Don’t waste precious planet time.
First things first! We have to accept there is no Planet B.
Art Buchwald writes, “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.”
This is the first of three blogs dealing with the gift of time and how we self-manage it. Our planet time is definitely limited, and that is this month’s subject. Next month we will be dealing with one of two special arts, the ‘Art of Being Patient.’ September’s blog discusses the ‘Art of Overcoming Procrastination’ and your ability to conquer it, should you ever get around to it. Many have said, “I am going to conquer this procrastination habit, just you wait and see!”
Imagine you had a bank account that deposited $86,400 each morning. The account carries over no balance from day to day, allows you to keep no cash balance, and every evening cancels whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day. What would you do? I hope you would withdraw every dollar each day!
We all have such a bank. Its name is time. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever time you failed to use wisely. It carries over no balance from day to day. It allows no overdraft so you can borrow against yourself or use more time than you have. Each day, the account starts fresh. Each night. It destroys all unused time. If you fail to use the day’s deposit, it’s your loss and you can’t appeal to get it back. Always remember these two things, time is a currency you can only spend once and until it runs out, it is our most underrated and precious gift.
Les Brown adds, “In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 opportunities to make a positive impact.”
A fellow was once asked, “How long is a minute?” to which he replied, “It depends on what side of the bathroom door you are!” If you are a child at school, ten minutes is a short time if it’s a recess and long if it’s a punishment.
You have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it
Forced upon you, can’t refuse it,
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it
But it’s up to you to use it,
You must suffer if you lose it,
Give account if you abuse it,
Just a tiny little minute,
But an eternity is in it.
Jim Klemmer is one of my favorite authors and story tellers. He shares the following, “When Geoff came home late from work again, his eight-year old daughter Tiffany was waiting for him at the door. As he walked into the kitchen, Tiffany asked, “How much do you make an hour, daddy?” Tired and stressed out, Geoff was angry with the question. “That’s none of your business!” he replied.
But Tiffany was persistent. “Please daddy, tell me, how much do you make an hour?”
“All right,” Geoff snapped. I make $40.00 an hour.” Then Tiffany asked, “Daddy can I borrow $20.00?”
“Forget it,” he barked back as he stormed out of the room.
Later that evening, Geoff was feeling badly about the way he treated his daughter. So he went to her room where he found a teary-eyed Tiffany still awake. Pulling a twenty-dollar bill from his pocket, he sat on the side of her bed and tenderly and tenderly gave it to her. Tiffany smiled and took a couple of crumpled bills and some coin from a drawer in her night stand. Handing it to Geoff, she said excitedly, “Thanks, now I have $40.00! Can I buy an hour of your time tomorrow, daddy?” Sometimes we’re so busy chasing all the things we haven’t got that we forget to notice the things we already have, the people in our lives and the fortunate circumstances in which we live.
Busyness does not equal productivity.
How many of us have said, “I just don’t have enough time!” Yet we have all the time there is. We all have the same 24 hours a day as everyone else; it’s one of few great equalizers, twenty-four hours a day. What most people lack is not time, but rather the necessary skills to manage themselves and the time they have available. Thus, time management is actually self-management. It’s continues to amaze me how often we blame others for our shortage of time.
I want you to consider your personal relationship with time. The first thing we will discuss is wasted time. The other will be to look at your own personal time habits. Are you punctual? Can you be trusted to keep the time commitments you have made with others?
Do you waste time? What is the one thing that someone close to you does that you think is a total waste of time? What is something you love to do that someone close to you thinks is a waste of time? I challenge you to think about what defines something as a total waste of time for you. Is it something that eats up time you could be spending on something else you see as more valuable? What you are doing today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.
Life is a limited time offer.
Bernard Berenson adds, “I wish I could stand on a busy corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours.” Life humbles you as you age, only in retrospect can we look back and realize how much nonsense you’ve wasted your time on. We all have time to spend or waste and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed. It is gone forever. The only one to blame is ourselves for letting our time be wasted. Again, we cannot manage time; we can only manage ourselves. And remember, never give someone the opportunity to waste your time twice.
I would be remiss if I did not briefly touch on the subject of punctuality.
