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