There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
– Bill Watterson, creator of “Calvin & Hobbes”
We’ve all been there. The seemingly elusive aim of managing our time. We might have read books on the subject or been on a time management course, and most of us have certainly endeavored to master it using day planners of some description, either written down or in some fancy electronic way. But we fail. Badly.
Those things that need to be done slip away from us because we are occupied by the unexpected and the really-not-very-important; and most of the time, that comes with stress and anxiety for not getting things done. So, with all our newfound knowledge on the subject, enhanced by technological marvels, why can we not be the master of time, but, instead, its slave?
There was a time (no pun intended) when the passing of time was irrelevant to me. It didn’t matter, and it certainly wasn’t a priority. My time was only measured by the point from the last drop of a whiskey bottle to the point where I would get my next drink. Yes, for many years and certainly not just a waste of time, but also a waste of my life, I was an alcoholic.
I’ve been sober now for 5 years, and my time now, as a recovering alcoholic, is as important to me today as that next bottle used to be many years ago. Sobriety and recovery have taught me many things, and the process of rehab gave me the structure to learn. Moreover, one of the most important things I have learned is how to manage my time, to get the stuff done that really needs to be done, to prioritize and, therefore, be productive; thus avoiding the unnecessary hassle it brought me.
Look up “time” in a dictionary and you’ll find definitions along the lines of “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.” It’s inescapable, it’s the pattern of our lives, and it’s when we do things. My sobriety is measured by time, although it can also be measured by positive actions, my ever-improving health, and new relationships, to name but a few. However, to most, it’s measured by the time since my last drink.
Today, that’s 5 years, 2 months and 16 days. But you can also measure time in 2 different ways: “clock time” and “real time.” Clock time is just that – the moving of hands on a clock, whereas real time is how time feels to us – whether it flies by or simply drags. That is totally dependent upon what we are doing.
So, from the self-improvement classes that my rehab provided to me, and putting all of that into practice over 7 sober years, here are 6 essential ways to manage your precious time effectively and improve your mental health while doing so.
Everyone has goals in their lives; where they’d like to be, and where they’d like to get to. In turn, that means you must focus on what you truly want. Write your goals down (they don’t have to be detailed life-plans or anything like that) as an affirmation to yourself. The simple process of doing this will provide the clarity you need, whether it is a daily plan, something short-term or your long-term goals.
Not everything has the same gravitas, the same level of importance. There are things that are, undoubtedly, important, where others can be simply urgent. So, with reference to your goals, where do the items on your to-do list fall? Where do they fit into the boxes below?
- Important & Urgent: These tasks just have to be completed, so get them done now.
- Important / Not Urgent: These tasks may feel important to you, but, when you really think about them, maybe they’re not. You choose when to do these.
- Urgent / Not Important: These tasks are those things that have little real value, but they can prey on your mind if not done. Get them out of the way as you need to.
- Not Urgent / Not Important: These tasks can truly occupy us if we let them. Put them to do when you have spare time, which you will have because you’ve got the really important and urgent stuff done already.
Lastly, know exactly what your important and urgent tasks are. As they’re completed, put a tick on your to-do list next to them. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment in doing so, and, in addition, you’ll feel productive.
- Erm…. NO!
Always remember, nobody guides your ship but you. Your goals and your priorities are yours and yours alone. If you have to turn around and say “No” to someone else because your time is better spent accomplishing your specific tasks, then so be it. Don’t hesitate in putting your priorities where they should be – first.
Time spent planning is always time well spent. If it’s not done, the time taken to have planned in the first place will be pretty inconsequential to the time you are going to waste from moving from one thing to another, with no structure and, ultimately, nothing to show for it. It’s up to you when you do your planning. For some, the night before a busy day works best, whereas some people prefer to wake up, jump out of bed and then do their planning for the day ahead. Your choice.
- Don’t Get Distracted
Distractions will stop your productivity in its tracks. In today’s world, they abound – your smartphone, bless it, is one of your most useful tools, but it’s addictive (trust me, I know) and probably the greatest waster of your valuable time that you’ll ever experience. And it’s very empowering to switch the %^$#ing off! Believe me, the world doesn’t come to an end if you do.
- Be Healthy
Take the time to be healthy, to look after yourself, both mentally and physically. Time, in essence is something we create mentally, and what we create, we can manage. How can a person spend their time? There’s only 3 possibilities: their thoughts, conversations with others, and the actions they take. Make sure some of your actions involve eating healthily, exercising your mind and body, and caring for yourself. Doing these things will automatically make you more productive in whatever you choose to do later.
“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.”
– Stephen King
By following these 6 simple, but essential, ways to manage your time effectively, you’ll become much more productive, and, in the process, get a lot further down that road to where you want to be. Setting your goals, establishing your priorities, being able to say “No,” planning your time, avoiding distractions, and being healthy are the keys to the success of that.
Is there something that you feel should be on this list? If so, please put a comment below and share with our other readers. And, in the meantime (pun intended), enjoy the feeling of now being the master of time.