“Lost time is never found again”.
It seems as we get older time seems to increase in pace, we all know that time consists of 60 minutes a day and 24 hours in a day and so on.
Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote is a stark reminder of how finite our time is.
We’re all human and we all have our limitations. God gave us the same 24 hours in a day. It’s up to us to choose how to spend our precious time in ways that we enjoy and serve us.
Notice that I said “us” and not “everybody around us.” Now, this may sound selfish? Far from it. The more about you focusing on keeping yourself healthy and happy, and from their, you can be the more helpful to others.
By simply accepting the fact that the clock is never going to run backwards, and that you are a Time-Traveler travelling in just one direction – forward.
You can then begin to understand the importance of time and how best to use it, and how a mindfulness approach to time management could help both in time as well as stress reduction.
Accepting your own mortality is also a great help in this regard, but dwelling on the fact that you will one day shuffle off your mortal coil (or, simply put, die) can be depressing, maddening, and terrifying, as many of us are unable to wrap our minds around what oblivion will or will not feel like.
More recently, just a few decades ago, Alan Lakein in his best selling book-“How to Control Your Time” published in 1973, wrote that “Time=Life, therefore waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life”
In his Fellowship of the Ring, JRR Tolkien has suggested that “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”
And I would add further, remembering that “Time cannot be saved and made available for later use”
So, If I could show you ways that by using a mindfulness approach to time management, could help you at work-What would say?
See It Like Money
The popular adage “time is money” is particularly relevant here.
If one thought of their time as money, it would be much easier for most people to effectively budget time relative to the importance of the task at hand.
For instance, you wouldn’t spend $800 on tires for a motorbike that you rode occasionally, but spending that much on high-quality tires required for safe winter riding would you agree would be a sensible option.
So, think of time -It has to be managed in the same way with the same mindset that not all tasks are of equal importance
We have to manage and cherish every second to get the most out of it. Yet, regardless of which part of the world you live in, you’ll find that everyone struggles with time and that affects our stress and anxiety levels.
The modern world we live in today takes no prisoners, by that I mean it’s very demanding of the most fundamental thing that governs everything-Time and You.
“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.” – Thomas A. Edison
Who actually can manage time?
Nobody can make time go faster or turn back time unless you are Dr Who!
What we should be thinking about is our ability to our manage our attention.
For example, you may block off several hours to work on a project or report, but if you spend those hours looking at your social media-facebook and twitter, your colleagues may say that you have mismanaged your time.
In reality what happens- You let your mind wander to things that distract you – your attention wasn’t where it needed to be.
No one manages time. We manage our attention.
No matter how much extra time we would like to have, it’s never enough. So the key here is to except that we need to work with what we have, 24 hours, except it and demand from yourself that you will embrace it and remember that it can never be turned back. You need to manage your attention.
Related Article: Mindfulness At Work
Where ever you in the world, most of us wear one or more of these hats: a parent, a spouse, or an employee. Struggling to balance these roles takes a toll on most people. Add the blessing (or curse) that is technology and social media you can begin to see why people are constantly stressed. It seems like no sooner have you reached inbox-zero and you suddenly have to put out yet another fire.
Do We Over – Emphasis On Getting The Job Done
How many of us have stayed late at work to simply complete a task or finish off a report? Its a given in the modern workplace to be at your desk or behind the wheel of your car for however long it takes to get the job done.
People are often asked to prioritize tasks according to their urgency (e.g., according to deadlines) without also considering their importance (e.g., whether or not they match values).
This misplaced emphasis tends to cause people to neglect their less demanding but perhaps more satisfying relationships in favour of “oiling squeaky wheels” with potentially damaging long-term results.
There is no easy answer to this, we are all different and we all handle time management in different ways, it’s “Not A One Size Fits All” answer.
We all at some time have a brain overload, where the brain just cannot handle more information, from this point our stress and anxiety levels spike.
A research program was undertaken by Dr Cheryl Conrad, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University.
Everyone knows consistency is an essential component of success and it’s no different if we want to become better at mastering our time.
Why Not Consider The following Mindfulness Approach To Management:
Get To Work Early
There is no problem in going to work early. When you come in early, you have some extra time to gather your thoughts and get prepared, and you are sure to make a better impression in every situation. The upside of this is that it will help you to reduce your stress levels.
