How many times did you hear the phrases “Excuse me, please, I don’t have the time for that”, or “I’m in a hurry”? As far as I remember, I heard that at least once a day over the past 30 years. Did you know that 30 years mean 10957 days? If you heard a thing 10957 times in your life, isn’t it already shaping your habits? I’ve read the other day that it takes 20 days of practicing, in order to form a habit. If 20 days can form a habit, 10000 days can reshape a character. How do we fight this undesired modelling which tends to turn us into machines, to transform us into all kinds of freaks and workaholics, who hurry up their entire life, only to discover at the end that they reached a dip and it is too late to get out?
Wherever a problem arises, there comes at least one expert who figures out a solution. And the solution for this rat race (any other animal would do here; don’t you think a snail is always in a hurry? Think again!) was called TIME MANAGEMENT.
Leaving time management experts aside, these are a few habits I’ve developed, which proved to work in helping me live at my own pace and still have (almost) everybody around me happy:
1. Don’t wait until things become urgent
This very dear friend of mine who likes to think she’s a successful business woman (actually she really is, her business being amongst the top ten of its kind in Romania) is always in a hurry. She has a way of prioritizing things that would drive anybody crazy: “if it is not urgent, then it can wait”. The outcome? When things become urgent and need to be done, she enters a crazy race, spending nights at the office, thus forcing all her colleagues to adopt her pace. She finally does everything in a brilliant way, her clients are happy, but she is always tired and feeling that she doesn’t have enough time for herself, despite the fact that she goes jogging every morning, goes to massage every week, and her hair is always in perfect shape.
There is a principle in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) that says “the map is not the territory”. It means that our vision about the reality is not the reality. If we look at a bee, the beekeeper will see “his baby”, an allergic person will see “a potential danger” and other person may see a breakfast with bread, butter and honey. You don’t need more time, you just need the belief that the time you have is enough for everything you want to do. At the end of the day, it’s your personal map which matters.
2. Make a to do list
Humans forget. Some of them quite a lot. Are they to blame for that? No way! Try this for 20 days: every morning, try to sit and think your day ahead. Write down the things you wish/need/think to do that day. Your brain will kiss you for that. If you spend no more than 10 minutes every other hour thinking of what are the things that need to be done, by the end of the day you’ve had spent about one hour on the activities planning process. The longest to do list can be done in less than 10 minutes. You can always spend the other 50 playing with your child.
3. Dare to break the to do list
Be flexible. You are your most valuable asset, so don’t stress yourself. If by noon your list becomes out of age, don’t be afraid to change it. The “noon” you may be a different person from the “morning you”. This reminds me of that joke: every man is entitled to one drink. After one drink, I become another person, so I’m entitled to one drink. After I drink it, I become another person… What I want to say here: priorities may change as the day/life goes on. Don’t be afraid to change with them. On a smaller scale of things, if let’s say I have on my to do list to write this article and I notice I’ve got so well into this writing mood, I’d always cancel some other things on the list for writing two more articles. Doing things when you are in the mood saves you a lot of time. Please don’t tell me that you cannot cut anything from that list. Are you a housewife? Then you are supposed to have some cooking on the list. Why not cut it and take your family out for dinner tonight? If you don’t wait until things get urgent, you’ll always find something to cut from the list.
4. When things tend to get out of control, don’t blame anybody (including yourself), but look for solutions
No matter how much we like to think that we are in control, there are times in life when things take an unexpected course. It is very easy to screw up a project, or a marriage, or a trip. A lot of people try to seek out the guilty, wasting their time to collect evidences, to playback the failure over and over, to match the punishment with the guilt. If you recognize yourself in these words, at least for once in your life, please try to leave behind all this guilt-punishment mechanism, and focus your energy on what to do next. Seek for solutions. Think for future, not for the past. Think “how?”, not “why?”. Don’t you see how much more constructive this approach can be? It can save you a lot of time, believe me. Not to mention that your peers will love you for that.
5. Know when to quit
Don’t continue doing something just because you started. Life is not a competition. If you don’t find a reason anymore, just quit and start something new, be it a career, a family or a hobby. In Seth Godin On The Fine Art Of Quitting, Steve Olson says:
I must admit, I have quit all my big ventures in the dip. But I don’t feel bad about quitting, because each time they were strategic decisions. The only regret I have is not quitting earlier.
6. Don’t look back in anger
Another very good friend of mine spends perhaps half of her time thinking of the past, re-playing over and over all the sad moments she lived, feeling frustrated now because 4 years ago somebody broke by mistake her favourite glass. Only try to make her see how she’s wasting her time! The answer comes immediately: “what do you know about that? Nobody broke your favourite glass, so you don’t know how I feel”. Or: “I just hate my former employer for his behaviour and I hope all future secretaries will quit their job as fast as I had to quit mine”. And she keeps on asking me if I still keep in touch with former colleagues, not to forget to ask them about the secretaries in that company. Does it really matter? It is true, that employer’s attitude was far from professional. However, my time is so valuable, that I don’t want to waste it on digging past shit.
7. If you delegate things, assume the outcome may not be what you imagined
There aren’t two identical people in the world. Then, why would you pretend that somebody thinks and acts exactly your way? If we are partners and you ask me to redecorate the office by myself because you are busy, please don’t come later to tell me that you hate the outcome. If redecoration was so important to you, you should have come with me and have your say then. Why do you come now and ask me to call the plumber again because you would have liked the sink to be mounted two inches lower? Of course I won’t move a finger, so you’ll have to do it by yourself, and you’ll waste your time doing again things for which I’ve also spent my time on. If you are a detailed person, at least look better who you delegate: I barely notice the kitchen sink when I pass by, and you want me to estimate how high it should be mounted?
8. “No” is also an answer
Please take a moment and do this test with a friend: in the middle of the conversation, pretend to drop something on the floor. Watch your friend’s reaction. I believe it is somehow in the human nature to help others. Was your friend trying to take that item from the floor and give it back to you? It is nice to help the others, but if 100 people just drop an item on the floor in the same time, I could possibly pick up only one or two. The other 98 or 99 people will have to understand that “no” is also an answer, and this does not make me mean. It’s just my resources are limited. Learn how to say no, and you’ll better manage your time.
9. Take 30 minutes of day dreaming every day
This is good for motivation. If it is true that motivated people work faster, then re-gaining your motivation from time to time may make you a more efficient person.
10. Remember that “all roads lead to Rome”
Each of us does things in a unique, personal way. Don’t waste your time in trying to convert the other persons to your beliefs, or to make them see life your way. Don’t look all the time at each other. Take each other by the hand and try to look in the same direction, the direction of your common goals, for this is your Rome. I remember a saying (I forgot where I heard it): in life, one should not bother with the details. And they all are details.
This article is my entry for the newest group writing project hosted by InspirationBit, Time Management. I want to invite you all to have your say in this group project, as time is the only limited resource we have. In front of time, beggars and millionaires are equal. Nobody can have more than 24 hours in a day. But some of us can manage it better, and this is what I hope to achieve at the end of this group project.