“How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money.”
David B. Norris
Actually, David went on to say, “Money mistakes can be corrected, but time is gone forever.”
Notice the emphasis on time. Everybody seems to be talking about it. Some people are distraught, saying, “There never seems to be enough time.”
Other people joke about it. As one person said, “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” And as a world traveler and speaker myself, I’ve learned that the best way to assure my flight will leave on time is to arrive at the gate two minutes late.
Some people even think that time is such a difficult issue that they don’t even try to “manage” it. John Lennon, the famous Beatles singer seemed to imply that. He said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Well, I want to issue a warning. You can’t afford to ignore the issue of time. Over the last several years, I’ve given you hundreds of tips that will make you more effective on and off the job. BUT, no tip, skill, technique, or strategy will ever work if you mismanage your time… because you’ll never get around to doing the things you need to be doing.
That being the case, let me suggest that you start the process of smart time management by doing two things.
=> 1. Revere the importance of time.
“Revere.” That’s a strange word. You don’t hear much about “reverence” these days. It’s usually someone’s “irreverence” that makes the news — such as the latest antics of Rosie O’Donnell, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, or Howard Stern.
But few things are more worthy of reverence than the time you’ve been given. After all, how you spend your days will determine how you live your life.
If you’re guilty of “wasting your time” or “killing time,” let me remind you of the following.
To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.
Remember time waits for no one. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present!
I encourage you to take a good, honest look at the way you spend your time. You might even keep a time log for a week or two. At the end of each hour, jot down a brief phrase that describes what you did that hour. Then study your log to see if you’re spending time on things that really matter… or merely jumping from one thing to another.
Jeffrey Davis taught me how to revere time in his story, “1000 Marbles.” He talked about the story of Tom and Rich. It went something like this.
“Well, hello there! My name is Tom,” said the elderly man as he took the aisle seat on the plane.
“I’m Rich,” said the man seated next to the window, working on his laptop. He had so much to get done on the flight to Orlando, so he hoped the old man wouldn’t talk all the way there.
“Planning on working during the flight?” asked the older man, Tom.
“Yeah, I want to catch up on a few things before we land,” said Rich.
“You do know it’s Saturday,” said Tom.
“What does that have to do with anything?” asked Rich. “Work is work.”
“I was like that in my younger days. Worked for a big company. Traveled a lot. Missed most of my son’s Little League games,” said Tom with a sigh. “But when I was 55, I realized that the average person lives to be about 75. If you multiply 75 by 52 weeks in a year, you get 3900. That’s 3900 Saturdays you can spend with your family doing things that matter. It occurred to me that I only had about a thousand of those days left.”
“So what did you do?” asked Rich.
“I went to a toy store and bought 1,000 marbles… one for each Saturday until my 75th birthday.”
“What did you do with the marbles?” asked Rich.
“Every Saturday, I removed one marble from a jar to remind me to make the day count. And each year, I’ve made a stepping stone for my garden with the marbles that I’ve spent. It’s amazing how quickly you go from thinking you have so much time to realizing you have so little. As a matter of fact, this is my last one,” Tom said as he held up a blue marble for Rich to admire.
“What will you do now?” asked Rich.
“I’m going to make sure that I live each DAY to the fullest. The question is… what will you do now?”
Rich looked at the marble in the palm of Tom’s hand. “I think it’s time to figure out how many marbles I need to buy.”
Excuse the pun, but the story makes me wonder if you’ve ever lost your marbles. I have, on occasion.
If you’ve made some time-management mistakes in the past, then you need to…
=> 2. Make peace with yourself.
Too many people approach their lives with regret. “I should have spent more time with my family… I should have worked harder on getting ahead in the early days of my career… I should have taken time for exercise… I should have… I should have.”
Unfortunately, regret will sap your strength to go on to better things. So you have to make peace with your past mistakes.
As Bob Burford says in his “Half-Time” book, “This doesn’t mean that you are proud of all you’ve done or that you would change nothing in your life if you could. Any honest look back will recall several things you wish you would have done differently. The key is to keep these things in perspective and accept them as an inevitable part of growth.”
For example, one of my friends has huge regrets about not spending enough time with his son when he was growing up. And another one of my friends dwells on the fact that she wasn’t more aggressive in the early days of her sales career. But it doesn’t help them to keep on thinking about those things they did or didn’t do in the past.
You can’t go back and undo past mistakes. All you can do is make one of two choices. You can dwell on your misuse of time over the years… and become consumed with the effect it’s had on your family and career. Or you can forgive yourself for the time management mistakes you made; learn from them, and move on. Use them as guideposts for the rest of your life.
You’re familiar with the commercial that asks, “Got milk?” Well, I’m asking, “Got time?”
Yes, you do! And it’s up to you to manage your time if you want a full and meaningful life.
Action: List three regrets you have about your past use of time. And then list three lessons you learned from those situations so you can be a better time manager in the future.