What is the number one reason (excuse?) that people give for NOT taking the time to pursue their dreams, their goals, and figure out their dream business?
Well, I haven’t had a chance to rank all of the answers yet, but I am betting that at the top of the list would be “I don’t have time!”.
No time. I know we’ve all said it at many points throughout our journeys. But is it really true?
Everyone seems to be telling us that “time management” is key and that everyone is given the “same number of hours every day”. Often the implication (if not the outright statement) is “what’s your excuse?”. Interesting motivational talk, it’s true. And it can be an impetus to get right to the task at hand. But does hearing it put just that way necessarily make you want to go out and conquer the world, essentially being chided and/or guilted into doing something?
This strategy sometimes works for me, I must say. But does effective motivation necessarily have to feel as though it’s being dealt out by something of a disapproving teacher or a rash drill sergeant? Does Time Management really have to be that….resolute and serious?
To be honest with you, I don’t use the term “Time Management” for myself. I’ve never been much of a fan for the grim determination that it seems to convey. Get it done now. Do it or else. Now, sometimes a swift kick in the pants is in order, it’s true. But wouldn’t it be nice to approach your tasks not so much with the attitude that implies “I’ll never move forward and I’ll always be a failure if I don’t do this” to “Imagine how amazing the results will be if I do”? Same idea, different phrasing. To me, a BIG difference.
As I like to see it, managing time and the executing the right action steps all come down to three major points: what the most important actions you need to take actually are, the means of self-motivation that works best for you, and (arguably the more overlooked of the three), how you perceive time itself.
Let’s look at them individually.
The Most Important Actions (and how to leverage your time with them):
I don’t doubt that everyone has a mile long “to do” list. But so often, there are certain key tasks that tend to help get big things done more than others. And sometimes the things that give you the most energy and excitement are the ones that take the least amount of time. When it comes to your special projects and dream goals (let’s assume that the standby mandatory day-to-day tasks are implicitly handled or delegated), I take the advice of many and limit my major tasks to three every day. No more. Sometimes even just one is enough. Ask yourself this: what would be the ONE thing I could accomplish today that would really make a difference? Write it down. Put it on the calendar. Then go and do it. That one thing might be as simple (and yet as powerful) as making a quick phone call, sending an email to someone you’ve been meaning to contact about, say, a speaking engagement or a guest post, or simply making an appointment with a trusted friend to share your new idea with for the first time (saying what your goals are out loud to another person is a very powerful action, and it only takes a few moments…and a LOT of courage!). It could be different for whatever your task is. Doesn’t matter. Keep it to the important stuff and forget the rest for a while. Sounds pretty simple, and in fact, it is! Not necessarily easy, but simple. It’s just a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff. Not always easy, always worth it. Neither Rome nor your business was/will be built in a day. But if you commit do doing something every day (no matter how big or small it seems at first) you’ll cultivate a habit of consistent action–and what this can accomplish over time can be all kinds of awesome!
How to use this idea right now: Set your timer. Give it 5 minutes. Take just a small amount of time to jot down what you believe matters most for the coming day. What do you need to do that would make the really day worth it? Remember, only 1-3 items are necessary. Set your timer, write them down, then put it on the schedule. You can do this by day, or give it a little bit more time (say, set the timer for 15-20 minutes) and plan 1-3 things for each day of the week.
What Actually Gets You to Get It Done:
What would you have a coach or a motivator say to you? Do you prefer a drill instructor or a yoga teacher approach? Perhaps a bit of both? It is key to figure out what works for you. Some people like to work under deadlines and self-imposed threats (always fun!), sometimes even self-bribery (e.g. if I finish this blog post I can take a break and watch an episode of “Downton Abbey”!). Fair enough. I’ve used such strategies many a time. Most of the time, though, I like to consider the things I have to do, the tasks that I might be putting off out of fear or feeling unprepared by asking myself this: How wonderful and exciting it would it feel to say “I got that done today”? This to me is inspiration, and here’s how I personally differentiate it from motivation: for our purposes now, let’s say that “motivation” implies the action taken to prevent something from happening that you don’t want, whereas “inspiration” engenders taking action to make something happen that you do want to be. Not that one is always preferable over the other, and not that they both don’t have their times and places. I just find being inspired a lot more fun…and ultimately more productive!
How To Use This Idea Right Now: Consider what speaks to you the most in terms of getting things done. Do you prefer being more motivated, more inspired, or does it just depend on the circumstances? Keeping it to just the tasks that are needed when working on your business only, what would keep you going, the thought of what would happen if you didn’t do something, or the idea of what might happen if you did? Ponder it for a while and see what you get.
What Time Really Means:
This can be a tricky one. It can be rather abstract. It toes the line of personal belief systems and philosophies…and that’s what I personally love about it. How do you perceive time itself? Is it your friend, your enemy, something that can be given to you but also taken away? Or is it something that is there in abundance? (And I thank the most marvelous Danielle LaPorte for pointing out the importance of time relationships!)
Stop for a moment and just take a breath. Just notice exactly where you are right now. Just for a few moments. I’ll wait.
How does that feel? What do you see in front of you? Behind you? There’s a moment where time seems to slow down and even stop when you’re able to take full awareness of what is going on around you. Does it in any way feel that time is slowing down, perhaps even stopping? And in this moment, do the demands on your time seem as daunting?
This part can be abstract. It can be rather difficult to explain. But something in you probably knows what I mean by it. Living as much as you can in the moment that you’re in, focusing on one task at a time can not only help reduce stress but also contribute to the best work you can do. BE HERE NOW when performing any task. Watch not only how much lighter you might begin to feel but also how short that moments really are….and how that can make even the most difficult ones pass by more easily. Best of all, you might find a place where the abundance of time becomes easier to perceive. And then it becomes clearer that time doesn’t change, just our perception of it does. And in a way that makes everything seem more doable.
And I must also make this very important point: it is YOUR business that you’re creating. And when it’s your business, your timetable is the only one that matters. Time is yours and you can have all of it that you need to do it right. (And we’ll address this in greater detail at a later date!)
How To Use This Idea Right Now: Take a few moments today to do nothing–nothing, that is, but simply notice where you are. Notice what is going on around you. See it, feel it, and let it be what it is without judging it. No matter what it is you’re doing. Taking a walk, driving, eating, getting the work done…just stay put in the moment you are in and let the moments pass as they will. Does this in any way change the way that you perceive time? If not, keep practicing this exercise as you go through your day and give it time to make a difference.
So that’s a breakdown of my take on managing time! What do you think? Do you relate, or do you disagree completely? What sorts of ways do you like to make the most of your time? (And all of the things that I outlined here are big topics that I’ll explore in greater depth as we go along, too. Looking forward to elaborating later!)
By the way, here are a few books I love on this very subject that I heartily recommend:
The Power of Now by Echkart Tolle (a classic!)
The Firestarter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte, Chapter 12–Calling all Sovereigns of Time! (so brilliant it kind of makes me teary!)
Until next time!