There will be times you will be late - could be as a result of family circumstances, a last minute change in priorities, or just something outside of your control. But if you are a chronic late person, where your lateness is pretty well expected, what message are you sending? There’s always an excuse. It’s always someone else’s fault. Can you admit to the following, “I’ve officially run out of excuses; I will likely be a little late because of who I am as a person.” It’s pretty definite that person or event does not seem to be a high priority to you. Always remember, perception lies with the receiver, not the sender. Lateness is usually a result of poor planning. People who repeatedly try to fit things in, cram their schedules up and don’t allow time for the unexpected or unanticipated to pop up, are inviting chaos into their lives. Yogi Berra once said, “This is the earliest I’ve ever arrived late.” Marilyn Monroe added, “I’ve been on a calendar, but never on time.” Is this really a laughing matter?
Sales consultant and author Myers Barnes writes, “Time management has nothing to do with the clock, but everything to do with organizing and controlling your participation in certain events that co-ordinate with the clock.” Einstein understood time management is an oxymoron. It cannot be managed. You can’t save time, lose time, turn back the hands of time or have more tomorrow than today. It moved forward regardless of circumstances. Since time is essentially the accumulation of events and control is the key to making sense of those events, then the secret to taming time is, logically, the fine art of event control. This means that we not only choose our events, we also choose when we will do them. The operative word here is choice.”
Hyrum Smith adds, “Every morning when the alarm goes off, we have a total new opportunity to do what we want with the hours we have been gifted. And we are gifted with that clean slate every day for the rest of our lives.” Time flies. It’s up to you to be the pilot and navigator. You become a master of your life when you learn to control where your attention goes. Value what you give your energy and time to.
You are born and you die and everything in between is negotiable. The only thing you have between birth and death is time, is often referred to as your personal ‘dash.’ How you use your time will define your dash. Life is a time limited offer. Too often our ‘dash’ becomes a mad dash. We rush around trying to do it all. We lose sight of what really matters. We must consciously choose to be a human being instead of a human doing.
The pace of life accelerates. It reminds me of the father who came home from the office every day with his briefcase filled with the work he could not finish during the day. One evening his son asked, “Dad, how come every day you come home, you always bring your briefcase.” The father said, “Well son, I can’t get all my work done at the office.” The boy replied, “Gee, dad, can’t they put you in a slower group?” How many of us would like to sometimes pause adulting and lower life’s difficulty.
Richard Stengel, a former editor of Time Magazine wrote, “Nowadays, people don’t ask how you are, they say, 'Are you busy?' meaning, 'Are you well?' If someone actually does ask how you are, the most cheerful answer of course, is a robust 'Busy!' to which the person will reply, 'Good!' Busy used to be a negative sort of word. It meant having no time for yourself, no leisure. 'No, I can’t come over this weekend. I’m too busy.' Now though, busyness is bullish. Conspicuous industriousness is the rule.” I’ve actually heard that people have difficulty finding the time to read Time Magazine. Seems like some kind of oxymoron doesn’t it?
We must consciously choose to be a human being instead of a human doing.
If I could interview your friends, your pets, your plants, your car, what would they say about you? Are you too ‘busy?’ Would they sometimes feel abandoned, even under nourished at times due to your lack of attention and caring?
Do you see life as a sprint or a marathon? Being a sprinter may be glamorous, but life is a distance event. Arthur Ashe wrote, “You have to be intense when it counts. If you try to be intense 24 hours a day, you aren’t going to last very long.” Stephen Covey adds, “There are times when producing at the outer reaches of endurance and ability for an extended period of time is necessary and even nurturing. The real problem comes, however we go into unconscious overdrive, forgetting to shift back out of high gear after such a bout with adrenaline has served its purpose.”
Remember, long term consistency trumps short term intensity. You cannot run at full throttle when applying your mindset to all of the different things running through your head. Focusing is the key to manifesting your desires. There’s an old saying that if you chase two rabbits, both will escape; unfortunately that is what many people seem to do.
