Have you ever had the feeling as you run around from one to-do to another to-do on your to-do list, that you aren’t getting to what’s really important? Maybe you haven’t asked yourself that in a while so you’re on autopilot, spending time in the same ways you’ve always spent time. There’s nothing wrong with your routine, but if you feel in need of a life check-up, here it is. Today, we’ll go through the ways we spend our time and how to make time for what’s really important in life.
If you’ve done any kind of time management course or reading on the topic, you’ll often come across frameworks, quadrants, and all sorts of ways to break up our activities so that we can spend time more efficiently. We schedule, we organize, we group, and we think we’re doing an ok job at it, but we know we could do just a bit better. Here’s why I know this. So many people come to me with feelings of overwhelm – of not knowing if they’re spending time on the right things. They have a feeling something is off but they’re not sure what. These are the people who are actually working on it too! If you’re reading this now, it’s likely you’re one of these people. There are also times in your life, as I know there have been in mine, when I just want to keep running on the hamster wheel because at least doing my to-do list is easier than figuring out the bigger and harder questions. Have you been there before? Are you there right now?
The first obstacle most people face is not knowing how to make more time for doing the things they want to do. They say, “I’m so busy. I don’t know how I would find the time”. I know you’re busy. How often does someone ask you how you’re doing and your answer often includes some statement about how busy you are. I’m so busy. I’m staying busy. I’m keeping busy. I’ve noticed that I say that too, and it made me wonder, “why are we all so busy”? Why, when we have so much at our disposal in terms of technology, access, and knowledge do we feel so constrained by time? What happens is that in the same way you love to eat and wish you could eat less, we have two opposing ideas about time that keep us from truly running time on our clock.
The Opposing Ideas
The first idea is that I don’t have enough time. We want to expand time and make time last longer. We think of time as an expendable resource and while we all wake up each morning with the same 24 hours, somehow it’s never enough. The second idea is that we don’t want too much time on our hands. We like staying busy. We like filling our time and we get a certain amount of energy from getting all the things done. If you’re living in a world where you don’t have enough time and you don’t want too much time on our hands, it’s no surprise that we feel inconsistent in the way we manage and spend our time.
How do we get more consistent so that time isn’t running us, and we’re running time? We decide that we are choosing how we spend our time. We believe that there is enough time for what matters. I say this to myself all the time. It’s no longer about too much or too little time on our hands, it’s about how we want to spend our time. Time is really a “how”, or a state of mind. You feel rushed because you feel you have too little time. You also feel bored because you feel you have too much time. Which one is really true? A second with the love of your life feels like nothing whereas a second with your hand on the stove feels like an eternity. We decide what time means to us based on how we feel. When you start to understand that time is more a construct of our mind, you will feel a quantum shift in your stress and ability to manage time.
Shift your focus
Instead of focusing on time, I want you to focus on what you want to do that’s important to you. If you have 2, 4, 6, 10 extra hours per week, how would you want to spend your time? Write the answers down to that question. Make a list of the 2-5 things that are important for you to spend some time or more time doing. Do you want to spend more time with friends? More time with family? More time pursuing a hobby? More time exercising? More time designing your life? What do you want to spend more time doing? If you have an idea of what you want to spend your time doing, it gives you a reason to make the time for it. So many of us are going the opposite way, and instead of spending time planning for the important things, we rush around spending double or triple the time stressed doing the important things because suddenly they have become urgent. That relationship that’s suddenly heading downhill didn’t do that over the course of yesterday evening, did it? It was a slow gradual decline over a period of time but it may be coming to its head now.
Make time for what’s important
We often hear about making time for what’s important in our lives, but we fail to motivate ourselves to do it. Why is that the case? It’s because we don’t actually believe that it will have enough painful consequences or desirable consequences for it to warrant our attention. If you break your leg, it hurts a lot. When will you deal with it? Now. We don’t spend enough time thinking through what’s really important for us to spend our time on right now to even get down the road of understanding the potential consequences. We’re firefighting our way through our life and this is why you feel stressed or burned out. Let the urgent and important things happen that we have to tend to, happen. Because they will. There’s always going to be something urgent and important that comes up that you didn’t plan for. But your health, physical environment, spirituality, how you raise your kids are all the kinds of things that are important but they may not be urgent now. The question is this, “how do you make time for what’s important, now – so they don’t become urgent and important”? If you need to delegate a task because it’s not important for you to do, how do you make time ahead of needing that task done so that you can not be as stressed with the urgency? If you know you need to figure out childcare, how do you make time to talk to your childcare provider or work on childcare arrangements before they’re a source of concern.
It’s not time that’s the issue
It’s really how we spend our time that’s the issue here. We often forget that we spend our time in ways that don’t serve us and could be utilizing that time for something more meaningful or important. If you need 2 hours a week to talk to someone and build a relationship with someone important in your life, what are you spending time on that isn’t important or urgent? Think of all the things you spend time on that’s not important. List them out. Literally, write them down. I’ve done this exercise and I’ve found that it’s things like watching television or scrolling through social media aimlessly. I’m not saying you have to give those things up, but if you spend 6 hours doing these things, could you spend maybe 2 or 4 and take the other hours to put towards something on your first list of those things that are important to you? Take a look back at that list. Really imagine how good it would feel to tend to those items. How would it improve the quality of your life if you had a functioning team, happy family, thriving relationship with your partner, passion, presence, sense of calm, joy, and achievement in something you’ve always wanted to do?
Take the first step today
If you’re up for the challenge, can you actually do these 2 things right now? Write out what’s important to you and then what non-important activities you’re spending your time on, how much time and convert that over? Take the first step today towards making time for what’s important. You’ll be amazed at how this one small shift in focusing on what matters creates a life of so much more fulfillment and space.
Thanks so much for joining us for this week! Right now, I’m offering up a few complimentary sessions for a 30 minute life design coaching session. Most of us are so busy making a living that we don’t spend any time designing our lives. Here’s your chance to change that. You can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to fill out the form and schedule your session.
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