Life Is Not A Lazy River


Time Management – The Holy Grail

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the heroes and villains were in a race to find The Holy Grail.  This religious relic was such a precious target because it supposedly gave everlasting life to anyone who drank from it.

As everyone who has watched the movie knows, that grail was destroyed, so unfortunately we will have to find new ways to extend our lives.  I would make the claim that the modern life-extending Holy Grail is time management.  To loosely quote Benjamin Franklin, “Don’t waste time, because time is what life is made of.”  So, if you want more life, then manage your time.  Over the next 3 weeks we will discuss 3 concepts to assist us in our quest for improved time management:

  1. Control
  2. Focus
  3. Investment   

Week 1 – Take control of your time!

Ah, the Lazy River.  Find your tube, lay back, and let the current carry you around the winding track.  No paddling required.  No decisions to make…just drift along to your inevitable destination.

As you all know, Life is not like that.  There is no ‘inevitable destination’ in life.  If you stop paddling and just drift along, you will not follow a serene circle back to the chair where you left your flip-flops.  You will instead be swept away down any number of gullies or waterfalls, or marooned in a half mile swamp.  (If you’ve been to Boundary Waters you know what I mean!)  If I were to make a comparison, life is more like a canoe trip or a whitewater rafting adventure than a Lazy River.

Today I’m not really talking about the course of your life so much as the course of your day.  On any given day, you can treat that hour of down time between Activity 1 and Activity 2 as a Lazy River or as the mountain stream that it really is.  In order to navigate the stream of your day, you need to take control of your time.

In Control vs Adrift in the Undertow

Too much of our time is passively wasted.  We have an unlimited array of options when it comes to how we spend our time, as if we are in a giant all-you-can eat buffet.  We waste away extra minutes at work, in the car, and at home.  There are always multiple forces vying for control of your time.  Coworkers and other people.  Competing interests.  The inner selfish child, which is always trying to feed its appetite.  Advertisers and salesmen.  If you do not control your time, they will be more than happy to control it for you!

But I Can’t!

You all know that this is much easier to say than to do.  The urge to scroll through Facebook or Twitter instead of starting on the laundry is very powerful.  The energy required to take control just isn’t there sometimes, or so it seems.  But these are just lies and excuses.  You can do it!  Here are some ideas:

Boundaries and Expectations.

Scenario 1: Let’s say you have a coworker who always drops by your office at 5:20, 10 minutes before your normal time to leave.  They always have a difficult problem, and they need your help.  Of course there will be times when you should stay late and help them, but it isn’t good if this is a steady pattern where your time is regularly being controlled by someone else, to the detriment of your family.  In this case you may say, “I’m sorry, I need to get out of here and get back to my family.  What time tomorrow works for you?  We can tackle it then.”  Hopefully you will be able to negotiate a good time with them to sit down and work together.  If it is your boss it is more tricky, but there should still be room for discussion over the weeks and months so that you can come to an agreement of what kind of hours you can work.  And if your schedule is totally inflexible, you will then have to take control of the minutes that you have left before or after your workday.

Scenario 2:  The biggest time tyrants are under 5 feet tall.  Your kids want every bit of your time and attention from the moment they awake to the moment they (finally) fall asleep.  Setting boundaries and expectations with them is crucial.  You should be able to say “Go outside and play while mommy and daddy talk for 15 minutes.”  Or, “Please clean up the supper table while I go out and clean up the garage.”  Or, “I have to mow the grass tonight, so we won’t be able to go to the pool, ride bikes, roast marshmallows, and watch a movie.”  (This was last night’s discussion.  No exaggeration.)  The beauty of this is that by setting these expectations you are getting ready for a win-win.  In my case, the kids asked if they could ride along with me on the mower.  I let them ride and practice steering as we went.  This allowed the hour of mowing to be productive as I cut the grass, plus a bonding time, plus it is helping train them for when they mow the grass for me.  None of that would have happened if I did not take control of my time and set the boundaries and expectations.

If you are your own worst enemy, then start setting up ways to control your own use of your time.  Next week we will talk about strategies for identifying wasted time and working towards a more effective, focused use of our time.

I need to know – do you feel in control when it comes to your time?  What are the biggest barriers for you as you try to take control of your time?  What strategies have worked for you in this never-ending tug-of-war?  What success stories can you share?

Don’t just naively float down the river – take control of your time!  That is how you will find your own Holy Grail.

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