I have a friend who, like me, teaches time management. He says – and I agree - we can’t manage time. Managing means controlling and directing. Can I tell my watch to go slower or faster? Can I get more hours in a day? I wish I could! But, wish as I might, I have 24 hours each day, and some unknown number of days left before the body passes away.
So, my friend says – and I agree – we don’t manage time. We manage what we do with our time.
But how many of us have tried that and failed? Everyone! We all say, “I want to do this,” and then don’t follow through. Each year, 80% of people who make New Years resolutions give up by January 15th. And how few restart later in the year! And how few try again next year?
So – can we manage our work? Can we control, guide and direct what we do with our time? The answer is yes, we can. Obviously, people and companies do set goals and achieve them. And, at the same time, its incredibly hard. It always has been. The first person to name the problem was Aristotle, over 2,000 years ago. He said that “It is easy to know the good, but it is not easy to do the good.” And he called it the Problem of Will.
We’ve been struggling with that problem ever since. Effective people are people who handle the problem relatively well. And, as my wife pointed out before she ran off to work this morning, that is not just a practical matter. It is also spiritual. Acting with discipline to make our dreams real is empowering. Being creative and generous, we give our gifts to the world, making the world a better place.
Such a wonderful ideal! How do we do it?
We begin by realizing that managing our work is managing ourselves. And, to manage ourselves, we must pay attention to ourselves. I encourage us to spend less time being concerned with the economy, the weather, and political changes. Be informed. But don’t be distracted from our work. Our success – in any economy, political situation, or storm – is a result of our work – our preparation, our activity, and our follow through to realize our goals.
So, once we pay attention to ourselves, what do we do?
We face the biggest obstacle of all.
The stuff that goes on between our ears!
Bringing awareness – Observation without criticism – to what we are doing, we can see what actions are valuable, and which ones are distracting or pointless.
But this is hard work. I find it must be done daily, and, in fact, many times a day. Each morning, using affirmations – talking and even singing them aloud – I remind myself of what I really want to be doing. And I’m starting to use accountability checklists – giving myself gold stars for doing new habits daily, more or less.
This kind of self-management may seem wacky or weird. But I’ve been doing it intensely for two weeks now, and I’ve restarted daily blogging, reached out to over 100 prospective clients in a single day, and done a whole lot more, as well.
My wife and I are doing this together. We are spinning our wheels and chasing our tails a lot less. We are getting a lot more work done. We are doing creative work – including graphic arts and healthy cooking – together. We are reaching out to friends more. And we’re having a lot more fun!
I’ll keep you posted as the experiment continues!