“How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot”. — Michael Altshuler
Time is a precious commodity for all of us. How we use it determines not only how productive we are, it also determines how much stress we have, how our relationships are affected, and our sense of well-being and satisfaction with our lives.
Here’s some questions to help you determine how well you are using your time:
- I make a to-do list every day and accomplish most of what is on the list Never______ Sometimes______ Usually______Always______
- I assign priorities to my to-do list by rating them A, B,C, or D Never______ Sometimes______ Usually______Always______
- I determine my priorities according to (list in order):
- What my boss, spouse, child, parent, friend, or other person decides
- What my own productivity goals are
- What my own personal needs are
- I feel satisfied with what I accomplish every day Never______ Sometimes______ Usually______Always______
- What I would like to do differently:________________________________ ___________________________________________________________
Here’s some other points to consider:
How much time do you allow yourself for “me” time? This could be taking a nap, exercising, reading a book for pleasure, time with family or friends for fun or quality time, taking a walk in nature, travel, other hobbies or entertainment.
Do you use this time to refresh and regroup, or for escape in order to avoid what you need to accomplish? Especially when that accomplishment will give you a sense of satisfaction and/or peace.
What are some things you regularly do that take up your time and cause you stress or frustration?
Here are some examples:
- Feeling compelled to answer e-mail or texts right away, thereby making someone else’s needs more important than yours.
- Time spent on social media
- Doing chores that have little value
- Time spent “browsing” shopping with no need for items or just to fill up unused space.
- Procrastination—putting off things that need to be done because they are unpleasant, time -consuming, you lack skills or information, or you are otherwise uncomfortable with.
- Perfectionism—feel compelled to have things done “right” or “on time.” These are often arbitrary standards with little or no serious consequences. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that will happen if it doesn’t get done to your standards? Also, recognize and remind yourself regularly that to be human is to be imperfect. So, if you are demanding perfection, you are asking yourself (or others) to be more than human.
- Offers to help others by listening or doing, that strains your tolerance level and/or is not truly necessary or appropriate. While it is a positive trait to be empathic and helpful, setting reasonable limits on that help is important for your own well-being and keeps you from becoming an enabler, keeping others from taking responsibility and learning.
- What are some other ways you can set limits to improve your quality and quantity of time?
- What are some other ways you spend time that can be described as avoidance behaviors?
“Productivity is about the results you were able to achieve in the time you spent.”
–Laura Stack, founder and CEO of Leadership USA
It might be useful for you to consider how you have developed your ineffective uses of time and why you still hang onto outdated or inappropriate practices.
Are your habits or attitudes towards time something you learned from your parents or other influential people in your life? Are they due to practices you were negatively affected by or disliked? For example, if you lived in a family where there were very low standards for cleanliness or order, you might repeat that–or be determined to have a life that has high standards for cleanliness and order. If you lived in a family where there was little importance placed on learning or cultural stimulation, you might see little value in those activities–or you might crave that kind of stimulation to the extent you neglect other practical activities. You might have learned other avoidance behaviors, or developed an arbitrary value system that dictates how you use your time.
A helpful exercise: write down your life values that shape how you spend your time. Then ask yourself if these are truly your own values, or something you do because you haven’t taken the time to think about the benefits or drawbacks of those values and what is truly important to you. Evaluate practices you learned from others. For example, you may have learned the value of not allowing yourself relaxation or play time until everything else gets done. How might taking a break help improve your productivity, energy, and/or motivation? How much of your time is spent following what you learned versus what is truly meaningful to you?
“Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it”.
— M. Scott Peck
I’d be interested in your thoughts and comments, and any suggestions you might have for others. Please share them here.
I’ll be glad to send you some Productivity tools including Goal Setting and Time Scheduling. If there are other tools you’d like, let me know here.
Feel free to share this article with anyone who might be interested, and check out my previous blogs on my website.