Maintain a Daily Planner and To-Do List
Whether you use software or diary, you need a daily planner to make sure that you are on top of all the daily tasks. When you spend time do affect planning, you reduce time spent executing tasks. Thorough daily planning is a key tool. Structure your time. Just seeing on paper that there is a time to get your tasks done can help you get to work. For shorter projects, use a timer or alarm clock to help you stick with your plan
How many times do you sit in meetings and allow your mind to wander from the subject under discussion? You are often physically present, but mentally in a totally different place. When you daydream during meetings, you end up uninformed about the meeting’s topic and stressed. To avoid this tendency, sit up straight during meetings, take notes on the topic, and try to keep in eye contact with the speaker.
Knowing where attention should go isn’t going to help if you can’t stay there. Distractions destroy focused attention. It’s not always possible to entirely remove them, it is possible to make great strides in creating an environment that promotes and protects attention.
- Everyone is motivated in different ways. Find what inspires and motivates you to tackle work issues, instead of putting them off. Commit to a regular schedule of work output and project completion.
- Break up large tasks. If you know that you won’t be able to focus on a project for 3 hours, break up your work into 1-hour blocks over 3 days. It’s easier to face an unpleasant task if the time you are giving it is brief.
- Create short-term deadlines. Short-term deadlines will help you make a habit of meeting deadlines. It will also force you to get things done
- No one is perfect so avoid perfectionism. If you demand perfection, you might not even start a task because you’re worried it won’t be perfect. Doing your best is fine. Giving yourself enough time to do your best will reduce stress
Prioritize Based On Your Values
Every day you have a long list of things that need to be completed. And by the end of the day, you might have done a few of them (or not) but probably not the big, important ones (unless not doing those things comes with a price you’re not willing to pay).
Most of what you get done is likely to meet other people’s expectations. Your own work tends to come later – or never.
So to avoid this – Ask yourself these questions to clarify your priorities:
- What are you doing to prioritize your day and develop an action plan when you are inevitably interrupted?
- What is okay to say “no” to?
- How will you handle interruptions when they arise?
- Do you hold an assumption that you must respond to any interruption?
- Are you afraid you will be disliked/unloved/fired if you fail to respond immediately to an email?
You may be surprised that you have far more latitude in saying no or “later” to incoming requests.
When you prioritize your actions (not just your to-do list) based on your top values, the important stuff tends to get done.
Related Article: Embracing Mindfulness Helps You Thrive at Work
When you act on things that are important to you, you feel a bigger sense of achievement. You will find your work becomes more rewarding. And you become a lot happier.
Priorities apply both to the short- and long-term. In the moment, it means choosing where attention should focus right now. Finish this memo due tomorrow or look-up that Yoda quote you can’t quite recall?
In the long run, where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose. Is Phil’s diversion into baseball stats and not writing law briefs a sign that maybe he’s bored with being a lawyer? Is there something else he’d rather be doing?
Where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose.
No one likes to leave work at the end of the day or week feeling like they didn’t accomplish the most critical tasks. When you set and adhere to priorities, you avoid stress and keep on pace with the demands of your workload.
Focus On Your Top 3 Values
When you start to apply a mindfulness approach to time management, life gets a whole lot easier when you know what your top values are. Once you’re focused on what your values are, it becomes a lot easier to base all of your decisions on them.
Your top values are the three most important things in the world to you. Without these things, you aren’t you.
A word of advice- Don’t view them as “things” because that’s exactly what they’re not. They’re concepts, ideas, ways of being in the world. And try to ask- Whats the importance of that person or thing and how important is that person or thing in terms of feelings and relationship.
Your top values won’t change much throughout your life because they’re part of who you are. Values are things like happiness, joy, freedom, integrity, service.
Consider Stephen Covey’s advice and imagine your 80th birthday party.
- Who do you want to be at the end of your life?
- What will you have wanted to accomplish?
This vision determines what is good, better, and best in your life. Once you know what you want, it becomes painfully obvious what you don’t want.Thus, you won’t be seduced by the many good things in life distracting you from the better and best.
Balance Situations – What’s really urgent and what’s not
Another time management technique is to learn to distinguish true emergency situations from situations that seem urgent but just aren’t that important. Before you drop everything next time, ask yourself: Is this truly important or just urgent to the person requesting my help? What will the consequences be if I don’t handle this immediately?
