I ran out of time. I can't find the time. There's never enough time. I hear these excuses every day for why people don't accomplish the things they want or need to. And yes, sometimes I even say them myself. Heck I'm only human. As comforting as it is to pretend that your time challenges aren’t your fault, these excuses are the language of being out of control, so let's start by telling the truth about time.
First, you don't “run out of time” until you're dead. Then it's literal. You're OUT of time, or at least Earthly time anyway.
Secondly, time is constant. It's always there and it’s one of the ways we are all absolutely equal. We each have 24 hours every day, every day to use as we see fit in pursuit of our life's goals. Nobody has any more or less time than anyone else. The successful writer, attorney, speaker, mother, doctor or actor has exactly the same number of minutes every day as you do.
What’s the difference between a person who accomplishes many great and productive things, and someone who can barely make it to work on time every day and struggles to accomplish anything important? The answer is allocation. If you aren't getting the results you want from your life, take a hard and detailed look at how you’re allocating your time.
Henry David Thoreau said, "Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify simplify."
Frittered away. Hmmm...
According to Dictionary.com, the word fritter means
- To reduce or squander little by little: frittered his inheritance away.
- To break, tear, or cut into bits; shred.
Frittering away your time is what makes you wake up one day to realize you're forty (or fifty, or eighty) and you've not accomplished any of your goals. You've been so busy caught up in day-to-day survival, attending to the urgent as well as the mundane, never focusing your thoughts or actions on your chief priorities. Heck, maybe you've never even taken time to determine your chief priorities. There's no time like the present, I say!
Days are made of minutes, and I challenge you to begin paying attention to where your minutes go. Once you discover where you're spending your time, you can evaluate whether those choices are in line with your life's priorities. If so, great! If not, chances are you feel stressed, unfulfilled and as if you're going nowhere fast. If that's the case, identify areas where you can start making changes today.
Here are three keys to effective time management that you can begin implementing right away:
1. Be In Reality
Some things take longer than others, and part of good time management is understanding how long things actually take, as opposed to how long they “should” take or how long you imagine they take. The human brain distorts its perception of time according to the task at hand. Pleasurable activities seem to go by quickly, while unpleasant tasks seem to make the time drag on. Being realistic about how much real time each of your tasks requires allows you to more accurately estimate and allocate time during your day and not over-stuff your to-do list unrealistically.
Time is your most precious resource, and if you’re like most people, you spend way too much of it doing tasks that someone (or something!) else could be doing better and faster than you could. Delegating is like cloning yourself because tasks done concurrently, rather than you doing them in a linear fashion one after the other. When you delegate to a person or an automated service, your lower priority items and tasks that aren’t your strength get done, and simultaneously, you’re spending time on high priority items and in areas where you shine!
3. Establish Boundaries
This step is perhaps the most powerful one. Life is like water; uncontained, it continues to expand to fill whatever space is available. Parkinson’s Law states “Work expands as to fill the time available for its completion.” When you have weak or missing boundaries on your time, your life, like water, continues spreading out until it’s uncontainable. This creates negative conditions such as stress, overwhelm, errors in judgment and paralysis to name a few. Boundaries are the tools you use to protect your time so you’re able to allocate it in the best way possible for your life.
These three simple steps take courage, but they'll help you treat your time like the precious resource it is and have more time for the things that bring you joy and move you toward your life’s goals.