When we are busy, we naturally believe that we are achieving. But busyness does not equal productivity. Activity is not necessarily accomplishment. Prioritizing requires us to continually think ahead, to know what’s important, to know what’s next, to see how everything relates to the overall vision. The truth is that most of us need to slow down and realize the pace of life is not as important as what we do with our lives. Barbara Sher notes, “Everything in your life calls out to you. There isn’t an item in the house that isn’t saying, 'Clean me, read me, fold me, finish me, take me to Aunt Jane’s house, answer me, write me,' You have to get that racket down to a murmur.” You want to cry out, "Don’t tell me I’m burning the candle at both ends-tell me where I can get more wax!”
How many of you can relate to my following personal laundry experience? Washing 30 minutes. Drying 60 minutes. Putting away - 7 to 10 business days; fluffing up as needed - daily. This is always a thermometer that I am running on overdrive too long. Do you ever feel like your body’s “check engine” light has been on and you’re still driving it like, 'nah, it’ll be fine'?
M.J. Ryan adds, “If insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, what is thinking the same thing over and over despite evidence to the contrary. I refer to my chronic illusion that someday everything is going to calm down in my life and I will get everything under control. 'I’m crazy busy now, but after this year, things should calm down.' In reality, we can never get our lives totally under control because there are so many factors that influence them that are not under our command. Most likely we will never get to the end of our ‘To-Do’ lists. The more we give up the illusion that ‘someday’ we will have it all together, we can relax into the reality of our lives as they are.” I have a number of friends who are retired. I have often heard them say, “I don’t know how I ever got things done when I was working.”
I have been facilitating seminars and workshops in time and self-management for over 35 years. Repeatedly, the same four issues come up over and over again. First is our inability to identify priorities; second is our lack of self-discipline; third is our inability to say no to unreasonable demands on our time; and the fourth is how to conquer procrastination. Let’s take a look at these individually.
In the 1991 movie, “City Slickers,” Bill Crystal plays the part of Mitch, a middle-aged man who has lost his direction. He and his friends journey to the Wild West to participate in a real cattle drive and search for the meaning of life. Jack Palance plays Curly, a crusty old cowhand whose job it is to babysit the city slickers along the dusty trail.
In one piece of dialogue, Curly asks Mitch, “You know what the secret of life is?”
“No, what?” Mitch responds.
Curly holds up his index finger. “This.”
Mitch looks confused. “Your finger?”
“One thing. Just one thing.” Curly growls
“That’s great,” Mitch replies, “but what’s the one thing?”
Curly smiles, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out. It’s something different for everybody. It’s whatever is the most important for you.”
In class one day, a college professor presented a five-gallon jar filled to the brim with large rocks. He asked the students whether the jar was full, and they said it was. However, he then poured in smaller stones to fill the gaps around the large rocks and repeated his question. The students now saw the point and said the jar was not full. The professor proved it by adding sand to the jar, then followed that by topping off the jar with water. Then he asked the students to compare the jar to their own lives. What was the lesson to be learned? The professor added, “Always accommodate the big issues before taking on more. Put your priorities in order, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fill out your life. Nobody is too busy, it’s just a matter of priorities. I ask you now, “Do you have your ducks in a row, or are you like most people who don’t have ducks at all, but do have an over-abundance of squirrels and they’re all in a rave?”
A husband was a workaholic and often stayed very late at the office. One night he got home at 12:30 and tried to crawl gently into bed. It didn’t work. His wife woke up and said, “You’ve got to learn to alphabetize.”
“I don’t understand,” he replied.
She explained, “Wife comes before work.”
Setting ranked priorities is just the first step.
It is of primary importance to develop highly your sense of proportion, your values, and your priorities. You just have to know what is important and what isn’t, and resist spending your energies and resources on the latter. The sharper your focus, the clearer your vision. What are you focused on? Starve your distractions and feed your focus. Ask yourself what is really important and then have the wisdom and courage to build your life around your answer. There is an opportunity cost for everything we do. This is why we must have the awareness to ensure that what we are pursuing is really what we value, because the pursuit leaves countless lost opportunities in its wake. We choose one experience at the sacrifice of all other experiences. George Bernard Shaw sums this up so nicely, “To a person with a toothache, even if the world is tottering, there is nothing more important than a visit to the dentist.”
