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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Who gets your time?

While looking at a directory for elderly care and hospice, I came across an ad with the headline, "Bored?" The ad then went on to say that the long-term care facility for which they were advertising had a series of activities to keep their residents busy. Is our society just fixated on being busy? Is "being busy."

Nearly everyone I talk to is busy these days. Some people are busier than others, though. I don't know if I have the corner on the market of being busy, but I wish I wasn't so busy sometimes. I think it's just the season of my life right now. My kids need me in different ways nearly all the time. When I'm not working (and many times when I'm working), they'll ask me for my time. Those demands don't give me a free pass from others' demands on my time. I get asked to lunches, meetings, phone calls, brainstorming sessions, seminars, events, speaking engagements, grand openings, blood drives, volunteering duties, etc. from people I work with, go to church with and people I don't even know. Everyone wants something from me.

If I could clone myself all these demands on my time would be met. Every one. Unfortunately, that science hasn't been perfected. This means I get to perfect my discipline and boundaries. Managing my time is something I think about a lot. Here's what I've learned over the years.

  1. Organize: When you know what you have to do, when you have to do it and what the consequences are if you don't do it, you're better able to organize your time to see where you have extra time (if any) to give to others. Organizing yourself helps you feel more in control when things get out-of-control busy. Structure and order help you say "no" to things when you have enough to fill your plate. If I have a particularly demanding work day ahead, I'll plan the night before to get up earlier to fulfill all my time demands. Planning, setting goals and tasks ahead of time, then checking in on yourself at the end of the day or week, will keep you accountable and more motivated to do better the next day/week.
  2. Prioritize: Is your family the most important thing in your life? If so, you will find it easier to turn down demands on your time that take you away from them when they need you. My husband and I decided years ago that we wouldn't attend meetings in the evening because that's family time. This shows our kids our commitment to them. During working hours, my kids understand work is important to me and needs to be completed. They know they'll have to wait - and if they don't, there are consequences.
  3. Make time for yourself: You're a priority too. Making time for exercise and sleep take discipline and structure. Schedule it in the night before and you'll be glad you did - you'll feel less stressed, think clearer and be healthier.
  4. Find your weakest point and work on it: There are things in life that will rob your time. My weakness was (and still is, sometimes) social media. I love Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email and all things related to them. Checking email less often is sometimes difficult, but that practice makes you feel like you have more time. When you sit down at the computer and give yourself only 20 minutes to check all your social media accounts, you'll be much faster and you'll get started working on the things on your list faster. Set a timer and stick to ending at the allotted time.
So, who gets your time? I think the answer to that question will vary from one person to the next and from day to day...maybe even hour to hour. The important part of that question is the asking. Be thoughtful and deliberate about who gets your time and you won't feel robbed by time.

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