It’s interesting to sit down and really consider the notion that the only thing truly equal, to us all, is the amount of time we have. It’s how we choose to spend it that makes all the difference. I used to constantly use the excuse: “I don’t have enough time” or “sorry I’m late.” I really believed that I was entitled to both of these excuses. I believed that there was just not enough time in the day to complete what I set out to complete or what was assigned to me. And, I believed that it was always ok to be late as long as I said I was sorry. Boy, was I wrong! The only place having these beliefs got me to was falling behind and feeling badly about myself because deep down inside, I knew that I made poor choices. After awhile, there were only so many ways that I could try to convince myself (and others) that I just didn’t have enough time, especially when they managed to find time to complete their tasks and worse yet – if they were relying on me for something. It was also just downright embarrassing when time and again I couldn’t manage to arrive on time and others did. It’s not that I didn’t have enough time – it’s that I didn’t choose to spend my time wisely. It’s even harder nowadays in our world of multitasking and overscheduling. It seems harder than ever to be present and remain focused and some of the consequences are; losing sight of our priorities, falling behind, disappointing people, and becoming stuck in habits that don’t nurture our growth, which is so frustrating.
This is also a consistent theme among so many of my clients and my friends -we talk about time management and they ask: So what are we supposed to do? How can we figure this out? How do you manage your time and get stuff done? These are great questions to ask. First things first: you must buy into the fact that you need to learn how to impose structure on yourself. You wouldn’t have read this far if you didn’t need the structure. Keep reading. I will admit- it’s a big pain in the ass but when you do it, it works. By imposing structure, I mean; making realistic to-do lists (which includes following them and crossing off tasks when complete), setting timers (20-30 min per task), scheduled-in breaks, no internet surfing until task is complete or you are on a scheduled-in break. Schedule in time to do the fun stuff or the curious stuff online -I’m not saying keep off completely, but it’s not a coincidence that it’s called the world wide web – you will get stuck, in that web, if you don’t structure and limit yourself.
Now that you’re convinced that you must impose your own structure, here’s what I’ve done and what I have my clients do. I start with two things. First, I introduce the notion of how impactful the stories we tell ourselves influence our behavior. If your story is that you have no control over the schedule of your day, then you will not have control. You must change the story to taking control of how you spend your time throughout the day. For instance, if you don’t have time to complete said task, it just doesn’t matter enough to you- you must make it matter. Here’s how and my next move, notice where you struggle the most (or said task) and make a list of 20 compelling reasons why you need to get a handle on that particular struggle/ why you must get it done/why it must matter to you. When you do this, you are bringing awareness to your conscious mind and it’s very difficult to ignore our own conscious thoughts. Our minds are drawn to doing what serves us. Together, the story you tell yourself and the 20 compelling reasons push you into getting said task done effectively because now it matters to you and it will serve you. I’ve done this myself in several different areas in my life – one of the biggest was: 20 compelling reasons why I need to be on time. Several years ago, I had a client that I would piss off every single week because I just couldn’t manage to get to our sessions on time. She had had it with me and was hurt and annoyed that I was not respecting her time. Of course she was…how could she not be! I changed my story from, it’s ok if I’m just a few minutes late, I can’t control the traffic….I will just send a text to I must plan for traffic and leave earlier to get to work on time, even if that means getting up earlier. Being late was no longer an option. Next, I made the list which illuminated the values and standards that I have for myself and my practice- they were in there but not in the forefront of my mind. The list brought them to the forefront and I’ve been much happier and much more successful ever since. I am consciously aware of and living up to my standards and my values, (in this instance – honoring the importance of time) and my behavior reflects them. As uncomfortable and embarrassing as the situation was it led me into this world of understanding the importance of timing and the carelessness of excuses. It was because of this incident that I was able to hear and integrate that we all have the same amount of time. The bottom line is: I’ve learned that I can always make the time – I just have to make it important enough.
Stay tuned for more tips on focus, organization and time management.