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Living Takes Time

“Good grief,” she exclaimed as she sat back, looking down at the colorful calendar graphic she had created on the paper in front of her. “Living takes so much time!” I was hoping she would come to that realization.

Susan was in a time management workshop that I was leading and the participants were hoping that I would provide that magic answer to fix their overly busy and stressful situations. Frankly, when I offer these workshops, I know there is nothing new in time management. It’s never about managing time, how could we? It’s not visible, tangible, interactive, or controllable.

The core tenets of ‘time management’ are:

  • How you orient to time: focusing on here and now, what was, what will be. Your estimated time frame versus the actual amount of time used.

  • Your relationship (attitude) toward the demands you have to respond to versus the things you’d rather be doing. What’s within your control and what’s non-negotiable. No, your sleep requirement is not negotiable, no matter what the time management books say.

  • How well you can protect your time intentions against the inevitable intruders of other people’s wants and needs, emergencies, procrastination and overly optimistic planning. Their emergencies aren’t always yours.

Here’s the time graphic that made her recognize how her time was allocated.

Susan realized much of this was unchangeable, at least at this stage in her life. She acknowledged her success in already fitting in work, travel, family, friends, personal care, household tasks, and including enough sleep to enable her to meet her responsibilities.

Seeing her time as a picture, or as actual graphical data, was only the beginning of her understanding of what managing time would mean in her life: forethought and decisions.

She asked the other students what she was doing wrong because everyone she knew seemed to have more time than she did. But everyone had come to this class for the same reason she had: to ‘find time’ to do things they weren’t doing.

Their creations looked similar and we compared suggestions, solutions and observations.

Susan began to strategize how to adjust her current schedule.

  • Realizing she needed more help at home and produced a list of who could assist her so she could take the weekend tennis class and two weeknight gym sessions she craved.

  • She tallied the precious 10 or more weekly commuting hours and resolved to see if she could occasionally work from home or even find a job closer to home.

  • She was grateful that her weeks aren’t as full as a few of the other students.

Most importantly, she stopped berating herself for what she thought was poor time management on her part. “I’m not a slacker. I’m a busy woman who juggles a lot, successfully.”

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