distractions. Rome wasn't built in a day, but with our modern capabilities it probably could be now if everyone would get off those gosh-darn cellphones, stop texting round the clock and cut Facebook and other social media time in half. All these things are wonderful modern amenities, but they are not necessary to life and they rob us of productivity. Set aside a time period each day in which you will not text or tweet or update your Facebook status. Eliminate all electronic devices during this time. Try it for just an hour or two each night and see how much you get done.

* Focus on the now. It is all there is. Use regret as an impetus for change. Plan in order to be more wise and efficient with your time. But don't wallow in the past or get lost in a dream of tomorrow. All power and possibility lie in the present.

More Time Management Tips

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    • profile image

      Nicholas Martinez 10 days ago

      Only comment I have is YAASSSS. Seriously, this is timeless advice and I have come back over and over again to your articles in times of need. So thank you!!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      ElleBee, you and I have a lot in common! I always think I should be doing something besides what I'm doing, and I've had the goal of getting up earlier for a while (as in years!)

    • profile image

      ElleBee 5 years ago

      This is great advice for me! I am terrible at time management (I'm sure there is something else I should be doing right now!). I've been working at trying to get up earlier, but so far that seems a useless cause, I keep trying to remind myself that "lose an hour in the morning, and you'll spend all day trying to find it."

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks vespawoolf. I'm glad you commented on this hub because it reminded me that today I need to reassess my priorities, as I am feeling very strapped for time! Guess I need to take my own advice!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wow, this is a beautifully written hub full of wisdom. It's how we use our time that counts, and only we know our own priorities. I love the quotes you included. Very well done! Thank you!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks NiaG. I often feel that way too, especially when work takes up such a huge chunk of life and for me, my daily commute is two hours. It's tough finding the time I need for my life. So glad you found this hub helpful and thanks for the follow!

    • NiaG profile image

      NiaG 5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Awesome hub! Voted hubalicious! I always feel that I don't have enough time. It sometimes feels like the walls are closing in and I just barely eek by before they close in on me. Then it's time to go to bed again and prep for a new day. I think with all the free time that technology has given us we somehow still fill it with so many miscellaneous things that it's almost counter productive. Great tips!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      Maddie Ruud, So glad you enjoyed the tips and thanks for stopping by.

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I love the tip about thinking about an activity or task in terms of energy instead of just time. It's been especially important for me to schedule based on energy with my chronic pain condition, but I think it's great advice for everyone!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      If I can find a writing job in Italy, I'm there. Thanks Suzie HQ! Glad you enjoyed my hubs.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I am truly humbled that you enjoyed my hubs after reading yours!!! Absolutely excellent article I definitely needed help with . .Time management! Your way with words is so interesting and engaging.You should consider doing your craft in Italy, perfect for you! Voted up and all the others!!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      SherryDigital, I am so pleased you found this hub useful. Time management is tough with so many responsibilities pulling at us. While I know all these things I wrote to be helpful, I don't always do the best job of following my own advice. But life is better when I do!

    • SherryDigital profile image

      Sherry Duffy 5 years ago from Here. There. Everywhere. Currently: Portland, OR

      Lovely advice. I need to listen to it.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      MelChi, sgbrown and mastheadjoe, thanks for reading and I'm so glad these tips are helpful.

      Lawrence David, wow, sounds like you're on the opposite end of the spectrum. Maybe it might be a good time to find some hobbies you enjoy, or try meaningful volunteer work. It might be a good question to post in the hub q&a section - what are suggestions for retirees on how to spend their newly acquired free time, or how to adjust to retirement. That would be a great hub, by someone who has more experience in that area than me. Good luck!

    • mastheadjoe profile image

      mastheadjoe 5 years ago from Loganville

      Great advice that I can apply to my daily routine.

    • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

      Lawrence Da-vid 5 years ago

      Crystal! Since 1959 when I had the "then" moment of insanity, enlisted in the service of this country, lest they draft me, my time was regulated by Uncle Sam. Being at the disposal of Military leaders, much dedication was in order, to improve my standing. Add to this service, the idea that "education was the answer," I found spare time was spent in university settings gaining degrees that were for benefit of "good old Uncle." Three decades later, I had attained rank, prestige, satisfaction of accomplished "warrior" life, the end was near, and it was up to me to be absorbed into a civilian society. Immediately, my time was dedicated to employment in a couple of endeavors. Suddenly, a magic number was reached. The age of forced retirement, where, no matter what accumulated knowledge obtained, did not satisfy employer(s).

      Still capable of performing "work" related tasks, that number is a barrier. Now I have time. Much time.....too much time on my hands for my own benefit. There are limited domestic "honey-do" jobs I'm proficient in accomplishing. Time has me attempting renovations, household tasks, yard creations, and getting accustomed to being at home all the (TIME). Now my "TIME" is spent evading "house boss" because of 240 volt looks whenever I attempt to do "that domestic thing." But! I'm learning. In the meanTIME, I am an irritant, pest, varmint, to be ignored.......Now I spend my "TIME" in MY garage, on MY floor creeper, slid under my GTO impersonating a mechanic. (actually dozing)

      Any more ideas?

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      This is a very good hub! Well written and informative. There is some very good advice here. Some people spend way too much time on wasteful things and then wonder why they can't get anything done! I love to get up early and spend some time by myself in the mornings. I still make it productive, watering my flowers or going for a walk. Making a list of things that need to get done works very well for me. My list helps me to NOT procrastinate. Great hub! Voted up and useful. Have a wonderful day! :)

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Crystal, this advice is spot on! I agree with you fully - life is precious and beautiful and we should be enjoying it as much as possible. No one is forcing us to sit at a desk for 9 hours a day or bring work home. We have the choice - we just need to do proper research before we make a decision to change. Thanks so much for this - enjoyed reading it :)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
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      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      You're hired, Billy! I can't pay you, though. I'd love more followers of course, but I'm grateful for those I have. I don't have much time (ha!) to devote to HubPages, so I just do what I can when I can, and I've had such a warm welcome from kind people such as you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      How can it be possible that you only have 48 followers. You are an excellent writer. I need to be your agent and get you the following you deserve. Great hub my young friend.