Improve Your Quality of Life with Time Management, Not Busy Work
Photo credit by Ali Nassiri; creative commons license
Time management techniques improve both your productivity andâ€”if youâ€™re willing to change your point of viewâ€”your quality of life. Itâ€™s not really about finding time to do all the things you must do, but finding time to be all the things you want to be.
I still recall standing in the public library one evening after work when I was a busy, chaos-wrestling 25-year-old career woman (â€œcareer womanâ€ was the term we used back then). I set my briefcase aside as I handed the librarian my choicesâ€”at least 3 sets of time management courses on cassette tape and probably 40 hoursâ€™ worth of listening. Time management had become an obsession for me because I had so much to do and so much I wanted to doâ€”I was working 80 hours a week and I barely made a dent in either my weekend chore list or my job assignmentsâ€”and I was constantly taking on more. Youâ€™re heard of The 4-Hour Work Week?
Not for me! I felt lucky to get four hoursâ€™ of sleep a night.
I listened to the tapes while I commuted, while I gardened, and while I cleaned house, but I was disappointed. I was looking for the secret treasure trove of tips. Most of it, Iâ€™d heard before. Some of the productivity techniques were good, but most were either about delegating your work to someone lower on the corporate ladder when I was the lowest or how to cram every possible minute with yet another little task to juggle with the rest. Life became an elaborate checklist.
After a time, I became quite good at what I thought was time management. Or so I thought. I really wasnâ€™t managing my checklistsâ€”they were managing me. But I sure looked great to everyone else! In fact, you might say that I became the Poster Girl for Productivity.
Friends and colleagues marveled at how much I managed to accomplish in the same 24-hour day that they managed to go to work, feed themselves, and watch a little TV. As I finished my advanced degree, got promoted to even more responsible jobs, and started both a family and home businessâ€”all at one timeâ€”I joked that someone should clone me. That, in hindsight, was a warning signal because if I needed to be cloned a few times, then I was doing too much task juggling and not enough living.
I was so very good at managing my workload and yet my non-stop complaint was, â€œI donâ€™t have timeâ€ or â€œThereâ€™s never enough time to do ______.â€ How could I accomplish so much and not have time to enjoy the moments? Life became a blur of checklists.
You were only killing time and it can kill you right back. â€“ â€œOut of the Frying Pan (and Into the Fire),” Jim Steinman
Then something changed. It wasnâ€™t that I suddenly had more time in a day or even that I started doing less. My mindset changed when I reached mid-life. I began to look at time differently. Suddenly my time and how I spent it had much more relevance. If I put a dollar value on my time, it made it easy to figure out what I could outsource and what I could let go.
The key to changing my way of thinking about time management and productivity was to understand that many resources are renewable. I can always make more money, for example. What I canâ€™t make more of is time. Itâ€™s the one resource that, whether wasted or spent, is gone and will never be renewed. I found that I could hire out tasks I had no passion for, and often at a much less rate than the value I put on my time. I found that I could hire out jobs I would have spent weeks learning the basics of, just to become productive. I found that I could hire out parts of big projects to specialists and clerical help, which meant I had the fun parts of coming up with the money-making ideas and then integrating them into one package. I found that I really could delegate most of the things I hated doing and focus my timeâ€”my most precious resourceâ€”on what I really wanted to doâ€¦and more importantly, on being what I really wanted to be.