Your Planet Time is Limited

A hiker overlooks the sunset. Text "Not all classrooms have four walls" appears on the graphic.

Don’t waste precious planet time.

- Oprah Winfrey

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 lessons dealing with the gift of time and how we self-manage it. Our planet time is definitely limited, that is the subject of this lesson. The next lesson we will be dealing with is patience and impatience. Where are you on the patience meter? Then, we will follow that with the lesson, overcoming procrastination.

Successful self-management is the art of getting the most from yourself, in the time available, that you can comfortably sustain.

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 draw out 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.

Jerry Seinfeld writes, “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.”

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.

The other question to be considered is, “How long do things take?” Well, generally things take as long as they take. We have to understand what I call, ‘The Law of Contingency Planning.’ Most problems, whether small inconveniences or full-blown emergencies or crises, are caused by a lack of effective planning. We must get into the habit of building in some extra time when establishing deadlines to allow for inevitable interruptions or delays that may arise; in other words, plan for the unexpected or the unanticipated. This is really non-negotiable if you want to be successful in meeting deadlines and time-commitments you have agreed to.

Jim Clemmer, one of my favorite authors and story tellers, 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.

Time is a currency you can only spend once and until it runs out, it is our most underrated and precious gift.

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. Again, time management is actually self-management. It’s continues to amaze me how often we blame others for our shortage of time.

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.

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 out time be wasted. Again, we cannot manage time; we can only manage ourselves.

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 chronically 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.”

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 moves 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.” 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. Actor Michael Landon once said, “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of the day. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.”

Time management is actually self-management.

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 ask, “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. We say, “No, I can’t come over this weekend. I’m too busy.” Now though, busyness is stylish. Sometimes, even adults need a time-out chair.

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, when we go into unconscious overdrive, forgetting to shift back out of high gear after such a bout with adrenaline has served its purpose.” Long-term consistency trumps short term intensity. Remember the story of the turtle and the hare; steady wins the race. You cannot consistently 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!”

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, and 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.”

Remember the story of the turtle and the hare; steady wins the race.

I have been facilitating seminars and workshops in time and self-management for over 40 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.

One day, a college professor stood before his philosophy class, and presented on a table, a five-gallon jar filled to the brim with large rocks. He asked the students whether the jar was full, and they agreed that it was. Then he poured in smaller rocks and pebbles to fill the gaps around the large rocks and repeated his question. Most students still thought the jar was full. A few were hesitant. The professor topped off the jar by adding sand. He then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the space between the sand. The students laughed.

Then, he asked the students to compare the jar to their own lives: What was the lesson to be learned? With typical youthful confidence, they said that you can always fit in more.

“Perhaps,” said the professor, “but only if you accommodate the big issues before taking in more. The large rocks are the important things- your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions, and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The smaller rocks and pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. Put your priorities in order, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fill out your life.”

The professor added, “Depending on what you perceive your ‘all’ is, you may never be able to get it ‘all’ done. Sometimes life may seem overwhelming.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. The beer just shows that no matter how full your life may seem, there should always be room for a couple of beers with a good friend.”

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.”

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.”

Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “It’s not a priority” and see how that feels.

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 self-discipline to actually start projects and complete them within a specific time frame.

“Learn to say no. Don’t let your mouth overload your back.”

I have worked with 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 self-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 you want to do! Yet, you have all the time there is. Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Your discipline dictates your success in life.

Jim Rohn once wrote: “Learn to say no. Don’t let your mouth overload your back.”

How does this statement resonate with you? 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.

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 overcommit, in order to please, to be cordial or just be nice. 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 often why you’re drained.”

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. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials. Always remember, when you’re overwhelmed, only do what’s essential. 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.

Captain Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek, adds, “Someone once told me that time was a predator stalking you your whole life through. I rather think it’s a companion following you through the journey, reminding you to cherish every moment, because it’ll never come again.”

Time waits for no-one. Colin Wright adds, “You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do. Act accordingly.”

Food for Thought

Are there things on your calendar that you need to change, delegate of delete?

Do you struggle with a persistent feeling that you should be busy all the time?

When you have spare time, how do you like to spend it?

What’s on your to-do list that doesn’t have to be?

What are you doing that I need to cut back on in order to have more time for my priorities?

Choose one quote every day or perhaps one or two every week if you like. How do these quotes speak to you? What applications do you see in your life? Share your chosen quotes with a family member, a friend, a business colleague. Create a ‘quote of the day’ club at work.

A weakness of all human beings is trying to do too many things at once.

- Henry Ford

Life is entirely too time consuming.

- Irene Peter

The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.

- John C. Maxwell

You can always find time to do what you want to do-if you’re willing to give up something. Life is a series of trade-offs.

- Barbara Hemphill

Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all, or by having everything happen all at once.

- Paulo Coelho

I try to take it one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.

- Ashleigh Brilliant

There can’t be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.

- Henry Kissinger

I wish there was ten of me and we could each be doing what we wanted.

- George Lucas

I know exactly how long it will take; whatever time is available plus a little more.

- Ashleigh Brilliant

I like to drive with my knees. Otherwise how can I put on lipstick and talk on the phone.

- Sharon Stone

For disappearing acts it’s hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight hours of sleep and eight hours of work.

- Doug Larson

You may delay but time will not.

- Benjamin Franklin

Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.

- Woody Allen

A first-rate organizer is never in a hurry. He is never late. He always keeps up his sleeve a margin for the unexpected.

- Arnold Bennett

Dogs lead a nice life. You never see a dog with a wristwatch.

- George Carlin

The most important decisions about your goals is not what you’re willing to do to achieve them, but what you’re willing to give up.

- Dave Ramsay

For fast acting relief, try slowing down.

- Lily Tomlin

You will never ‘find’ time for anything. If you want time you must make it.

- Charles Buxton

You may delay but time will not.

- Benjamin Franklin

Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.

- Claudia Black

It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised, the mosquito is swatted.

- Marie O’Conner

One half of the trouble of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly. And not saying no soon enough.

- Josh Billings

I don’t say no because I am so busy. I say no because I don’t want to be so busy.

- Courtney Carver

Always put off until tomorrow what you shouldn’t do at all.

- Morris Mandelo steps forward, one step back experience.

- Therese Rando

We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it in the full.

- Marcel Proust

Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot. I am learning to live between effort and surrender.

- Danielle Orner

Being must be felt. It can’t be thought.

- Eckhart Tolle

Until you surrender the need to know why things happened to you as they did, you will hold on to your wounds with intense emotional fire.

- Caroline Myss

A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work.

- John Lubbock

Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.

- Erma Bombeck

There’s no problem so awful that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.

- Calvin & Hobbes

Next Lesson: Patience is the Companion to Wisdom

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