We could all do with a few more hours in the day. There are so many different things we want to do, in every aspect of our lives. We want to improve our financial status, get further with our career, take part in the hobbies which bring us alive, and give something back to the world.
No wonder we get overwhelmed. No wonder we end up aimlessly surfing the net or watching reruns on TV, because we just don’t know where to begin.
Figure Out What You Want
First, it’s absolutely crucial to know what you want. You might think that’s the easy bit – but the truth is, this can be really tricky.
To figure out what you want, you need to:
- Get rid of all those “shoulds” and “ought tos” that come from parents / friends / society.
- Find your true values – not just those obvious desires like “I want more money” or “I want to be thin”.
- Look deep inside to work out what really matters to you.
- Get a sense of possibilities: don’t rule anything out, even if it seems like it’s too hard or too big a goal.
If you’re faced with a mass of “wants” then one way to work out what’s truly important is to ask yourself “If I could only have one of these things, which would it be?”
Then ask, “If I could have only one more of these, which would I choose?”
Happiness doesn’t come from ticking off a lot of arbitrary goals or activities on a checklist. It comes from doing the things which are meaningful and enjoyable to you – however silly, crazy or unimportant those might seem to other people.
Track Your Time
This is a really basic and powerful time-management technique – but it’s one which most people have never even tried. Put yourself ahead by giving it ago.
If you’ve ever attempted a financial or dieting turn around, you may have kept a money diary or a food log. This has two purposes: it helps you see the true picture (however much you might rather keep your head in the sand!) and it also makes you more accountable for your actions.
By tracking your time, you accomplish the same thing. You get a very clear idea of where exactly your time is currently going – and you’ll also find that you’re more likely to use your time on the things which you want to do, rather than wasting it on activities which don’t really bring you any lasting satisfaction.
Put Your Goals In Your Diary
When you have a lot of things which you want to do, it’s easy to keep putting them off. Perhaps they seem difficult to organize, or you think you’ll somehow find spare time to do them.
A great way to really improve your chances of getting things done is to pop them in your diary. You could do this in one of two ways:
- Go to events or conferences which relate to what you want to do. For instance, if you join Toastmasters to learn public speaking, you’ll be attending meetings every fortnight.
- Block out time for specific actions. Perhaps you’re keen to start your own business, so you’re going to spend next Sunday afternoon planning out your website and advertising materials.
Say “No” More Often
One of the first words which toddlers learn is “No!” But somehow, many adults seem to have lost the ability to say this.
There’s nothing wrong with turning down someone’s request. If you’re asked to help with a neighborhood group, bake cakes for your kids’ classmates, go to a party, or any other commitment … it’s OK to say “I’m too busy.”
Of course, if you want to take that on, then do. But don’t let yourself agree just because you feel like you should.
Learning to say “no” isn’t just about the requests which come from other people. It’s also about saying “no” to yourself. That might mean:
- Saying “no” to your impulse to take on a big new project – it’s not one of your real, deep wants.
- Saying “no” when you’re tempted to weasel out of those important commitments you’ve put in your diary. You do have time to go for your goals.
- Saying “no” when you’re part-way through something which you want to do and you get distracted. Twitter and Facebook will wait.
The truth is, you almost certainly have more time than you think. I’d challenge you to take just two simple actions this week:
- Pick one thing which you really want to do (not something you feel you “should” do)
- Get out your diary and find just one hour which you are going to use on that activity.
Let us know in the comments how you get on!
|Written on 8/10/2010 by Ali Hale. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.||Photo Credit: ShaZ Ni|