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Why Time Really Matters

Why Time Really Matters

Do you think that the idea of time management is so that you can cram more work into fewer hours? That's what many people think but it's not the correct answer. Time management allows you to make the most of your work hours while still having a life outside of work. Now that's a concept too many people miss.


Does it matter to you to have leisure time or time with your family? Some people have missed out on this for so long that they don't miss it anymore. They have given up the idea of having time for themselves.


That's really unfortunate and unnecessary. It's like the old saying, "Some people trade time for money while other people trade money for time." Then there are those entrepreneurial types who insist that you can have both time and money if you plan effectively.


If you could find the time to do what really matters to you, what would be included in that time?  Make a list and be specific. Don't just say, "travel" - put down your real dream.


Maybe you have dreamed of taking a month off and backpacking around Europe or camping at several national parks on a drive across America. Those dreams take more than money, they take time off. If you only have a week or two of vacation, how would you get the time needed?


Or would you like to go back and finish a college degree or earn an advanced degree? When you work during the day, you have a limited amount of time at night for classes. That might mean you work full time and take longer to complete the degree.


Another option is to reduce your lifestyle expenses, cut back to part time at work and free more hours to complete your degree faster. What really matters to you? How can you balance time and money to make these dreams become reality?


Whatever your dream, you can begin to align your time toward achieving that dream. It may mean that you work overtime to save money or take a second job for a year. Or you may have to extend the time to reach your dream to accrue enough vacation time to make the time off possible. It's all about planning your time as well as your money.


Time management is so often thought of as a way to do more work in a given day. It's also your ally in arranging your life and work so that you can fulfill your dreams. If only you could see this positive aspect of time management, then you might stop looking at it as if it's another burden. Hours tick by whether or not you plan them. Hours become days to months and years while many people only talk about the dreams that they "don't have time" to enjoy.


If you wait for extra time to magically appear in your life, you'll wait forever and nothing changes. By using time management to support your dreams, then every day you get closer to what really matters to you.


To start, you can look at the calendar three to five years from today. Make the time you would like to leave for your extended vacation or the semester you want to enroll in college. Then count backwards for the number of days (months). As you divide that time into blocks of smaller preparation tasks, you begin to prepare to make the dream possible.


Even while waiting, you have the satisfaction of doing something regularly, investing time in planning and taking action toward your goals. When you identify what really matters in the big picture, then you find it easier to use time wisely today to set up your future goal.



What Does Time Mean to You?


Think about time management. Is this something that you have been told you need to do or do you really want to get control over your time? You can learn many techniques for time management but you'll never put them to good use unless you actually believe in the concept.  So how to you think of time? Is time something to spend or something to invest?


If you see time as something to spend, then you will fit well into a high structured business where the tasks are established as well as the time frames for task completion. You may want to save time instead of spend it, so you'll find ways to cut corners at work or rush around doing personal tasks.


You are likely to say, "If I rush through this meal then I'll have time to go to a movie." That's more about allocating minutes to use elsewhere than making choices about the value of the activity compared with the time necessary to do it.


On the other hand, if you prefer to invest your time, then you are more choosey about what you will do with your time.  By thinking of how to invest time instead of how to spend it, you give time use a greater long-term value.


You also think of time as the precious commodity that it is. For example, if you want to finish a college degree or start a home-based business, you must decide whether to invest your evening and weekend hours in your new venture or watch another video.


It's easy to decide to crash on the sofa after a hard day's work. You have to be committed to your dream to get up and walk away from the television or computer game and invest a few hours each evening on your future. Time moves forward, you can't save it to use later. That's why you need a plan each day on where to invest your time for maximum advantage.


Perhaps you have said that you don't have enough time to start a home-based business or go back to school. If you will take a hard look at how you use the time after work in each day and on the weekends, you can probably find at least two to three hours each day and five to eight hours on the weekend to invest in your future goals.


