Do You Have Time? Or Does Time Have You?

At one point or another, every single person I’ve coached has talked about prioritizing and managing their time. Time – what an invention. Someone built a machine that ticks away regularly, and suddenly we are all held captive by how many ticks it gives us in a day. (Neil Postman’s Technopoly provides a fascinating description of how the invention of the mechanical clock changed society – “the transformation of the mechanical clock in the fourteenth century from an instrument of religious observance to an instrument of commercial enterprise” (p. 27) – the whole book is worth reading!)

If you feel like time is running you, here are some experiments you could try:

Imagine your ideal day. If time was yours to spend, what would be the flow of your ideal day? How would it start? How would it end? What would be most important to you? And once you’ve imagined that… ask yourself, how much of it is available to you right now?

Imagine a magic wand. If you had a magic wand that gave you enough time for everything, what would there be time for? And once you’ve thought that through, what have you learned about your true priorities?

Trade your to-do list for a priorities list. For example, if your priorities right now are “health” and “family”, you don’t need to rely on a list of things to do in both categories. Wake up each morning and ask yourself, “What am I going to do for my health today? What am I going to do for my family?” It can be that simple.

Know what your values are. Anytime something tries to worm its way onto your to-do list, run it through your values filter first. Does it honour your values enough to be allowed onto your list?

Say no more often. As Peter Block writes, “If we cannot say no, then our yes means nothing” (The Answer to How is Yes, pg. 28). Set yourself a goal. How many things are you going to give a true “no” to this week? How many things deserve your true “yes”?

Go a week without your to-do list. Experiment. What do you discover?

Go a week without a watch, or any other time device. Notice: if you aren’t using a watch, what are the signals that tell you what needs your attention in a given moment?

And for many, many more ideas, and some of the posts that are inspiring my current approach to time, check out these links:

How to Live Without the Clock

Three Ways to Get More Done with the Power of Less

Being Lightweight: Business Design (and related posts)

Getting Real (technically about building software, but useful in many areas of life, or for anyone running a business)

How to Stop Digital Fiddling and Start Writing (or start anything else)

Laura McGrath, CPCC, is a Toronto-based co-active life coach who helps smart people to live from their hearts. Let's talk! You can subscribe to Ready for Change news to receive thoughtful notes on personal growth, and you can contact Laura to find out if coaching is right for you.

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