We have all wished for more time. We want to get more done, be more productive. But does getting more time truly helps us focus on our priorities?
What do we crave more time for? How do we figure out where our priorities are? All of us have work to do and projects to finish. Yet, we also want more time to do things we love, to be with the people we love, to just take care of ourselves and sleep as long as want for once, or go for a walk.
But what truly happens when we do get extra time (let’s say a meeting got cancelled or kids were invited to a sleepover), is that we end up spending it on chores and more work. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t recommend looking for more time. Because no matter how much we get, it will be used in the same way we used it before. I already wrote about a very important insight about time management that shifted my perspective completely. If you have not seen it, make sure to take a look HERE.
As much as we long for more time, we know that if we focus on finding more of it, it is like chasing unicorns. We cannot get more than 24 hours a day or more than 60 minutes an hour. That’s all we’ve got. So what to we do?
What we need to learn is how to have better control over the time we do have.
The problem is not the lack of time. In fact, this isn’t about TIME whatsoever. But this does have everything to do with the CHOICES we make. We do not need more time, but we do need to learn to make good choices. Choices that are congruent with our life’s goals.
- When we make the right choices, we have better control over our time.
- To make these choices, we need to know our priorities.
- But to know our priorities, we need to know our values.
- When we know our values, it is easy to define our priorities, which then guide our choices.
- These choices then shape our days, which, in turn, shape our life.
When we understand this relationship, we get a better sense of control over the time itself. And now, instead of saying “I don’t have time for XYZ” we can say, “I have different priorities. I chose X over Y.” This is the way we claim our time and stand by our values. This mindset is powerful and helps us not only claim our time, but also no longer feel that someone else dictates what’s on our to-do list.
Instead of asking how to find more time, we should really be asking how to make our list of to do’s smaller.
Simply focusing on time management strategies is ineffective. Why? Because it approaches the problem from the assumption that you have enough time to get everything done on your to-do list, no matter how long it is. But to do everything on the list we will need more time than we have. No matter how good a time management strategy, it will never create more time than there is. Therefore, the more effective strategy is to do fewer things.
Most people initially have a reaction to this kind of statement.
Nonetheless, this is precisely what will get us back in control of our tasks and make us more realistic about estimating time, not to mention becoming more reliable. Right from the get-go, before we jump into doing things on the list, we need to slash it in half. Yes, you heard me right. We have to realize that for as long as we have been making lists of to-do’s, we have been unable to get all of those things done in the time that we had.
I am also not talking about becoming lazy or avoiding responsibilities when making our list shorter. I am talking about all the clutter we add to our list and many other meaningless things that just keep us busy. If we can be brutally honest with ourselves, we will find things that do not belong on our list, and those are the ones that need to be taken off right away.
Time management begins with list management. Challenge yourself to cut that list in half.
Efficiency strategies I implement and recommend are not intended for getting us through our long to-do lists. They are not meant to teach us how to be better at getting-more-and-more-done so that we can get-even-more-done. These strategies are meant to help us get done what needs to be done and give us the space to do what matters.
Very often we spend way too much time on things that do not matter. It is a false assumption that every project needs to be a work of art. We can be OK with some things being good enough. If we strive for perfection in everything we do, it will lead to other things not getting done at all. Sometimes we procrastinate for the same reasons — not understanding the priorities and the meaning of the work we are doing or, on the contrary, giving that work way too much attention.
Watch out for Time Thieves.
These could be other people or our own mind clutter. I have more thoughts to share on mind clutter soon, but for now, I want us to start being aware of the things that occupy our mental space — such as, unfinished projects, stuff we procrastinate on, people we worry about, past scenarios we keep replaying, etc. All of that compromises our focus and ability to use time well.
As far as other people, we have to remember that others are on the hunt for more time too. There may be those who are looking for people who will donate their time. Have you ever been delegated to and asked “tiny favors” that were major time “stealers”? Then you know what I am talking about. Don’t do that, unless you choose to. Do not donate your time towards someone else’s cause unless it aligns with your values and priorities. Your time is an investment, so make it count.
Wishing to have more time is a sign of overwhelm.
This is perhaps the most important point from the mental health perspective. When we desperately need more time, what this means is that we have more on our plate that can be handled. If that’s the case, more time would be the last thing we need. To calm the overwhelm, we need to step away and reassess our priorities.
The trick is to understand that we do have enough time during the day to move things ahead, to get enough done. Some projects will need more than one day or one sitting and we need to be OK with giving them the time they take. We have enough time to take care of ourselves as well. We need to decide that we choose to, and that we make ourselves a priority.
In the end, it is all about priorities.
That is the gift of time.
Because we have a finite amount, we are forced to look at our priorities. When we do, we are more likely to focus on what truly matters.
I would love to hear from you: what are your thoughts on making choices based on priorities? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook. Please share this article with others, who you feel may benefit from it.