The most important principle in relation to time is that time is perishable. No one can save time. It’s not like money. You can’t deposit the time you save into an account and use it later. Time passes. Time is a constantly depleting resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you will NEVER get it back. A wise person will keep that in mind while preparing and planning.
Most people think they have set their priorities. I don’t want to dismiss that notion out of hand but I have uncovered a problem that many overlook. When I ask people to write down what is most important to them in life, they usually write a list of certain things that they feel very strongly about. When that list is done, I ask them to write another list of everything they actually do with their time. The second list is almost always completely different from the first list. And people wonder why they are stressed!
Saying One Thing and Doing Another
When a person says one thing and then does another, that person is causing stress. It’s as simple as that. It’s a common and overlooked reason for stress. Too many people are caught up in inner turmoil, a war of inconsistency between their thoughts and actions.
Line up actions against ideals and actions will usually win the battle. Observe your actions and you will know what is really important to you. If you don’t like what you are spending your time on and if it doesn’t match your ideals, then change your priorities!
The only way to really know if you have set your priorities straight is to record how you spend your time after you have made the desired changes in focus and then see if your actions are in accordance with your predominant ideals.
Most Powerful Word In Time Management
The most powerful word in time management is NO. Saying yes is easy in comparison. Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to everything else you could be doing. If you think that something you are doing isn’t in line with your purpose in life, then simply say NO to it.
Don’t Fill Your Schedule
One of the wisest things I have learned about time management is not to fill my schedule. Life offers us plenty of unexpected events and many of them make their way into our lives on a regular basis. If you always fill your schedule, then you have no flexibility if something goes wrong. Give yourself some breathing room when you plan your time, or, make sure that if something unexpected happens, you know what to swap out and set aside for a later date.
Constructive, healthy and wise time management is hard to attain. It’s a lifelong process that continually needs to be balanced and rebalanced. Sometimes you plan too much, sometimes not enough. Sometimes you will forget the most important things in life and sometimes everything works in harmony. Life is variable and there are many different and even contradictory needs that demand our attention. Seek balance when you can.
Habits are good for Time Management
Wake up and go to bed at the same time, brush your teeth, take out the trash, read for your kids, exercise, read books, have lunch, prepare your day, eat dinner, and make everything else you do on a regular basis into a habit. The beauty of managing life this way is that you don’t have to plan for habits. You don’t have to write them down or strain yourself to memorize what you were going to do. You simply do because it’s a habit and then you can direct your creative and problem-solving energy towards more important things in life.
Feel free to share your time management strategies in the comment section.
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Column curated from the book Yes! You Can Manage Stress: Regain Control of Your Life Using the Five Habits of Effective Stress Management (2011) © Gudjon Bergmann