Do I actually have important and urgent things that should be done instead? Is there someone else that can handle this situation?
People with good time management concentrate on “not urgent but important” activities. That way they lower the chances of activities ever becoming “urgent and important”.
- Urgent and important
- Not urgent but important
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
Catch Yourself Before Things Catch You
Annie Dillard an American author, best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” The choice is yours. You can learn to catch yourself before things catch and entangle you.
Try to apply mindfulness approach to time management — intentional and nonjudgmental consideration — to everything you do, say, and think before you blindly react.
In other words, pause and consider. Do you really want to play another game of cards, or would you rather laugh with your children for ten minutes? Watch repeats on television, or spend some quality time meditating?
Or catch up on social media, or put it on the pillow and get a good night’s sleep? With a mere moment of lucid attention, we can increase the quality of each minute, each hour, and ultimately our lives.
Related Article: Ellen Langer on the Value of Mindfulness in Business
In order to get the important stuff done (and be happy in the process), you need to be flexible. Life throws curve balls and you’ll need to flex in order to deal with them.
Not being flexible means that you expect the world to stop and bend to your whims while you don’t reciprocate. It doesn’t work that way. You can fight it and get mad about it but that’s just the way the world works.
Accept the daily challenges, the resistance you’ll encounter from fellow workers and staff and the interruptions because you can’t change them. They’re part of life. Place your top values in the back of your mind, decide how you’ll work with whatever comes your way on a daily basis.
Take the Time to Make the Time
We live in a fast and competitive world. You may believe that there’s no imaginable way to make room for any additional activities in your life. With your job, your family, you may simply feel tapped out for time.
Author Sage Cohen believes, however, that time can always be found if we choose to find it. She writes, “Your relationship with time is far more subjective than you might imagine. The best way to get a handle on how much authority you actually have over time is to start becoming aware of how you are spending it.”
Time is an excellent servant but a poor master; you have to take time to make time, by intentionally creating some space in your working day. If you are like the hamster on the wheel, how can you expect to get things done? Everybody does have enough time, but its a matter of prioritising what is important to you and not to others.
In every situation, you must ask yourself, “Is this the best possible use of my time?” Is this the best approach? Or am I settling for less?
Derek Sivers is an American entrepreneur best known for being the founder and former president of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians has created a great benchmark for activity:
If something is not a HELL YES!, it’s a no. End of story. If you are not 100% behind what you’re currently doing, stop doing it. There are certainly better things you could be doing.
Accept That You’ll Never Get It All Done
“Your inbox will be full on the day you die.” I don’t remember where I heard that but I’ve used it for years on myself and the people around me.
You’ll never get everything done. There will always be more to do. What and how much you choose to take on is all up to you.
I’ll go out on a limb and assume that someone isn’t holding a gun to your head to get more done each day. You’re making that choice. You’re deciding what you’re going to do and how you’re going to think and feel about it. If something isn’t working for you, make a different choice and see what happens. Remember, everything in life is an experience to learn from.
Protect Your Private Time
Some anxiety-provoking work habits, such as bringing work home or staying at work late, are more exhausting than we may realize. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but if it becomes a habit, you can start to feel like you don’t have a life outside of work. Try to manage your time at work more efficiently so you can enjoy your time outside of the office.
According to Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, 80% of what we gain comes from 20% of our effort. So, 80% of our effort produces only 20% of value.
- About 20% of the newspaper is actually worth your time to read.
- About 80% of your mail is probably junk mail and not worth your time.
- About 20% of your e-mail actually requires your immediate attention.
So, if you think about it, you waste a lot of energy, effort and time every single day. Empirical studies have validated this finding over and over again. Why aren’t most of us listening and changing the way we do things? Changing to a mindfulness approach to time management is not easy, but can have a dramatic change in how you see work and life.
Time is a resource that only comes around once, every day is a resource that we can use wisely or waste, it’s up to you, it’s not a resource that can be bottled up for another day.
How we view time affects every facet of your life so when you go to work every day remember to remember that you are given 24 hours a day to work with and bear this mind –
One-third of your life is in bed and one third roughly 90,000 hours are spent at work assuming you live to 75!
So what are you going to do today to change the amount of your time in bed or at work? Extra time dedicated to you and your family?