Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~Carl Sandburg
Since the new year began, I’ve heard a lot about intentions and resolutions, and felt an overall sense of excitement and positive energy. And already, by the first Monday in January, I began to hear more about time. Or rather, the lack of time. The chaos of time. The feeling of time already slipping away.
As Carl Sandburg points out in our opening quote, time is a form of personal currency. We have a choice about how and where we spend it. And if we aren’t proactive and intentional, other people are more than happy to spend it for us.
Yes, there are times when we feel like it’s not our choice where we’re spending our time. We’re told when to be at work or school or other such places. I’m sure you know this, and I know I need reminders: I always – ALWAYS – have a choice about my attitude. And in that way, I am making a choice about how I’m spending my time.
Here are a few tips for keeping time on your side:
1) Meticulously track your schedule for a week. Just like some people keep a food diary, keep a time diary. Notice where you’re spending time and how you feel at different points in the day. When are you most energetic? What can be shifted, eliminated, delegated or expanded to allow more of what’s important to you?
2) All of us fall into the trap of thinking we’ll have more time at some distant point in the future (great article in The New York Times about this). The only time we have is this moment. Once we start becoming more intentional and fully recognizing our choices, we find we have more time right now!
3) Take some time to cross-pollinate two things: your list of values and your calendar. Ideally, your schedule will reflect what’s most important to you. For instance, if you value family, recreation, health, faith or community, are those things showing up on your calendar in accordance to how strongly you feel about them? Where do you want to adjust? Rather than think about the need for “balance,” reframe your schedule in terms of “alignment.” How aligned is your time with what’s most important to you?
4) Be kind to yourself. Our energy ebbs and flows, and we sometimes can only pay attention to what’s red and flashing in front of us. By staying at choice and intentional with your time, and being aligned with your values, you will handle those more chaotic moments with ease and grace.
There are plenty of books about organizing your time (Getting Things Done and Time Management from the Inside Out are two great resources), and if you’re feeling like you need more hours in the day, check them out. At the same time, take a few minutes to reflect on what’s most important, what you want to accomplish and what the gift of time brings you. This will ensure a clear intention and sustain your resolve when the to-dos, priorities and appointments start piling up.
“The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” ~C.S. Lewis
How will you choose to spend those precious 1,440 minutes (aka opportunities) we have every day?