I’m going to be honest: time is my weakness. Often, I have a hard time focusing on what’s in front of me. I believe my generation (and especially the generation to follow) are going to have to fight distractions and teach ourselves to focus more than any other. With social media, fast-paced TV, our phones at our fingertips, texting, and constantly scrolling and seeing something new and fresh, it will take more self control than ever to sit and focus on just one thing for a long amount of time.
I will be the first to say I do not have it all together, but I want to keep learning. I am not always on time – in fact, I’m often late and often distracted. However, I am striving to live fully in the moment, to say no to distractions, to do my best work and to rest well and often.
While I’m not perfect, I do have systems in place that help me manage my time well in my work and home. Over time, I’ve learned a few tips that hopefully will help you too. If you’re like me, you’re ready to be one of those “early people!” You’re ready to finish your day feeling accomplished, rather than incomplete and rushed. We can do this, so let’s dive in together!
I have to start with this rather long excerpt from one of my favorite-ever books, Boundaries. Please stick with me here and read this. You won’t regret it! :
“Many people feel that their time is out of control. They are “eleventh hour people,” constantly on the edge of deadlines. Try as they might, they find the day – every day – getting away from then. There just aren’t enough hours to accomplish their tasks. The word easily doesn’t seem to be part of their personal experience. Some of the time binds these strugglers deal with are these:
• Business meetings
• Luncheon appointments
• Project deadlines
• Church and school activities
• Holiday mailings
… The problem often stems from one more more of the following causes:
1. Omnipotence: These people have unrealistic, somewhat grandiose expectations of what they can accomplish in a given amount of time. ‘No problem – I’ll do it’ is their motto.
2. Overresponsibily for the feelings of others. They think that leaving a party too early wil cause the host to feel abandoned.
3. Lack of realistic anxiety. They live so much in the present that they neglect to plan ahead for traffic, parking the car, or dressing for an outing.
4. Rationalization. They minimize the distress and inconvenience that others must put up with because of their lateness. They think, ‘They’re my friends – they’ll understand.’
The person with undeveloped time self-boundaries ends up frustrating not only others, but himself. He ends the day without the sense that a ‘desire realized is sweet to the soul’ (Prov 13:19). Instead, he is left with unrealized desires, half-baked projects, and the realization that tomorrow will begin with him running behind schedule.”
The first time I read this section of Boundaries, I felt hope because I identified with it so much. After years of practice, I am no longer “rushing” through life.
If you are ready to take hold of your time, I would suggest trying the following exercises:
Track your time
Map out your ideal week
Plan every day hour by hour
Become an Email Ninja
Work Hard, Rest Well
I’ve worked through each exercise in the past 2 years, and they have been invaluable to me! If I may make another suggestion, do NOT try to tackle all of these at once. Try one per week, or one per month even, and see how it works for you. I can confidently say that each of them WILL be worth your time!
In today’s post I’ll be sharing about the first two exercises. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next 4!
1 : Track your Time
Last year, I read 168 Hours and it had such a profound impact on my life. Laura (the author) explains that the very first step to take hold of your time is to simply record how you are currently spending it. Although it seems daunting at first, it is actually quite simple! All you have to do is write down how you spend your time in 30 minute increments. You can see how I tracked my time for an entire month below. I highlighted my “work hours,” so I could realistically see how many hours a week I was working. I could also total my time for exercising, sleeping, hanging out with people I love, reading, etc. It was so enlightening to me! She warned us that we often tend to think we work much more than we actually do. That proved true for me. Here are a few takeaways that I had after doing this exercise:
– I thought I was working 50-60 hours/week, when I worked an average of 40 hours/week.
– It’s important to bundle all errands together once/week to save time driving. Driving can really add up.
– I was spending much more time with friends that I thought I was! We regularly ate dinner with friends and spent time in ministry at church.
– I wanted to spend more hours/week exercising.
– I wanted to spend more hours/week sleeping.
– I wanted to spend less hours/week driving.
– I wanted to be more intentional with how I spend my leisure time. More baths, walks, and dinners at home. Less piddling at home, TV, and driving.
Here is a Time Log Download if you are up for the challenge!
2. Map out your ideal week
This post by Michael Hyatt inspired me to do this for myself, and it’s a game changer. I see in the “big picture,” so creating time blocks was immensely helpful for me! Here is a view of my ideal week. I’m currently in the process of updating it now. As a wedding photographer, it is helpful to update it seasonally. I would encourage you: update it when you need to! It’s like a time budget. It won’t work perfectly the first few months, but you’ll be able to make it work for you after a while if you are committed to trying it. When I do stick to my ideal week, it feels wonderful. But keep in mind: it’s called an IDEAL week for a reason, and life is not always ideal. Life happens! Allow for grace and change. Don’t set your plan so strictly that you don’t allow for the Lord to bring things your way if He wants to.