Did you know that February was International Time Management Month?
Is it just a horrible joke to say that I was so busy, I missed it? I know—that was a groaner, but I do have thoughts about this whole “time management” deal.
I believe all those “time managers” have their hearts in the right place. I’m betting they really want to make life easier for us, help things flow better, improve our work life balance and help us feel less behind and overwhelmed. But I have to confess that the whole concept of time management kind of stresses me out. The phrase itself is no fun at all and the idea sounds like a lot of work—piled on top of the work that I already have.
It’s not that feeling time-crunched isn’t a problem—and a major source of stress for many people. In fact, in a survey I’m currently conducting, more than half of all who have responded so far shared that they feel overwhelmed and like there are “never enough hours in the day.” But the idea of “managing time” just doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t inspire energy or momentum. The idea of managing my time sounds like improving my ability to coping with something I can never really control.
Instead of chasing after time and trying to figure out the best way to manage it, I’d rather focus on time ownership.
Here’s what I’ve found to be true in my own life as well as in my work coaching busy women all over the globe. Owning our time and the way we choose to spend it (instead of feeling like we don’t have enough of it) puts us in the driver’s seat. And no matter how much I have to do, when I feel like I’m driving my life forward (instead of chasing along behind it trying to catch up), my perspective, my energy, and my productivity all shift in a very positive way.
Here’s what I mean about owning time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Regardless of age, rank, income, or birthright, no one gets extra. And we all choose what to do with it. Yes, sometimes they are very tough choices, but we choose.
It’s all too easy (and painful) to live with the belief that we don’t get to be in control of our time. The list of “have-tos” we face can seem long and the idea of owning even 30 minutes of our time can feel impossible. If we let it. But the truth is, I know that once I abdicate my right to own my time, I give up my control of how I am spending my energy and my life. Once I decide that I “have no choice,” I am in reaction mode, I feel like a victim to a time shortage, responding to what life serves up instead of moving through my life with purpose and direction.
Owning my time doesn’t mean having no responsibilities. It means that I take responsibility for where I put my focus. Owning my time doesn’t mean always doing stuff I love (today I chose to spend some of my time doing my taxes and some boring paperwork), but my day didn’t “happen” to me. I chose it. I owned it.
Why is this important? It’s important because when anyone spends too much time in reaction mode, they run the risk of losing a sense of personal effectiveness and feeling like a victim who has no power. It’s pretty easy to get stuck in this place, feeling overwhelmed by life and feeling like you have no choice but to keep going.
- No choice but to chronically sacrifice sleep.
- No choice but to be chained to your cell and your laptop before, during, and after the workday supposedly ended.
- No choice but to work through lunch or go through the drive-thru or never make it to the gym.
- No choice but to be tired and unhappy and frazzled or stressed.
It’s an awful place to operate from. And when we stay there long enough, we can end up in a vicious cycle of only thinking about what we “have” to do (because we feel victimized by time and our to-do lists) and never thinking about what we want.
I’m curious what your relationship is with time. Are there places in your life where you are abdicating your time ownership? How could you start to take it back—today?
Take good care,
PS: There’s still time to participate in the Too Much on Her Plate short survey. Just go here to answer a very few short questions: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/S8Z552N