“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” – Annie Dillard
Notwithstanding the year we are born or the year we die, we each have 525,600 minutes per year. Yet, those minutes can bleed into “wasted” hours, days, weeks, and even months if we aren’t mindful of how our time is being spent. Or rather, how our time is being invested.
Nearly 20 years ago, I read a book that has had a profound impact on the way I think about time and the shape of my life. The book is appropriately titled “Take Time for your Life” by Cheryl Richardson. It talks about:
- establishing a schedule that reflects your priorities and values
- identifying and eliminating the things that drain you while tapping into healthy sources of energy
- surrounding yourself with people who support your financial, spiritual and emotional well-being
Typically after I read a book, I pass it along to a friend or place it in my neighborhood “free library.” But this is one book, I keep on my bookshelf and pull out annually for a refresher.
While it takes time to read and work through “Take Time for your Life” (the book is filled with exercises and checklists to help you create the holistic life of your dreams), below is an exercise to help you reflect on how your 525,600 minutes were spent in 2017 and if you want (or need) to make changes in 2018.1
2017 % of my time
2018 % of my time
|Tending to Urgent and Important matters (such as meeting deadlines or true emergencies)||____%||____%|
|Tending to Urgent but UnImportant matters (such as facing interruptions or attending inconsequential meetings)||____%||____%|
|Tending to Unimportant and Non-urgent activities (such as playing video games, watching TV, or busy work)||____%||____%|
|Tending to Important but Non-urgent matters (such as planning, prevention, and relationship building)||____%||____%|
Of course, it’s the category Unimportant and Non-urgent activities that should be curtailed if you want or need “more time.” Awareness is the first step!
If you are spending more time than desired in the Urgent but Unimportant category:
- Let those around you know when you are needing to concentrate and cannot be interrupted. Set aside time each day to return phone calls or emails and “check in” with others.
- Is there someone you can train, delegate, or ask to represent you for “ad-hoc” inquiries or at nonessential meetings?
- Set boundaries. Learn to say “no” and question the status quo.
It’s the Important categories where things get really tricky. Important to who? Whose deadlines are we talking about? What constitutes a true emergency? And if something is not urgent, can it really be classified as important? Big questions – yes. But important questions because there is no dress rehearsal. This is your life. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you will die with an empty “In Basket.”
If you are feeling depleted, in 2018, I encourage you to start filling your “In Basket” with the things, people, values, tasks, joys, and responsibilities that matter to you. Smile. This is your life.
Authored by: Sherri Daymon
1 Adapted from Dr. Stephen Covey in the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”