by Dr Angel Adams, Dr Patricia Papciak
“If I try to find time it will become illusive. If I chase time it will always leave me behind.
How then will I be able to have enough time to do all the things I must do?
The answer is to stop hoping to find it somewhere in the future
and to take advantage of the present moment.”
-Ellen Beryl Adams-
We hope you never have to look back over your life someday and regret that you did not value and manage your time wisely. Each day offers an opportunity to use our time intelligently, yet the most important (though perhaps boring) tasks are avoided or stolen by the more mundane (though perhaps exciting) trivia. Pareto’s 80/20 percent principle in economics also can be applied to time. It simply means that the most trivial 20% of actions consumes 80% of our time and energy, whilst the most vital 80% receive only 20% of our time and energy. We asked twenty people what they thought took away from their quality of life and the general response was feeling stressed from simply trying to do too much and there wasn’t enough time! Our society seems to urge us to do more and more. We have to exercise, we have to shop carefully so that we eat healthy foods, we have such a variety of classes to attend that will improve us in some way; and of course all this is on top of working, caring for children, keeping the house clean, gardening, going to appointments with doctors or dentists, car maintenance and on and on and on.
That is why we have to really hold ourselves accountable for how we manage our time! We have to stay in touch with ourselves and what is really important to us. Many of us get into big trouble when we react to all the daily stressors that cause distraction, disorganisation and deprivation of our time. First there are the things that rob you of your emotional energy, as you might allow them to niggle at you or you may ruminate about them. Some examples of this are reacting to a telephone call, an argument with your spouse, your teenager’s bad mood, or the nasty stare that a stranger gives you in a shop when your child with special needs has a tantrum. Then there are the physical distractions that rob you of your mental energy. The mobile ringing, the emails that you automatically respond to as they come in, the clutter at your desk, the unwashed dishes, the misplaced spectacles, the overdue bill you forgot to pay resulting in a late payment fine. How many times in a day do you say to yourself, “Now where did I put that paper?” or “Has anyone seen the car keys?” or “Now who was I suppose to call today?” or worse, “Oh I forgot to call… yesterday!”
“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” – Wu-Men
Lastly, there are the bandits that take away your physical energy. Not getting enough sleep or exercise, eating processed or junk foods and letting stress build up to cause illness. Feeling overwhelmed may also render you towards self-medicating with unhealthy mood enhancers such as overeating, alcohol, smoking etc. It’s time to carefully focus on prioritising your life so that you feel more productive. Think of the top five priorities in your life that you want to allocate most of your time to. Now how much of your time really is devoted to these things that mean the most to you?
Start by identifying your top 5-10 time wasters and cut them out of your life! (e.g. say “no, sorry I don’t have time to do that.”, stay away form the person who drains your energy, or stop reacting sporadically to emails and plan a time to answer them (only once or twice in your schedule). You want to focus on the things that are going to bring you the greatest sense of fulfilment and have the greatest impact on your life and get rid of all the rest that drains you. Life goes by very quickly and you do not want to someday regret that you did not accomplish your heart‘s work because you thought you had an abundant amount of time.
Here are some of the tips that have worked for me. I confess that my morning power hour has only been constructed in the last year, but this important event has increased my personal productivity immensely.
I go to bed an hour early, get up an hour earlier and have a consistent morning routine wherein by doing the same thing repeatedly it creates a healthy habit:
- I jump start my waking consciousness with thoughts of gratitude.
- I meditate 15 minutes.
- I drink a cup of pure warm water.
- I take a walk/hike with my dog (if it’s pouring down rain then I use the stair stepper) and say my affirmations with total faith.
- I eat a wholesome breakfast
- I prioritise my To Do list by making it simple, and organize everything for the next day including planning my breakfast and lunch (don’t wait until the evening when you are too tired and incoherent).
- I end with breathing exercises.
This is my ritual and it works for me, (although I’m not perfect at it) but everyone must create his/her own routine. I am also lucky because there are mornings when I have the luxury of more then one hour.
“Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity! I say let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.” -Henry David Thoreau-
When you’re at work, whether it is self-employment or if you have an employer, make sure you work in a distraction free environment as much as is humanly possible! The first few hours of the day are when you are probably the most productive and you need to be doing your most important work and taking certain steps (even if small) to accomplish important goals. Put your phone on answer machine, put a “do not disturb” sign on the door, and close your email, and use earplugs or headphones with white noise. If you are distracted by your internal thoughts, remind yourself that this is one of your internal bandits and you refuse to be mugged by senseless chatter.
If you truly give all your focus to one task at a time, not only will you become much more productive, but you will also be developing your pre-frontal cortex. You will need to take short breaks at the end of each hour to replenish yourself so you can get onto the next task. Then later in the day you can relax a little bit more as you know that you have used your time wisely to focus on the essential tasks.
One of the secrets obviously is to know when to multi-task and when not to! When you are doing housework, you can make those appointment phone calls (on speaker phone) to the doctor, dentist, repairman etc. If you’re exercising you can listen to a motivational tape. But when you are working, creating, writing, practising a skill, this is NOT the time to multitask. Lack of focus prevents information from reaching the brain’s memory stores in the pre-frontal cortex. Therefore, you want to train your brain to sustain attention by having NO distractions and that means no multi-tasking! Winifred Gallagher, author of Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, states in her book: “People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money.” Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing… or _________? (you fill in the blanks to name your own time wasters). Furthermore, when you’re at home, try to avoid at all costs multi-tasking when you are supposed to be spending quality time with your child(ren) giving him/her your full attention and strategic focus.
At the end of the day, a consistent evening ritual is also important that prepares you to sleep well, feel more organised, and puts your mind in a peaceful place. Because organisation skills are such an important part of time management, it is important first of all to make sure that during the day everything is put back into its home after use, and in the evening deal with those that have still been left homeless. You may have to set up some training sessions for yourself and your children to transform this bad habit into an intelligent one.
“Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else.
This is not advice: it is merely custom”
My night-time ritual ends with reading a very inspiring book. I found that when I watched TV, I could not sleep well at night and my dreams were infiltrated with negative images from the news or from late-night dramas.
Finally, we conclude this article with drawing upon the wisdom of animals. Like humans, animals find ways of being productive and using time wisely. We think the beaver is a great example of a highly industrious, time-conscious creature. Have you ever seen a beaver at work? Here’s a great clip with the awe-inspiring David Attenborough showing a beaver community building their lodge.
We can also learn so much from the beaver about productivity because beavers are very successful at getting their tasks done in time. There is no slouching for them. The hard-working beaver knows that limitations cancel productivity. Their dams are made of wood held together with mud and leaves, and are planned out and very detailed. This kind of accomplishment does not happen overnight nor does it happen by procrastinating. Beavers are vegetarians, they are strong, can chop a tree sown with their teeth and carry their own weight (literally). Beavers can teach us a lot about persistence too. They see a tree that may be so huge that they can’t bring down their food all at one sitting, but they don’t give up. They are determined and return to that tree on a persistent basis until it’s done. Let us value them by staying focused and purposeful. This is why we need to stop outer or inner distractions that fill our mind or disrupt us from taking continued action.
A beaver does not live alone in a lodge. A lodge may contain twelve beavers or more who work and live together harmoniously. Beavers seem to be cheerful creatures and enjoy each other’s company. They also know when to be playful, relax and get enough sleep! They greet each other slapping their tails on the water as a sign of welcome, although under other circumstances this signal indicates danger. The beaver is a naturally clean creature. It cleans its lodge, itself and the baby kits regularly by combing its fur using its claws and teeth.
Beavers are excellent team players as they fell trees and build their lodges. This reflects the ability to work together to achieve an end, recognising that not all things are to be accomplished on a solo basis. Time management and productivity means working well with other people. To accomplish a goal with others involves working respectfully together; acknowledging and appreciating different strengths and talents, as well as knowing and not judging others’ weak spots. We encourage you to be diligent like the beaver and stop mindless juggling of your activities. Practice strategic management of your time for work and play so that your life becomes even more enjoyable and remarkable.
Thanks for taking the time to read this Monday’s Motivational article.
Please feel free to send me any comments or your own stories you wish to share, or post them on this site by leaving a comment below.