Initially this will seem you are giving up something when you miss the latest episode of some reality show or watch one football game instead of four games. It's definitely a tradeoff but you are the ultimate winner as you invest time into something will take you farther in life than just sitting on the sofa.


When you need more money, you can borrow or charge it. But when you need more time, you have to work within the 24-hour limit.  Print two schedules with 24 hours or 24 lines on each page. Start with how you currently use your time.


Block out enough time to drive to and from work or any other transportation time that you need between tasks. Don't edit, you need to see where your time really goes. After completing the actual time log, use that information to design how you would like to invest your time.


You may not be able to convert to your ideal day immediately, but by having this plan, you can begin to make the changes needed to turn your ideal day plan into your everyday plan. When you think of time as an asset to invest in, then you become more likely to follow your ideal day plan and respect your time.



Time Is a Four-Letter Word


Granted this states the obvious, but it does capture the feeling about time. It's not that you don't like having time to get things done or time to spare. That's not the problem. The reason that "time" evokes such strong feelings is when your calendar is so crowded that time feels more like a curse than a benefit.


The way to take away the frustration over time is to better use the hours that you have. Everyone works with the same 24 hours but some people seem to get more out of it. They certainly aren't expanding time, that's not possible. What they do is to use time efficiently and that's the essence of time management.


The most challenging aspect of time management is to decide that you really do want to manage your time. If you are certain about that, then you have to decide if you are willing to make changes in your schedule and activities. 


There is no cosmic shoehorn that allows you to cram 35 hours of work into a 24-hour day. When you hear that someone wants to "make more time," forget it. There is no way to expand the hours. You simply need to make choices about how to use the hours in each day.


When you think of ways to do more in the same time period, don't even think about cutting back on sleep. That's a common mistake.  You need seven to eight hours of sleep nightly for health, energy and to work at prime efficiency.


Working late and cutting back to five or six hours might be ok once in a week, but it's not good to do all week then think you can catch up on the weekend. A sleep-deprived body and exhausted brain are not your best assets. You'll get much more accomplished by getting a full night's sleep and tackling that new client proposal or special project in the morning.


If you have more work, family and leisure activities than you can fit into a reasonable day, then you need to make some choices. Before you start to associate time management with giving up something, understand that this is not the point. You can't manage your time until you decide what goes and what stays.


Even then it's not about giving up something. You can alternate some activities. For example, if you like to play golf but rush through the course to take the children fishing, then play golf two weekends and set up an all-day fishing adventure on the other two weekends. This way you can enjoy both leisure pursuits without being so frantic that the fun is taken out of having fun.


Time management isn't just about finding more ways to cram in more work. Effective time management also helps you find time for leisure or even to sit around and do nothing. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Imagine if you had time to lounge by the pool, read a novel instead of a company report or ride your bike around the park.


That's not a fantasy or something that you put off until retirement. Having time for yourself is possible, if you are willing to apply time management techniques to your busy life.


Just get out the eraser because you have to start by trimming back to a manageable amount of activity to fit into a 10–12-hour day with 8 hours to sleep. That leaves 4 to 6 hours to spend each day. If you take away worry time and zoning out in front of the television, you have just found time. Now it's up to you to manage that time.



Time Versus Money


If asked which is the most valuable, many people will say "time." After all, you can work hard and make more money but you can't make more time. You have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else. Since you can make more time, you have to be careful how you use the time given.


Time use falls into three distinct categories: work time, family time and personal time.  Your job generally dictates the minimum time that you spend at work. But work time is more than 9-5 at your desk.


It's also the hour each way that you commute and at least half hour to get ready in the morning. This is all part of your work time. If you are an entrepreneur, then you can set your own work hours.


You may work twelve hours on a project for several days, then sleep late the next day or take a day off. In your situation, work time is more linked to output than to actual hours in an office.


However, you do need to be aware of your work time because without the boundaries of an office day, you might keep working well into the family time which creates other problems.


Family time is what you spend with your mate and/or children. This is more than just brief conversations over dinner or while rushing out the door in the morning. You need to plan time each day to focus on your family.


