Taking the Suck out of Time

July 12, 2010

Our collective urgency, fear and yearning to stuff more into our day are merely symptoms of a much larger issue: how we relate to time itself.

Establishing a positive relationship with time is a lot like investing. You have to give something to get a return. Investing a little time on the front end can give you a surplus at the end. Here’s how.

Time suck #1: Juggling too many things at once.

Solution: Stop multitasking. In scientific terms, what you are really doing is task-switching. The brain cannot concentrate on two or more comparably difficult things at a time. The amount of time it takes to rev up to a new task, then rev down is anywhere between a few milliseconds to a few seconds. Over time you are spending hours transitioning from one task to the next. Furthermore, attempting to multitask is not only inefficient; it’s also exhausting. Estimated Time Savings (ETS): Depending on your level of multitasking, up to several hours a day.

Time suck #2: Unclear prioritization. You are reactive, instead of being proactive.

Solution: Set your priorities. Write down your top items each day. Classify them by priority. Be sure to complete the top five or so and move the rest to the next day’s list. Remain flexible in case your priorities shift (leaving a burning building, for instance, is more important than finishing that report on your desk). Working toward your ultimate goals a little bit each day will help you get there faster than if you dedicate irregular times to fulfill goal-related tasks. ETS: Weeks of all-nighters!

Time suck #3: Lack of self-care.

Solution: Exercise. Mental clarity can improve your focus, thereby increasing your productivity. Take a brisk mid-day walk to get some fresh air and a new perspective or eat a light meal (sitting down ~use utensils!) to fuel your mind for the afternoon. ETS: A twenty-minute investment can equal several more hours of productive thinking.

Time suck #4: Being a yes-woman.

Solution: Learn to say ‘no’ with kindness. Agreeing to edit your friend’s blog might be a nice idea, but if you are not in even exchange, it can be time-consuming over the long haul. Think of ways to realign your planning so she’s saving you time, too. Otherwise, politely decline. ETS: Depending on what you are saying ‘no’ to (are you saying ‘no’ to babysitting for an afternoon or to organizing the annual blood drive?), you could save yourself weeks’ worth of time to dedicate to something else.

Time suck #5: The morning rush.

Solution: Get up fifteen minutes early to meditate or write in your gratitude journal. Your mental positioning is as important as your physical one. Bring your mind and your body into alignment with a quiet routine before your day begins. Stretch your muscles and your mind. ETS: How you start your day is how you live it in its entirety. Getting off to the right start with a fifteen-minute investment in a centering activity (journaling, meditating, yoga poses) will expand the experience of your time horizon by hours.

Time suck #6: Sleep deprivation.

Solution: Get enough rest. Expanding your day by going to bed an hour later does not give you another hour over time. In fact, a non-rested thinker is a muddled one. ETS: Investing one hour can grant you at least three hours of more productivity.

Time suck #7: Miscommunication.

Solution: Manage expectations. Think you said something clearly and your partner heard it completely different? Clear communication and proper expectation management will save you hours of cleaning up the mess you could have prevented had you managed those expectations properly in the first place. ETS: A lifetime!

Time suck #8: Enslaved by your digital devices.

Solution. Designate times for information gathering. Email begets email. The more you send, the more you receive. Train yourself to check email periodically instead of constantly. Close out of your email system while working on other projects to avoid distraction. ETS: Up to ten hours. Trust me!

Time suck #9: Always on.

Solution: Unplug. Henny Penny may believe the sky is falling, but yours won’t if you go off-line for a few days. Most cell phones are equipped with personalized ring tones. Set it so you can identify who’s calling without having to even touch it. Or better yet. Turn it off altogether. ETS: Not only will you save your sanity, but you can potentially save hours of relentless data chatter by locating the ‘off’ button.

Time suck #10: Time starvation. The “I’m sooooo busy” syndrome

Solution: Embrace time-abundant thinking. Check how you talk about time? Do you never have enough of it? Are you constantly ‘just so busy’? Remember: activity does not necessarily equal productivity. When you realize you have more than enough time to do what is required to fulfill your ultimate purpose, the pressure is off. You stop engaging in activities that are not in alignment with that purpose. You spend more time on the things you love, thereby encasing you in even more joy and, yes, time! ETS: Your entire lifetime!

Stress recedes when you are present in the here and now.  As a matter of fact, now is all there really is.

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