Which One Are You?
Time-rich or Time-deficient? With crowded schedules that stretch us thin, fragment our minds, and leave us wondering where time went, the latter seems the proper answer. But with a more centered approach to organizing and executing time around our priorities we can become time-rich.
If Only I Had More Time
This seems to be a common assessment among many people. It happens when we resign ourselves to the regret of not accomplishing what we could have with the time we had. In the book Everyday Greatness, Stephen Covey advises us to replace ‘if only’ with ‘next time.’ By saying ‘next time’ we give ourselves room to improve by facing forward not backward.
This shift removes the blinders from our eyes to see roadblocks to proper time management. After the change, the following three levers will help lift off the constraints on your time.
Lever One: Intensify Focus
In the 16th century, the French used a sadistic and cruel form of torture for the vilest of offenders. The criminal’s limbs were tied to four horses that ran in different directions. You get the picture. They referred to it as, distraction.
This imagery explains the division of attention and time that distractions bring. My distractions are CNN, ESPN, YouTube, and texting. Triggered by a simple notification, I can break my engagement in a meaningful task to click on the latest news or sports update, viral video, or newest text message. Soon, I am neck deep in the quicksand of these distractions as I scroll and click on related stories, recommended videos, and find other people to text as I wait for a response.
How can we resist the fatal attraction of distraction? I believe focus is the key. When water flows to places where it should not, like the foundation of a house, damage occurs. Time, while precious, can be just as damaging when it flows to our distractions.
Give your focus a tune up by finding alternatives to combat time wasting activities. Engage in a hobby (TV in not a hobby). Experts have proven hobbies can enhance creativity, stir passion, activate a sense of adventure, and boost energy. A friend of mine told me he started cooking to supplant the time he spent on social media. It has been rewarding and enriching.
Exercise: Create hourly time blocks of undistracted work. Turn your phone off, set up an auto reply email, and give attention to the task at hand. After sixty minutes, take a ten or fifteen minute recess. You may discover that you want to continue past the hour as you recognize how effective you are.
Over time, it will turn into a habit that changes your answer to the question, ‘How are you doing?’ Instead of ‘busy’, your response can be ‘productive.’ Let’s seal the gaps and contain time to where it is valuable and useful.
Lever Two: Capture Moments
I view a moment as time held in a capsule. In their insightful book, The Power of Moments, Heath brothers, Chip and Dan assign two distinct qualities to moments: meaningful and memorable. We saw these qualities earlier this month when our two-year-old recited her first memory verse, Luke 2:52,that she learned at a bible camp in July. The recital lasted less than a minute. But the moment will stay with us forever. It revealed three components for capturing moments:
- Set compelling milestones: Attaching meaning to a goal provides the ingredient that will make the journey and realization of the goal worth the while. One of the biggest let downs in life is meeting a goal that leaves you more discontent than you were before you begun the course. What kind of impact will the goal have on your life and others around you?
- Capitalize on lessons learned: Not every moment will end in accomplishment. Sometimes, what we learn can turn into the catalyst for future success. What are you learning at this time of your life? How can you apply it to set in motion a chain of events to improve your quality of life?
- Connect then, now, and next dots: Past investments, present interests, and future implications reminds us that moments with meaning can be traced back to an input or effort made in a prior season. Some things just take time and the best virtue to apply is patience combined with practice. I can connect my present passion for writing to a moment twenty-five years ago when I asked my dad to teach me how to write. The investment is now the tool I use to serve encouragement on paper.
Lever Three: Grow Some Pluck
As you focus more on your priorities, a stick-to-it-iveness is necessary to sustain what you start. This requires pluck. A double effect is intended here. First, pluck means removing, pulling, or weeding out. We must pluck out the weeds of clutter that try to grow and steal the valuable nutrient of time in the garden of our priorities. Second, pluck is a resolution or determination made by staying the course of executing priorities no matter the surrounding disturbances.
Final thought: As you become proficient in prioritizing you will discover a better tool to measure effectiveness: a compass. While the clock provides motion, a compass gives direction. The compass asks, ‘Am I headed in the right path?’
Keep on Keeping on!