Maybe not the same amount of time every day, but real time to talk and listen rather than a few words exchanged while the TV or computer is on.  In prior generations, the dinner hour was family time and other people didn't even call during that time. Now with family schedules so varied, you have to turn off the cell phones and the land phone to avoid interruptions.


Personal time is more than family time - it's time for yourself. Even dedicated parents or partners need time for their own interests. Perhaps you enjoy golf, tennis, bicycling, scrapbooking, woodworking, gardening or other hobbies.


If you work at a fast-paced job, you might really love to have an hour in total quiet to write in your journal or to read. You might give up some of those interests in order to do things with your family, but you are wise not to give up all your personal time. This isn't being selfish; in fact, when you use your personal time, you benefit your family or mate by refreshing your interests and nurturing those talents that are uniquely yours.


The difficulty for most of us is finding the right balance between work time, family time and personal time. Work time can quickly over-run family time and annihilate personal time, particularly if you work for a company that is not family friendly.  That may be your cue to look for a job in a company that values your family time and encourages you to engage in your personal interests.


You might be surprised to find that there are major employers who feel that way. There are also many smaller companies, family-owned local companies, who still believe in the importance of a balanced life style. No wonder "time" is so important that people in high powered jobs leave for lesser pay but greater flexibility because money won't buy back time that is lost with their family and friends.



If Only You Had More Time


Be honest, how many times have you said that? Do you say it weekly, daily or several times a day? That's a red flag indicating that you are either not using any time management strategies or the ones you are using are not working for you.


Either way, time is ticking away and you are running to catch up. At some point, you just can't run any faster, work any longer or stay up any later. You have to get control of how you use your time each day.


You may insist that you don't waste time but take a serious look at how you use your time. Do you stretch your lunch an extra half hour or stop and talk to co-workers several times a day on the way to the copy machine?


Add it all up and there's a potential hour or more of wasted time. What about personal phone calls or personal emails? There goes another half hour. Do you "take a few minutes" to surf the net on work time? Chalk up another half hour to hour or more. 


You may be present at work, but you are not using work time efficiently. You are wasting anywhere from half hour to three hours of work time. Not only is that cheating your employer, but it's putting you behind in your work. So you take work home and get angry about it.


Then you look at the co-worker sitting across from you. She's taking online university classes gradually working toward her graduate degree. Plus she plays tennis twice weekly for exercise and volunteers one weekend a month with Habitat for Humanity. 


She leaves work on time most every day and her in-box is clear. She does it by consistently applying time management strategies. Yet she never appears rushed and you never hear her complain about not having enough time.


Chances are that your active, productive co-worker prefers to live life aligned to her goals rather than reacting to others. When you fail to make a plan for time use, then you'll let other people fill our time.


"Hey, can you take me to the mall?" "Come on over and watch my new video." "I'll pick you up and we'll just hang out for the day. You can do your work later; you have plenty of time." 


Those are the ways that you allow other people to use your time because you have failed to plan your time. If you ask your co-worker to hang out after work, she is more likely to say, "I have a paper to write for my class, so let's pick another evening that works for both of us."  She isn't ignoring you, but she isn't willing to let your lack of planning change what she needs to do according to her time management plan.


If you are still saying, "I wish I had more time" at home, then look around for ways that you waste time. Do you spend half hour in the morning searching for a particular shirt, finding it in the dirty clothes basket then looking for something else to wear?


You need to plan your outfit the night before and put out all the pieces from shoes to shirt so you can dress quickly.  Place everything you need in one place near the door you exit each morning. You can also place your briefcase in your car the night before so you have less to think about in before leaving for work.


Once you know how long it takes you for morning basics, then you take the frantic feel out of mornings. Next you can start to streamline your work hours. Work productively at work and save the personal items for your own time.


When you get your job done within the eight hours, then you have the evening for yourself and don't need to stay late at the office. Who knows - you might decide to join your colleagues' tennis group.

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