The following is another guest post from Jane Matthews.
Christmas cards in the shops by September, summer fashion on the rails by January: it’s no wonder most of us feel time is out of our control when the world around is so desperate to hurry us along.
And then there’s the reality of our multi-role, multi-tasking, over-committed everyday lives. With a To Do list longer than a Dan Brown blockbuster time becomes the enemy. How much can we squeeze from every 24 hours? How much can we force from ourselves?
As we hurtle from one thing to the next the one thing that unites us is the complaint that there is never enough time.
Instead of getting swept along on the business-led bandwagon that views time management as teaching us how to cram even more into every day, to keep yet more balls in the air, it’s worth trying some alternative time management techniques.
The suggestions below are ways of slowing, or even stopping the clock for a while, and making a friend of the minutes in every one of your days.
Who’s got the remote control?
Sometimes it seems as if everyone wants a piece of us, more so than ever since we began our love affair with mobile phones, email and the exploding world of social media. Feeling out of control is one of the biggest causes of stress and if you’re not controlling your own time your boss/colleagues/relatives will happily control it for you. For the sake of your sanity, learn how to switch off and make yourself unavailable. Diary blocks of time when you can’t be reached or distracted by the ping of another email but can choose how you spend your time.
Another way in which time gets away from us is our habit of thinking endlessly about the future. You see it at work with the To Do list. Even before we’ve completed one task our thoughts are racing ahead to the other 10 things we swore we’d do before dropping exhausted into bed, ready to do it all again the next day.
In order to get more from the moment you’re in you need to learn the mental trick of seeing your workload as made up of one thing at a time. As you tackle each task, keep your focus only on that until it’s completed. And when you’re done, don’t move to the next thing on your agenda before you’ve appreciated yourself for completing that task. Tell yourself, you are only ever dealing with one deadline.
Ring the changes
Childhood is a time of discovery, of seeing, experiencing and feeling so many things for the very first time. Unlike adult life where we often feel one day is much the same as the one before, each week merging into an indistinguishable parade of routine and sameness.
One of the reasons time slows down when we’re away is because our routine has been abandoned. For most of us there’ll always be an element of routine to our days but it’s easy enough to recapture a little of that childhood magic by varying your daily patterns in small ways. Take another route to work, or walk instead of driving; go out for dinner midweek; sit in a different armchair; abandon the usual day outfit for jeans; sleep on the other side of the bed…
You’ll find any time you venture out of the rut you may be in will have the magical effect of slowing time a little.
Take time out
“But that’s the last thing I can afford to do”, you cry, before returning to the grindstone. Wrong. When you’re really busy you can’t afford not to take 10-15 minutes out every day for quiet reflection. Whether you spend it meditating, going for a walk, or locking yourself away where no-one can reach you, this is when your ‘inner wisdom’ can get itself heard through all the other babble and you’ll find constructive thoughts, ideas and understandings popping into your mind – saving you time and grief in the end.
Finally, remind yourself often that there’s a world of difference between urgent and important. The chances are you haven’t written ‘spend more time with loved ones’, ‘write a poem’ or ‘collect conkers’ on your To Do list because they’re not urgent. But it’s possible some of those things may contribute more to your enjoyment of your time than anything else on the list. Let’s face it, as soon as we get through one list there’s always another one waiting. Whereas not making time for what you love, for the things that bring you alive, is the fastest route to allowing your life to pass you by.
Jane Matthews is a writer, whose next book, The Best Year of Your Life – on how small changes can make a big difference – is published in 2010. She runs workshops in self esteem and Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams. For details of these, and her other books, see http://www.smallbooks.co.uk. Check out her blog at http://someonenicer.wordpress.com. Or follow her on twitter @janematthews