Many years ago, I did go through a period of time where my work wasn’t necessarily inspiring. However, I always believed it would eventually get better. Rule number one: if you don’t like your reality then change it.
I have always liked the idea as viewing your time similar to currency. You get to decide how you spend it and what types if investments you make. Sadly, just like with our money, many of us make bad or misinformed decisions. Time is finite. There will be a time when it grows short and then disappears. Our children will only live with us a relatively brief time before they grow up and move away to begin their own lives. People we care about will run out of time and all that will remain will be the memories we made with them while they were still here. Our career will follow a natural arc and eventually our lives will be less about what we do for a living (despite our past accomplishments) and we will need to redefine ourselves. Knowing this, what can and should we do differently. I believe it all starts with priorities.
I’ve always felt that vacations should mandatory. Everyone needs some time away from their work to recharge and reflect. There should be moments where it is just about having fun and enjoying life without the constraints of the work week. You never just want to narrowly define yourself by what you do for a living. We are all so much more than that.
Time is finite. No matter how hard we try, we can’t create more of it, so we have to manage the time we have in the best way possible. A leader typically has no time to waste. You need to minimize distractions and maximize your focus. Here are some tips on how to manage your time better:
Time is limited. We all know this fact, yet how many of us manage our time poorly. Two of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they are too busy or that there isn’t enough time. I can certainly empathize with this mindset and various times in my life have struggled with these challenges myself. However, I’ve learned that you manage your time or it manages you.
Today is a national holiday in the U.S.A.celebrating the life and work of a great man – Martin Luther King (MLK). For many of us that means a three day weekend and this is a good thing. While I hope you spend some time today contemplating the words and importance of MLK, I also encourage you do embrace the time off. Instead of worrying about work or the lost time, allow yourself to enjoy some family time and/or moments of fun, rest, and relaxation. No one should work all the time even if you love your work.
A life is built one day at a time. We literally live moment to moment. As you stitch together the moments of your day keep this in mind. I’m not saying this to put pressure on you, but rather to alleviate it. There are few things more stressful than trying to make up for lost time and/or missed opportunity. We don’t control how much time we have, however we have absolute control over how we spend it. Approach each day like it matters because it does!
What is the one thing that if it changed would make all the difference in your home or work life? What have you been avoiding because it is too hard to address or you’ve been distracted by other issues? Where are you most vulnerable or unhappy? If you narrow your focus on this one issue as best you can and actually deal with it, positive change will begin to happen. It just sometimes takes courage and the willingness to be truly honest, thoughtful and self-reflective.
Giving up on an idea isn’t failure. It can be basic common sense. Both time and resources are finite. If you spend them on something that has little chance of working out, then for all intensive purposes you are wasting your efforts. This doesn’t mean you give up on the idea of taking risks or pursuing long shots, but it does mean you do so carefully with your eyes wide open and a willingness to pull the plug if and when needed.
I’ve often heard the saying, “if you want something done give it to a busy person.” While I am an advocate of applying the 80/20 principle in most circumstances, I believe the ratio get even greater in organizations and communities when it comes to overall effort and impact – it is more like 90/10 or higher. Some people just seem to be hardwired to take on more responsibility. They just can’t help themselves and have a difficult time saying “no.” When they find a need they feel compelled to address it. Poor performance isn’t an option for them and they work hard even no one else is watching. While it’s great these people exist, I also worry that we expect too much from these individuals and in the end many of them end up suffering from burnout and/or too much stress.
I’m just back from a family reunion and had a great time. It was nice to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in awhile especially members of my extended family who I don’t see all that often. It’s much more enjoyable to see people during times of fellowship and celebration than only when something sad has happened or to wait for a wedding. Unfortunately as we get older it seems to get harder to stay connected: people move away, careers get more demanding, kids keep us busy, and there is only so much free time.
It is impossible to be truly happy and successful in life without a strong sense of priorities. There will no shortage of distractions competing for your attention. It is easy to get out of balance and sidetracked by issues that are comparatively unimportant in the wide scheme of things. Sadly, we often taken for granted people we shouldn’t and have a tendency to lose our perspective when we need it most. Many people I meet struggle with guilt and regret over what they wish they would have done differently in certain areas of their life. More often than not they are unhappy with how they prioritized their time, energy and attention.
Everyone needs down time. Even extreme extroverts must recharge every once in awhile. It’s too much work to be on all the time. It is also not healthy to be constantly over stimulated. There is no shortage of options on how you spend your time especially if you have a job with any real responsibility and/or have children. However, I urge you to force yourself to find some quiet time with minimal distractions to give your brain a rest and allow it to focus on fewer things.
Time is finite for all of us. We can estimate how long we have but estimates often bump into harsh reality. Tomorrow is another day until it is not. Some people get advance warning and have a chance to say goodbye and make peace with their life. Others seem to leave us in an instant with very little or no preparation.
In our very hurried and fast paced world these days it is often very difficult to be “in the moment” of what you are doing at any point and time. Distractions abound as people and responsibilities clamor for your time. There ends up being very few thoughtful focused moments in the course of a day where you can simply concentrate on the person, task or situation at hand.
Just about everyone I know these days feels like there is too much to do and not enough time to do it in. They speak to the virtues of life balance but bemoan the difficulty of making this happen in their own life. The problem isn’t time. The problem is how an individual views time and how they make decisions given this perspective.
The attitude with which we approach our life matters. It is easy to get stuck in a rut or not fully appreciate the ability to which we control our own destinies. The truth is that how each day goes is largely up to us. Even in the midst or tragedy or misfortune, we can choose to soldier on and make the most of our circumstances or not.
There is nothing that can be changed about your actions from 5 minutes ago, let alone last week, month or year. What is done is done. What’s important is that you gain wisdom from these past experiences so that you can perform better in the present and be positioned more effectively for the future. It’s also important there is some sense of balance between the present and future.
I do believe we all have a purpose and something to share in this world regardless of the time we may or may not have. In fact, the lives of those who are unfortunately cut short can be even more instructive.