There’s an old saying that the devil wants us to believe we have all the time in the universe because that’s the way we get recruited to do nothing or bad things. If you think you are going to live forever, you tend not to value the moment and end up wasting a lot of time.
I’m not saying you should be a compulsive maniac – I’m talking about productivity in your life. And I’m not just talking about work productivity. It could be at home, school…anywhere.
So, how can you use your time well? I’ll start by telling you what I used to do in college. I was a serious maniac because I was very serious about my education. Every night before I went to sleep, I would plan out my whole day on a three-by-five card starting with what time I woke up:
7 a.m.: Wake up
7 – 7:15 a.m.: Shower, get dressed, go to breakfast
7:15 – 7:35 a.m.: Breakfast
And so on.
I literally had every five minutes of the day planned out – when to have lunch, when to review my notes…everything. At the end of the day, everything that I had to get done got done.
You can use this technique in your home too. Focus on what has to be done. Usually the biggest percentage of what you do doesn’t actually have to be done. There’s a lot of excess busyness debris in your lives. Don’t confuse things that can be done with what needs to be done. What’s important at the end of the day is that you feel satisfied and impressed that you did what you were responsible for. If you end the day that way, you are going to be more productive the next day, and you’re going to feel happier, nicer, and better.
You don’t have to be as maniacal as I was in college, planning out every 15 minutes of the day. I’m not even that way anymore. However, I still put a schedule in my head. I know what I’m going to accomplish in the morning, and when I accomplish that, I’m going to see what I feel like doing in the amount of time I have before I go on the air. In the afternoons, I have scheduled times to play tennis with friends, take a pool lesson, practice archery, or do whatever. I just try not to do be doing more work after I get off the air because I get up at 5 a.m. Of course, there are times when there is more work to do and that’s OK. I just don’t get crazy if it doesn’t get done.
The good side to being disciplined (and by the way, discipline is about choices, not genetics) is that you get a lot of things done. The bad side is that sometimes you push yourself too hard, and then you don’t realize that your brain just exploded. When it feels like my brain exploded, I realize I’m putting too much in a day and need to yank the pace back. I’ll just take the dogs out for a walk and experience the breeze, flowers, and sun.
I have a few ideas to help you be more productive:
First of all, you have to assess your priorities. A lot of you spend way too much time doing what somebody else wants you to do and not something you are obligated to do. There are friends and relatives who you let impose on you because you don’t want to seem mean. You don’t want them to judge you negatively, and you don’t want to be disliked. However you have to get over that guilt because it’s childish. If someone – even if they’re your parent or best friend – nags you, wants to usurp your time, energy, and attention, doesn’t reciprocate, or fails to respect any kind of boundaries, then who cares if they don’t like you.
You’ve really got to be more of a gladiator when protecting your time because it is finite. It is not forever recreating itself. Get over the guilt of “I really want to be doing something else, but they’re going to be mad.” Nobody has died from being annoyed. Stand up to people who vampirously suck you dry.
Next, figure out what activities fall under “obligatory time” and “discretionary time.” There are times when you have committed to others to be at a certain place at a certain time. That’s obligatory time. Your discretionary time is the time you can manage. You create your next moment. Make a list of all of the things you think you should be doing tomorrow and put an A, B or C next to each item. A = must do, B = should do, C = could do. Do the A’s first, and then try to slip in the B’s. The C’s may just go by the wayside, and in the process, you might discover that they make no difference in your life.
In your mind or on a piece of paper, check off what you’ve done and note what you haven’t finished. Juggle the unfinished things into the next day’s schedule and reprioritize. Don’t kill yourself trying to do too many things perfectly – you are just going to burn out.
Finally, don’t confuse being busy with being productive. It’s not enough to be busy. Ants are busy. The question is, what are you busy about? You’ve got to be ferociously selective. There are certain things I will not do, especially at this stage in my life and career. I wish to use my time differently. I’m 65 and I’m using my time as well as I can. Unfortunately, when you’re 25, you think you have infinite time, and you tend to waste a lot of it. That’s why the joke is, we should be born knowing everything and just get younger. We would use our time better that way.
Basically, you are totally in control, whether you think so or not. It’s all about time management, making decisions, and making choices. You have to govern the clock, not be governed by it.
Here are some great stats about how poorly we mismanage our time.