Becoming Friends with Your Nemesis: Time

By Mark Harrison

February 3, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

There was a time when technology seemed to promise more freedom – freedom to enjoy ourselves more, freedom from the drudgery of mundane and repetitive chores. In short, we were promised more time. But we seem to be busier than ever before, frantically racing against the clock to do more and more, and technology only seems to make life more complicated.

With the right approach, however, we can stop seeing time as our enemy and start to enjoy getting things done easily and effectively.

Time is flexible
This is rule number one – there is always time to do what you want to do. It’s all a matter of priorities. If something is really important to you, then you will find time to do it. When we say things like, ‘I don’t have time,’ what we’re really saying is ‘I don’t want to do it’ or ‘it’s too boring’ or ‘it’s too difficult.’ You can’t do everything, but you can do what matters.

Decide what’s really important
So what matters? Some stuff – a lot of stuff – just isn’t worth doing because it isn’t very important, so why waste your time on this? If you run through your week, you’ll probably find a lot of things that you thought you needed to do but which really weren’t important at all. Things that fall into this category can effectively be forgotten, so before spending time on something, ask if it really matters.

Do what you love
We always find time to do what we love. When you do what you love, you do it well – you make a good job of it and you are rewarded along the way. Some things you just love for no discernible reason, and doing these things is no chore. When you’re doing something that makes you feel good and gives you a sense of purpose and achievement, you are at your most effective.

It is a great tragedy that so many people do jobs they hate, seeing their work only as a way of earning money to enable them to really enjoy themselves at weekends or during vacations. Such people are truly wasting their time. Of course, we can’t just choose to change our job, bur it is possible to find ways of enjoying our work – there are good things about every job, and by focusing on these things, they will grow and the job will become more enjoyable.

Delegate whatever else you can
If something needs to be done, you don’t necessarily have to do it yourself. If you hate ironing or cleaning, and you have the means, you can just pay someone else to do it. There is a certain puritanical streak in many of us that says ‘we must do it all ourselves,’ but there is no reason why we should spend our time doing things we dislike when we can leverage our resources. If I pay to get my ironing done, I avoid a job I hate and I get the job done properly by someone who takes a fraction of the time.

Don’t try to race against the clock – it always wins
Some people are forever clock watching, always racing to finish before a certain time. Deadlines are fine and, indeed, necessary in many instances, but to be continually driven by the need to finish something by a certain time and get on to the next thing is exhausting, unsustainable and, in the end, not an effective way of operating. By focusing on how well you do something instead of how long it takes, you are likely to be more effective.

Focus on how much, not how often
If, like me, you have a busy and continually changing schedule, it can be hard to stick to a routine. Suppose I decide that I am going to go the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. For a week or two, I manage it, but then I need to go on a business trip or I have a lot of late meetings one week, so my schedule falls by the wayside.

To get around this, instead of the routine, I can focus on how many times I intend to go to the gym in, say, a month – twelve times, for example. Then, when I have a relatively light week, I can go more than three times, and when I have a busy week, maybe I can only go once. But in a whole month, I can almost certainly find time to go twelve times.

The benefit of this is that you are not continually feeling you must do a certain thing at a certain time, and racing against the clock. Of course, you need to record your progress – every time I go to the gym, I mark my calendar, and at the end of the month I see that I’ve done my twelve visits – easy!

Just do it
If you have to do something, and you intend to do it (neither is necessarily the case for any given task that comes your way), then my advice is – just get on with it. Procrastinating will only put off the inevitable. Of course, you sometimes need to choose the right time to do something, but don’t use this as an excuse to avoid doing something that really must be done.

And finally, some advice from H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

Written on 2/3/2010 by Mark Harrison. Mark Harrison writes about personal growth, communication, and increasing personal wealth. Check out his new book, Thirty Days to Change Your Life. Photo Credit: lrargerich
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