There’s nothing like seeing your last child go off to college to reflect on time. Where did it go? For over 30 years, I’ve been parenting children and yet suddenly, it seems like yesterday when they were all rushing around each morning, packing their lunch boxes and heading out the door for their first day of school! Now, they are all living their own busy lives, finding their way in the world, and I am quietly cherishing all the wonderful (and even the not-so-wonderful) memories they’ve left behind.
Time is the great equalizer. We are all given the same amount: 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour. We can’t save time or accumulate or rearrange it. We can’t turn it off or on. It can’t be replaced.
But these days, it seems as if the lament of not having enough time has become a national anthem. For too many years, I’ve found myself at the front of the line singing that anthem! I’ve realized that I’m not sure what to do with myself if I’m not over-booked and maxed out each and every day! My clients come to their calls saying they need more time each day to fit it all in. Everywhere I turn, people are finding themselves constantly in a rush, over-booked and over-scheduled with no time off, me included.
So life is accompanied by the ongoing stress of not enough time. And sometimes doing too much and being too busy can be a way of numbing feelings or disguising depression or anger. It can be a by-product of not having enough money, thereby driving us to work harder. It can be boredom or a way to avoid those big mile markers that indicate life transitions that we’d rather not face… like empty nests, or making changes in our careers, or transitioning into something new. It could be a drive to prove you are good enough, that you have value, or to attempt to add purpose and meaning to life.
Though it may not always seem so, how we fill our time and how we spend it is our choice. Answer the following questions to discover if you’re caught up in the “too-busy” cycle, and learn ways to slow down the pace, enjoy more of life, and be intentional about how you spend your time.
- I constantly find myself doing “urgent” things and trying to catch up. This is me in a nutshell! Take for example, this E-Zine! I know my deadlines, yet I never get it done until the last 2 hours before I need it to send it! Urgency creates a necessary focus for me, so initially it feels like a good thing! But it also causes stress and anxiety and that’s not a good thing! What changes can you make to your schedule so that you eliminate one thing that you put off to the last minute? Make a commitment to do it differently next time!
- I allow myself to drift into obligations when I don’t know how much time or energy they’ll require. Does this ever happen to you? Someone stops by for a visit and it turns into a half-day marathon of chit-chat? Or do you ever agree to help someone and it ends up giving your more responsibility than you bargained for? Pay attention to your activities and ask yourself if it feels like an obligation or if it is serving you. Obligations by themselves are very draining!
- I find myself running from when I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night. I’m always tired and never feel like I accomplished enough. You may have all, or part, of this one going on! I have to say, I don’t have much time in my day where I am able to relax or just chill out! I stay focused and productive, but now and then, I wonder what in the world I did all day and whether I invested that time for something worthwhile or wasted it on busy tasks. Being tired and running on empty are symptoms that you are living an uninspired life! Pay attention to this one! Take care of your spirit along the way!
- I seldom schedule a day off for myself and when I do, I tend to fill it with activities. My husband and I just took a four-day, long-weekend and actually spent it on a real vacation! I noticed that when we get away, it’s usually so I can attend a conference or be learning something. And if I’m really trying to relax, then we spend our vacation exploring and staying on the go! I’m happy to report that we spent three days doing absolutely nothing but sitting on the beach, watching the clouds go by, wandering in and out of conversations, taking naps in the sun, listening to the water, and well, that’s about it! It was nice, but what’s even better is that I have activated my imagination to come up with some fun, relaxing, slow-paced things to do when we have random days off this year! Like, renting a convertible and taking a nice long drive one day this fall. That sounds heavenly to me! Find ways to really take time off and embellish it!
- I don’t make time for “self-care” activities: physical exercise, nurturing or “pampering” myself, cultural stimulation, spiritual well-being, learning something new, playing, or simply doing nothing. Taking time off and doing nothing is one thing, but actually doing something for ME is quite another! I learned this about 10 years ago… if I don’t fill my fuel tank with some premium fuel, this body of mine won’t go the distance! Not the way I like to play on the planet! Regular time for spa-day with a friend, getting a massage, finding creative outlets, traveling (because I love to travel), and even small day-to-day ways of pampering myself have become a part of what I do! Give yourself permission to be pampered! It matters.
- I seldom have time to do the things I really love. Take time for this one. What are some things you LOVE to do, but never have the time to do? I had gotten so busy with work that when a friend invited me to lunch, I couldn’t find a day when I was free to go! Not one day for a whole month! I love going to lunch and connecting with my friends, so I made that a priority on my calendar. I love being creative and getting lost in creative projects. Unless I plan in advance, it doesn’t happen. So I am adding ‘creative time’ as a required appointment each week! Do what you love – its good for your spirit!