Setting ranked priorities is just the first step. You must then add these items to your to-do list, and after that you must schedule the necessary time to complete the task.
There is a famous Scottish Proverb that states, “What may be done at any time will be done at no time.” Give items a home on your scheduler. We then have to develop the discipline to actually start projects and complete them within a specific time frame.
Now, let’s take a look at self-discipline. I have worked with tens of thousands of people in my workshops and seminars. If there is one common characteristic or problem behavior that is nearly universal, it is a lack of discipline; almost seems like it is a default. Self-discipline is about controlling your desires and impulses while staying focused on what needs to get done to achieve your goal. It seems there is just not enough time to do everything I want to do! Yet, we have all the time there is. H. Jackson Brown Jr. writes, “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards or sideways.” Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Your discipline dictates your success in life. This will be covered in more detail in September’s blog on ‘Procrastination.’
Jim Rohn wrote: “Learn to say no. Don’t let your mouth overload your back."
Take some time. How does this statement resonate with you? Learning to say no when appropriate, is definitely an ‘Art.’ Here is my personal definition of saying no, "Saying no with tact and diplomacy without offending others or feeling guilty.”
Are you a compulsive pleaser? Ed Sheeran notes, “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone." The need to please others and ‘always be there’ has been a long time personal challenge for me.
Do yourself a favor, stop being so available for everyone all the time. The following was sent to me and unfortunately, I have not been able to identify the source. “Don’t be afraid of losing people, be afraid of losing yourself by trying to please everyone around you. There may be situations where you may feel the urge to dampen the importance of your priorities because others don’t understand what and how you prioritize. Don’t worry, it’s natural. In fact, as being humans, there is that pull that encourages us to make others feel comfortable even at our own expense. It’s easy to over-commit, in order to please, to be cordial or just be nice. However, in most cases, it’s better to say no when you don’t have the time or resources, and more importantly when you’re just not interested. If anything, it shows maturity and respect for others. Unfortunately saying no isn’t always easy hence the reason there’s an urge to apologize. However, remember, there is no need to apologize - it’s okay to say no just like it’s okay to say yes. Remember, everybody is not your assignment. That’s why you’re drained.
Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
Procrastination will be addressed in detail in September’s blog. It’s such a serious problem it rates its own blog. I would call this ‘justifiable delay,’ I’m really not procrastinating, just you wait and see.
I love this quote from Ashleigh Brilliant, “There’s a wonderful method of relieving fatigue caused by overwork: it’s called rest.” Life is all about balance. You don’t always need to be getting stuff done. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay, and absolutely necessary, to shut down, and do nothing. That’s the reason we have tomorrows. Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. Always remember, when you’re overwhelmed, only do what’s essential. I always tell people, “Dust is a protective coating for fine furniture.” William James once said, “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” The petty and the mundane steal much of our time. Too many of us are living for the wrong things. You can’t expect to have a high quality of life if you don’t make wellness a priority. If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness. Harvey MacKay notes, “Knowing when not to work is as important as knowing when to.” You must make self-care a priority, not a luxury.
To realize the value of one year,
ask a student who has failed a final exam.
To realize the value of one month,
ask a mother who has just given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of one hour,
ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of one minute,
ask the person who barely missed a plane, a train or a bus.
To realize the value of one millisecond,
ask the person who has won a silver medal at the Olympics.
Jerry Seinfeld helps us wrap up this blog. “No matter how much time you save, at the end of your life, there’s no extra time saved up. You’ll be going, 'What do you mean there’s no time?' I had a microwave oven, Velcro sneakers and a clip-on tie. Because when you waste time in life, they subtract it.”
There are three things you can’t recover in life: The word after it is said, the moment after it is missed, and the time after it is gone. Time waits for no-one. You are not getting your years back. Colin Wright adds, “You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do. Act accordingly.”
Previous month: Where there's life and loss, there's grief
Next month: Patience is the Companion to Wisdom
What do you actually need to do this week?
Are there things on my calendar that you need to change, delegate of delete?
Do you struggle with a persistent feeling that you should be busy all the time?
Do you feel that your innate value is based on your output?
Have you ever given yourself permission to do nothing?
When you have spare time, how do you like to spend it?