How often do you find yourself saying “I just don’t have time!”
In today’s busy world, time has become like a wild stallion. We know it can be beautiful but we end up chasing it around in circles in frustration unable to tame it and make it work for us. Time can feel out of our control.
However, the good news is that, like a stallion, it just needs a little training. It might sound like hard work, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s really just a matter of taking ownership.
Owning your time frees you up from feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. It prevents you spending too much time worrying about what you need to do or what you might have forgotten. It allows you to live in the moment.
The day I got married is, for me, a microcosm of this concept. The day had been planned out so everyone knew what was happening when and who was doing what. With everything in place, I woke up that morning feeling calm, relaxed and excited. I knew I had done all I could to make the day go smoothly. There really wasn’t anything else I could do so I just relaxed and went with the flow. For this reason, I was able to savour every moment of that day. I drank it all in and loved every minute. Even the bits that didn’t go according to plan because I knew that it was beyond my control (I had also had a glass of champagne by that point too which may have helped…but I digress).
So, here are 6 ways to tame your time so you can live in the moment;
Understand what you do with your time. We all have the same number of hours in the day so why does it often feel like we are non-stop but not really getting anything done. The first thing we can do, is to understand where our time is going. Laura Vanderkam, author of several books about time suggests tracking your time for a week by logging what you do in 30 minute increments. If this sounds a bit full-on, remember it only takes a couple of minutes 3 x a day to do it and you only have to do it for a week. This will let you see where you are spending time on things that aren’t important or helpful.
Be careful what you say yes to. It sounds so obvious, but only say yes to things you really want to do. Things that energise you. And the farther off the date is, the more important it is to think before you say yes. Saying yes is easy when it’s months away and the diary looks empty but it will fill up and then before you know it, you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you struggle with this, try asking yourself if you would do it tomorrow. Would you rearrange your schedule to do it? Trust your gut instinct. We all struggle with saying no but do it with respect, kindness and grace and no-one is going to get offended. And it beats letting people down at the last minute. Time is your greatest gift so spend it wisely. If it’s not a ‘hell yes!’ it’s a hard no.
Lower your expectations. This might sound counter-intuitive, but we can overwhelm ourselves with things that need to get done and feel frustrated when we don’t achieve everything we intended. The way to overcome this is to simplify. Prioritise just one thing you will get done each day. All your focus should be on this and if you manage to get anything else done too, then that’s a bonus. If it feels too big, break it down and start with something you can achieve in one day. Before you know it, you will have momentum.
Plan it. The simplest and quickest thing that will make a difference to your day is to map it out the evening before. Make sure you harness the natural cognitive fuel that runs high in the morning and plan to do the most challenging things first. By the afternoon that cognitive fuel tank is starting to run low so then it’s time to switch to the less challenging requirements of the day. If you really want to give that cognitive power a boost, do a workout first thing. It doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym. Just 15 minutes of exercise will jump start your body and your mind. Then try choosing a time in the week – perhaps Friday afternoon or Sunday evening – to map out next week. Plan realistically, put the most important things at the start of the week so if emergencies come up as the week goes on, they have a better chance of getting done. You can also see where you can free up a few hours.
Limit distractions. When you really need to get something done, you need to remove distractions. Put your phone away, tell people that need to know that you don’t exist for a few hours, be somewhere nowhere will be able to distract you, arrange childcare – whatever it is you need to do to be able to relax and stay focussed.
Once you have your time stallion under control, schedule in some time to do nothing. Yep, didley squat. I don’t mean time spent watching Netflix or cruising through social media. I mean time where you are not working, listening, watching, talking or thinking about anything in particular. Maybe you go for a wander, meditate or just lie on your back and watch the clouds in the park for 15 minutes. Just a little time in the day or the week will help to slow things down.
If, like me, this is a challenge because you like to get things done, you may need a little more convincing. So, (I constantly remind myself!) keep in mind that time doing nothing is the opposite of time wasted. This headspace is restorative, therapeutic and is the source of creativity and ground breaking ideas. Time is precious so waste it wisely.