- My work and project areas are cluttered with “I’ll look at this later” stacks and “to-do” piles.
Oh boy, do you ever do this? Am I the only one who has work piles? I mentioned that I’m creative, so one thing I did for this is find a beautiful way to contain my piles of work! Three baskets with a cute little label on them: “Urgent!” “Semi-Urgent!” And “Get to it Soon!” If something isn’t moving out of a basket, I probably don’t need to keep it there! Once each month I purge my piles! Don’t be afraid to let go of stuff. No one is really impressed with your work piles and they just may be weighing you down!
- I often miscalculate how long certain activities will take.
I’m pretty good at this one, but that’s probably because I have so many years of multi-tasking I know how to be efficient and realistic. But if you find yourself constantly running out of time or being late, your calendar needs more breathing room on it! I remember a time in my life where I forgot to calculate the time I needed to get from Point A to Point B! If I had to be somewhere at 1:00 pm, I worked right up to 1:00 pm and then realized I didn’t really have until 1:00! Allow your day to have breathing room in it! Back-to-back tasking is not a pace you want to keep!
- I often miss deadlines or work long hours to meet a deadline.
Pay attention to what your thoughts are and why you are missing the deadline. Sometimes, its due to procrastination and in my case, it’s because I have more to do than one person can possibly handle! Start letting go of responsibilities. That can be challenging, but remember you are one human being with one life… live it well!
- I respond to interruptions such as phone calls, faxes, email, beepers and pagers, and allow them to take me off track.
I believe that there is no way to really be productive and efficient when we are constantly monitoring email, texts, facebook posts, and phone calls! Turn off all notifications and focus on what you need to accomplish. Set an intention for when you want to be complete and don’t cave in! Keep those boundaries firm! You will be amazed at how much more efficient you’ll be!
- I try to keep things in my head rather than making lists. If I do make a daily “to-do” list, it’s impossible to complete in a day.
My dad was a man full of wisdom and sage advice. One of the many things he taught me was the lesson of the 3×5 card. Everyday, he sat with his cup of coffee and wrote down what he wanted to accomplish that day. One day, I joined him and opened my day planner to make my list. He quietly got up and left the room. He came back with a 3×5 index card. I asked why he thought I needed it and he said, “Because your page is too big. If it doesn’t fit on one side of the index card, you’re doing too much.” Write down what you need to do, and don’t make your lists impossible to achieve!
- I find myself constantly wishing I had more time or projecting an imaginary future when I have more time, making comments such as “as soon as…” or “next year…”
As someone who has been busy for 30 years… don’t wish your life away or stay busy trying to catch up! Enjoy each and every moment of your NOW!
- I spend time running errands and rushing because I didn’t plan well enough.
Planning is HUGE. I incorporated a planning date into my life a few years ago. I plan my meals, my errands, my work, my fun, and I plan for my deadlines! Everything doesn’t always go according to my plan, but it makes my life so much better when I have a template to follow! Plan to plan, then work the plan!
- I spend time doing things I could pay someone else to do.
Okay, this one is BIG! I actually did an entire training on this. Decide the value of your time. Decide what activities bring you JOY! If you relax and enjoy ironing, do it! If not, find someone who would love to iron for you! I found a retired senior citizen on a fixed income who appreciated having some extra money! She loved ironing for me! I loved having three extra hours each week! It was a WIN/WIN! Let go of what you don’t like to do, and even some things you don’t HAVE to do. You will never regret it!
I’d like to give you a challenge to do right now! Choose at least three of the suggestions above and incorporate them into your life! Let them help you regain control over your time and start enjoying more of the time you’ve been given!
In just a couple of weeks, I’m going to have a lot more ‘time’ on my hands! Daniel is off to college, my other son will be married, and I will have about 20 hours each week that will open up due to a change in the direction of my career. I can hardly wait! And before I fill all that free time up with busy activities, I’m going to heed my own advice!
Make every minute count… our time is our most precious commodity!
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Jenny Aiello is an award-winning Coach who is changing the lives of men and women eager to embrace authenticity in their personal and professional lives. She helps her clients achieve high levels of success in their personal and businesses lives. Her eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. If you are ready to put your heart and soul into your day to day living, sign up for a FREE subscription.
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