There is never enough time…unless you’re serving it.
Years ago, Richard Whitely, a young British TV reporter, was interviewing a farmer on the wild uplands of Wensleydale about the hardships of hill farming. After the interview, Richard was curious about the time because he had to get his film crew off to lunch.
Not having a watch, Richard asked the farmer what time it was. “Aye, lad,” he said. Ah’ll tell thee.”
And with that he crouched down beside the cow in the farmyard. With his great Yorkshire hand, strengthened and pitted with years of toil, he lifted the cow’s udder ever so gently. “Ten to one,” was his reply.
Richard and the film crew were amazed. “How can you tell the time by feeling a cow’s udder?” Richard asked.
“Come here, lad, ah’ll show thee.” Stooping down again, he said, “If you crouch down like this and lift up the udder, you can just see the church clock across the valley.”
Well, you may not have any trouble “telling” the time. Most likely, your trouble comes in “managing” the time. You may feel like you’re constantly hurrying, that you’re always short of time. You might even be the kind of person who paces in front of a microwave.
I know it’s not easy to keep up with the demands of work and family and also find a little time for yourself. But the price you pay for working too much, giving too little time to your family, and neglecting your need for personal down time is devastating. Life seems out of control, peace of mind is a foreign concept, and your body can look and feel like a bundle of worn out rags.
Stephanie Winston, author of Getting Out From Under, says some people need to “downshift.” In other words, they’re out of balance. They’re spending too much time on their work and not enough time with their friends and family.
Here’s the statements she uses to determine if your use of time is out of balance. Answer them for yourself. Answer “Yes” or “No” to each statement.
1. In the past week, I was able to dine with my family once or twice.
2. Work-related pressure has caused me to skip a family event in the last two months.
3. I can think of an activity I’d love to engage in but can’t because of work demands.
4. In the past two months, business travel has taken me away from home for eight nights or more.
5. I have no time to spare for civic, social, or charitable activities.
6. My work creates family pressures.
7. I have no time for a hobby.
8. If I had to take time off from work to deal with a family crisis, illness, or death, it would cause me great stress or even jeopardize my job.
If you said “Yes” to three or more statements, you may be out of balance. You may need to manage your time more effectively.
There is some good news, however. It is possible to achieve a reasonable balance between work, family, and self. And you don’t have to do two or three things at once. As Dave Barry says, “Never, under and circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
“That doesn’t mean there won’t be days, or even weeks, when things get out of balance. That’s just part of life. But if you spend a little time thinking about how you use time and what’s important to you, you will accomplish more and still have time for the key people and activities in your life.
You can significantly improve your time management by following a few basic principles. It’s a part of what I talk about in my keynotes and seminars on “Take This Job and Love It! A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life.”
START WITH A TIME LOG. In other words, your first step in managing your time is to record your actual use of it.
One manager prided himself on being absolutely certain of where his time was spent. He “knew” he gave a third of it to employees, and third to important customers, and the other third to community activities. His administrative assistant persuaded him to let her keep a log for him.
He didn’t believe the first log she showed him. It showed that he spent most of his time keeping track of orders from customers by calling the company to check on them. It took three logs before he realized he was spending most of his time as a dispatcher.
Many things you do may not be “your job.” They may be somebody else’s responsibility. Or they may not even be necessary. Do you do things you shouldn’t be doing? Do you waste time? You’ll find out when you do a time log. And you’ll find out if you ask other people.
You should also HUNT DOWN REPEATED CRISES. Look for problems that keep happening on and off the job. Look for things that cause panic, uproar, chaos, and confusion. Look for things that keep on wasting your time.
It may be, back on the job, that the annual inventory becomes a major headache. Chances are, people are upset because your procedures are not the best, and people hate to have their time wasted. You probably need to find a better procedure. You’ll save time as well as enlist the cooperation of others if you do.
Or it may be a frantic chase every morning at your house. People are scrambling to find their clothes and homework, and people are madly running out the door hoping not to miss the bus. It doesn’t make any sense to have the same crisis day after day. Maybe it’s time you set up some new timesaving procedures so the day starts with calm and connection.
Then LEARN TO WORK IN BLOCKS OF TIME. Spend 30 minutes taking messages and returning calls, for example. Limit meetings or problem sessions to two days a week. And start and stop meetings on time. Just remember, meetings are over when people start repeating themselves.
As you work in blocks of time, you will minimize or eliminate interruptions. If you’re not careful, a few-minute interruption can easily destroy your entire block of time.
But the most important thing you can do for time management is to FIGURE OUT YOUR PRIORITIES. Figure out what is important because no matter how hard you work, you will never get everything done. So do the most important things, and let the rest go if time doesn’t permit.
One of my speaker friends in the “Speaker Hall of Fame, “Frank Bucaro, has what he calls the greatest time management principle in the world. He advises us to “Live each day as though it were your last, and some day, you’ll be right.”
We all have 168 hours each week. Sleep takes about 50 hours. Work takes another 40 hours. That leaves 78 hours a week to manage. Don’t leave it to chance. If you’re going to have the time of your life, you’ve got to remember that your time IS your life.
Action: Ask three people how they see you wasting time. When you hear more than one person mentioning the same thing, give their comment serious consideration. Find a way you can stop doing that “wasted” thing or at least do it differently.