Most women will tell you that their time is extremely precious. Many would pay dearly for an extra hour, some time for themselves, or the opportunity to squeeze in “one more thing.” And yet, I see a lot of time being left on the table, being lost, like spare change between the sofa cushions, and going unclaimed or under-utilized.
Are you losing time? See if any of these sound familiar:
Do you ever come to the end of a busy day knowing that you were working hard, but not really sure what you accomplished?
Do you ever set out to accomplish a task and find that suddenly your window of opportunity is gone—it’s been used up while you got prepared, followed up on loose ends, answered emails, or were generally distracted by other tasks?
Do you start out with a clear list of action items for the day but find that before you ever get to them, other peoples’ needs, wants, and emergencies have filled up your day?
Does it seem like you never get to the ‘big stuff’ because the little necessities of life take up all your time?
If so, you’re losing time, or giving it away, or even wasting it. What you aren’t doing is leveraging one of your most precious assets in the way you could be. And as a result, you may not be getting where you want to go, accomplishing the things you want to, or having the experiences that you promised yourself. You—not just a lack of time—are getting in your own way.
Now let me be clear: I’m not talking about becoming super-efficient so you can become hyper-productive—squeezing every last moment out of your day so that you can get more work done. That’s NOT what I’m talking about. Lost time limits our ability to live our lives, to have fun and to have time for the indulgent and nurturing experiences we also crave (especially because we often leave these things for last—but that’s another blog post). When we lose time without being fully aware and deliberate about how we are spending it, we are giving away moments when we could more fully be ourselves.
Are you losing time? Here are five common traps
- One of the biggest traps for busy women is feeling like they don’t have the time to come up with a plan. Do you take the time to identify your highest priority items? Here’s the thing. Without a plan, you are constantly in “reactive” mode, you are going to be kept busy, catching the balls that life is throwing at you. Take a deep breath, and give yourself ten minutes to clarify your tasks for the day—including the highest priority items. Dig into these first to create positive momentum.
- When you are working are you really clear what you are working on? I know it sounds silly, but in a world where you can have umpteen computer screens open at once and be communicating on a bunch of other electronic devices at the same time, it’s quite easy to tell yourself you are being productive and busy and not be accomplishing much at all. As you go through your day, do you know what the goal or project of the moment is, or are you just jumping into the first task or email that catches your eye? Busy people lose time when they are not deliberate about how they spend it. In fact, they get busier. I recommend you structure your time if that isn’t already happening. Take a look at your to-do list, give each item a time limit and decide when you’re going to tackle each one. Timers are great for this.
- How much time do you spend every week watching “mindless” TV, surfing the internet with no real goal, or finding other ways to not really be present? I dare you to add up the hours. This often happens at the end of the day when you’re too tired to do anything else, but too persistent (or stubborn) to just stop. Practice recognizing when you are tired and allowing yourself to rest. Mindless activity doesn’t refuel you, it just helps you pass (waste) time.
- Does that time to get to the gym or prepare the healthier meals or read the book for book club always disappear? Do you wonder how “those other women” make it happen? Are these activities or plans on your calendar? Not the imaginary calendar you keep in your head, but the real schedule where you post all your other important dates and times? Many over-extended women tend to resist scheduling the “fun stuff” or the “personal” stuff, because they are already feeling so structured and they tell themselves they want flexibility and freedom. Guess what? Flexibility and freedom require a space to show themselves. If you aren’t getting enough of these things in your life, you need to carve out a space for it. Structure creates freedom and breathing space. Really.
- Despite your best intentions, does it seem like something else always comes up to sabotage your plans? I’ll tell it to you straight—it’s highly likely that you have some mindset issues that are holding you back. What are your beliefs about time and productivity and self care? How are you feeling about the goals you are pursuing? Any fears, anxieties, or beliefs that you need to pay attention too? This is another spot where investing the time to get some clarity can pay you back in productivity, AND, you may need to push through that troublesome inner voice that tells you you are too busy to stop and take this step.
Time is limited and precious, but spending some on the front end to create a purposeful plan for how you spend your time and your energy will absolutely pay you back.
Take good care,
By the way, I’m putting the finishing touches on a new product that shows you how take and maximize those short pauses and create that purpose, clarity, and motivation at the beginning of your day. I’m hoping to be able to share more details in the next few weeks and I’ll keep you posted (make sure you’ve signed up for my newsletter if you want to be the first to hear).