Do you know what the numbers 24, 1,440 and 86,400 have in common? Each number represents the time we all have in one day—24 hours, 1,440 minutes and 86,400 seconds are all the amount of time we have in one day. As the musical, Rent, tells us there are 525,600 minutes in one year. Wealthy people, poor people, sick people, healthy people, productive people, lazy people, happy people and sad ones all have the same amount of time in their day. “Wasting” that time is one of the biggest causes of stress and regret at the end of one’s life.
There are many experts out there who talk about time management. That is an impossibility. There is no such thing as managing time. Time ticks on, tick tock tick tock tick tock, regardless of what you do with it. You can’t speed it up, nor can you slow it down. Time goes on.
The only thing you can really manage is your priorities and what you choose to do with the time you have. I am going to suggest that whatever you find yourself engaging in at any moment is what you are prioritizing. The very fact that you are doing it is proof it has become your priority. If it wasn’t, you’d be doing something different.
Taking stock of what’s really important to you will help you with organizing your priorities. In order to take stock, you will want to determine your goals, only don’t just think about your goals as they relate to work types of things. What are your goals as a parent, a partner, a community member, in your giving, in your learning, in your finances, in your leisure, in your job, and basically in every role you occupy in your life that has value and meaning for you?
Without goals, you can allow really important things to fall to the bottom of the list because you haven’t prioritized what you want to accomplish. I just read Blair Singer’s blog entry about his goal to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with this 16 year-old son. On the way up, his son become ill and needed to go back down the mountain. One of the guides offered to take the son to the hospital and stay with him until Singer returned from the mountain climb. In that moment, Singer had to make the decision whether he would climb the mountain without his son or whether he would abort the mission and return to camp with his son. Singer reports having a lot of conflict as he considered these options but ultimately chose to return to camp with his son. He got in touch with his priorities and the way he spent his time the next week demonstrated that.
When you are committed to managing your priorities you will maximize every moment in your life. You will know you are doing exactly what you were meant to do in each moment. You will make plans to accomplish your objectives, staying flexible to shift your attention to different priorities if the need arises.
Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you plan to take the steps necessary to move in that direction. I can’t tell you how many people I know who speak of writing a book. Many people I talk to tell me they have a book in them. They think about it sometimes, even dream about it. But the vast majority of people, do not schedule time in their day to do the tasks necessary to bring that book to fruition. If you have a long-term goal or dream, prioritize it. Find a way to break it down into manageable steps and place those steps in your schedule where you will prioritize them during that scheduled time. You will surprised how quickly you can accomplish a goal with small forward steps. If you wait until you have time to write a book, you will never do it. If you wait, you will only be older and without a book. What are you waiting for? If not a book, what is the goal you want to strive for?
Naturally, if another of your goals is to be the best parent you can be and your child comes to you with an injury, you will look at your priorities and decide the best way to spend your next few hours is getting your child medical attention. Conversely, if your neighbor comes by for a chat during the time you have blocked off for your writing, you might opt not to answer the door or you may go to the door and let your neighbor know you’d like to speak with her but your first available time will be in two days’ time. You will look at your priorities and know your book takes precedence over a gab fest with the neighbor, as enjoyable as that might be.
It’s not about managing time, it’s about managing ourselves and our priorities. How will you spend your 86,400 seconds tomorrow and every day after that? It’s completely up to you!