“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Every Moment Counts

Every single one of us has 24 hours, 1440 minutes, and 86,400 seconds in a day–no more and no less. So why is that some people seem to get so much more done in their days than others? There are lots of reasons:

One is planning. Effective people plan out their days. In fact, they not only think about what they’re going to do, but they decide in advance the best strategy for carrying out what they’re going to do. This saves the trouble of having to redo or undo something. They get that “if you don’t have the time to do something right, how will you expect to have the time to do it over?” And yes, planning takes time, but the time saved throughout the day as a result of planning makes it well worth the effort and time.

They focus on priorities. It’s so easy to get seduced into the trivial drama that can vacuum up the minutes and hours of each day. But this can be distracting, draining, and prevent us from spending time on priorities, whether they entail our work, studies, hobbies, or spending time with families or friends. The key is to first define our priorities so that we know where we want to spend our time. Then, when we’ve blocked out time for one, give it our undivided attention. For example, if a priority is to study for an exam, it’s probably best not to do this in front of the TV, or surfing the net reading the latest gossip. Same with spending time with family or friends. Focusing our attention on the people we’re spending time with strengthens relationships, but if we are constantly checking our email or talking on the phone during family time, it could do more harm than good. This will also mean saying no to the unimportant in order to preserve our time for what really matters. There will be times when something unforeseen or of an emergency nature will interrupt us and justify our time, but if we’re focused and organized with it, then something unexpected won’t derail our efforts so much and it will be easier to get back on track.

They make every minute count. This is one that I really never took so seriously until recently when I realized that I have filled my schedule with so many “priorities” that I was unsure of how I was going to fit them all in to my schedule. Personal development coaches will tell you to schedule your time in blocks. That is, if you need to work on X, Y, and Z in a given day, then set aside blocks of 2-4 hours to work on each task. For me, this works really well. But there are times when “in-between” moments pop up: 15 minutes here or there, for example before I have to leave home for an appointment or waiting for someone to arrive. I used to treat these moments almost as if they didn’t count­–as if they didn’t matter so much. But not anymore. If I have two or three of these breaks they could add up to an hour or more every day. That’s up to 7 hours per week. I’ve realized that these minutes are just as valuable as my scheduled minutes and I have certain things that I can do when these times arise. Just as an example, earlier I had 10 minutes of “downtime” and I used it to write half of this blog. : ) I’m not saying, though, that these moments should always be spent active. A 15-minute empty period in the middle of the day could be a perfect opportunity to simply de-stress, breathe, meditate, or think. The key is awareness, knowing when we have these opportunities and to use them to our advantage, because once they’re gone, we can’t get them back.

They multitask. In general, multitasking implies that one is not focusing on a given task and for many instances this would be true and would be very ineffective. But there are certain periods of downtime where multitasking can be effective. One example is commute time. For example, if you drive long distances for work or frequently sit in heavy traffic, audio books and CDs are great ways to learn while in the car. I’m currently listening to class lectures during my long commutes. Or if you know you’ll be standing in line or waiting somewhere for your turn, a stimulating or inspirational book is a great thing to have on hand to help accomplish something meaningful with the time. You never know, you may read something that will change your life!

The question is, how much do you value your time and how much, and what, do you want to accomplish?

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