Jan 25, 2019 | Posted by etc
With daylight hours reduced to fit on a postage stamp, January is obsessed with time. We not only concern ourselves with resolutions, but we seek to cram more and more life into each passing moment, as if this were even possible.
As one who is always running short on this priceless commodity, nothing troubles me more than wasting one minute of it. I’ve done just about everything a person can do to keep from wasting it, too. From reading books to college-level classes, to seminars, and webinars, I’ve used more cheap tricks than a circus. Still, few things slip through my fingers more than this thing that we cannot even define in the first place.
Time. It’s the stuff life is made of.
Yet, throughout 30 years in business, I have learned a few things about time. Granted, most of these things were acquired in the School of Hard Knocks. This is still the best school on the planet, albeit the most expensive and the least respected.
1. We are not in control of our time
Many years ago, Todd, one of our most talented colleagues, did not show up for work. The previous evening, he had gone off the road and down a steep embankment, and no one saw it happen. He laid there all night, having suffered multiple fractures, including his back and every bone in his face. But we found him. He was lying in the hospital, his life hanging in the balance. Even though our small business was overloaded with work, it was utterly impossible to complete it. We were beside ourselves with grief. I am happy to say he survived, but not without a long and grueling recovery. It was a God thing that at that very time, I was taking yet another class on time management. Our instructor was hammering down take control of your time every five minutes. But my mind kept going back to that hospital room, and these words could not have sounded more shallow. No matter how hard a person may try, we do not control time. We are granted time. And we are given only one day at a time. We cannot cram two days of life into one, or live life in fast-forward. Be present in your life today. Today is all you have.
2. We are in charge of our time
Yes, I know I just said something that sounds like the complete opposite. I am both antagonist and protagonist here. While there are many things outside our control, (see above), there is yet much that we can control. We refer to time management as spending time. All spending is not equal. Time is like compounding interest on debt. This interest can snowball in either direction, toward deeper debt, or toward gain. You can buy time today by doing tasks that will make tomorrow easier, or you can steal time from tomorrow by doing the reverse. It is critically important to be mindful of the difference. We waste much time trying to control things that we cannot change, while our biggest obstacle remains unchecked: me, myself, and I. We may not be able to control our time, but we remain entirely in charge of ourselves.
3. Change does not always equate progress
Making small changes in our lives can take us to some fantastic places. We get excited about resolutions for this very reason. A one-degree change in trajectory can send you to a completely different planet. We get ourselves in a pickle, and our pickles demand us change. But lest we invent our own master narrative of rising from the ashes too soon, we must address how we got there in the first place, or the small tweaks will avail nothing. If you do not understand the why behind your behavior, sheer gravity will suck you back down to earth. Progress is change, but change does not always imply better.
4. You need bookends
Bookends were missing from my time budget for many years. You would think I would have known that, because in the early years of my marriage, our most successful money budget ever was the envelope method. (Yes, archaic, I know. Don’t judge me!) When the envelope was empty, that category was nixed until more money came in the following month. The tech-free envelope provided an obvious, self-imposed stop-gap measure. Without this limit, we would have spent it all, and would have never had enough money left for important things. Common cents. Without self-imposed time limits, projects will also expand. What should only take two-hours will expand to take four. But, if you give yourself a deadline to get that task done in a half-hour? You will get it done in a half-hour. We all know how fast you can clean house when unexpected company is coming over. Set a timer if you must, but use book-ends around your project.
5. You need a TO-DONT List
The TO-DON’T list was also missing from my time budget for many years. The just say no muscle must be developed and strengthened. It takes sheer intestinal fortitude to ignore the cries and moans from friends and acquaintances who compel you to come to their party. But you get to decide if the party is important. Damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead, but make it a conscious decision. In order to say yes, you have to say no. What is it that you will no longer do? There will never be enough time to do it all. Say no to the things that rob you of your goals by creating your very own TO-DON’T LIST. We have created an example TO-DON’T LIST for you, and have attached it below. Just say no today!
Time is the raw material of creation. If you want to do great things, you need every minute you can get. You have less time than you think. You need more time than you know. Creative people learn to say NO, so that they have time to make great things.
Don’t ask how much time something takes. Ask, “How much creativity will that cost?”