Lately I've been reading that time is a constructed concept, that it doesn't really exist and so on. That may well be so, but I also believe that if you're aware of the balance of how you spend your time, you can get more done and enjoy your life more.
In my e-book I talk about spending a pre determined amount of time on a task and sticking to that as a regular habit, rather than continuing with it until it's ‘done’. Some things are just never done are they, and there are other things that need our attention too, so you've got to draw a line, prioritize and plan.
Don't fall asleep on me here, words like time management, prioritize and plan make me want to check the pantry for chocolate biscuits too. These kinds of terms are used a lot in a business sense, but we can apply them to our personal lives too, without it being boring or tedious. In fact if you learn to think like this, life becomes more fun and less stressful.
Some things in your life are more important than others. Some things are more difficult. Some things are more fun, others more boring. But for your life to be the way you want it to be, it needs to include all the things that matter to you. So that's making money, feeding yourself and your family, looking after your kids, paying your bills, family time, couple time, keeping your house clean and tidy, doing your laundry, having a social life, time for your health, time for your own personal and spiritual development, time to do something fun just for yourself.
If your house is in a mess, you're not going to enjoy anything as much. If your desk is piled with half finished work projects because you don't know what you're doing next or where to start, your business is not going to succeed. If you're badly dressed and disorganized in your job, you're not going to be considered for promotion.
In my reading and research this month, I came across the term 'time boxing'. It was a term that came from software development, but means exactly what I've been talking about, which is allocating appropriate blocks of time to each area of activity, and just doing as much as you can within that time.
An example of what I'm talking about, today I need to work on this newsletter, and I’d like to get it finished if possible, but I also have to do laundry, drive my kids to ballet lessons, cook dinner, spend time with the family and relax myself, and many other little things. If I get carried away with the writing, other things will slide, I’ll get cranky, the kids will get cranky, I wont be concentrating very well after a while, and I’ll be depressed by the mess, the rushing, the complaining and so on that follows from not attending to other things.
So I have allocated a timeframe to spend working at my desk, and one hour of that is for writing and nothing else. If I don’t finish, I will have done a good chunk of solid work, and I won’t be stressed about it because I know I have time for everything else. If I spent 3 hours on it, I might not get much more done. I would tend to stop and start, worry, doubt myself, and get distracted.
The same goes for housework. I have a tendency to be a perfectionist, which can lead to tasks never being finished. If I clean the floor, I could spend literally hours on it. I’d then be upset by all the little crumbs and spills that will happen before I’ve even finished. So I put a time limit on it, and just clean for that amount of time and then stop.
This can be very hard to do, but the big difference is, because it didn’t take all day, I feel better about coming back to it at the next allocated time, and a regular habit develops. When you spend too long on one activity, not only do you neglect other things that need to be done that day, but you get ‘burnout’, and are less inclined to do that activity again because in your mind it ‘takes too long’ and you don’t have time.
The quality of the activity is better too when I have a time limit on it. I tend to be more productive and focused knowing I need to do as much as I can within that time.
Best of all, it helps me feel better. Better about what I’m doing, better about the balance of my time, and better because I’m more focused and confident that I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I feel better about my decisions about how I spend my time, because I know I have given it due consideration and have actually made specific decisions about how to spend my time rather than just letting things happen.
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