Three strategies to gain the most from the time you have
by John G. Johnson
Most of us lead a multitude of lives in today’s world. Adding to this, we perform a wide array of activities throughout the course of a single day… and then multiply that by seven. The result? Little to no time is left for us to appreciate the finer things in life. It’s no secret that we live in a world of consequences, so over-stressing ourselves, suppressing opportunities for personal rejuvenation will have a negative impact on our mind and body. “To every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction” is a fundamental law of physics. This law applies to human beings as well, meaning the way we live our lives.
The benefits of taking time out for yourself cannot be overstated. However, oftentimes, this classic refrain, better known as an “excuse,” frequently can be heard… “If only there were more hours in the day, then I could get everything done.” And then there’s the popular belief that most people subscribe to because they are convinced that certain tasks need to get done…or else: “it’s impossible! I don’t have time. I have too many things to do!”
These imaginary reasons, excuses, fantasies, etc. imply that we have little to no control over our lives, and that outside forces - not us – are responsible for the life we choose to live. This couldn’t be further from the truth; it’s clearly not a useful attitude to support!.... Beliefs of any sort, or any particular point-of-view one adopts, aren’t cast with and set in concrete. Meaning, they can change.
Twenty-four hours make a day; seven days make a week. It’s the reality we have to work within. Since this is the case, then it’s more useful to perceive time differently and ask ourselves “How we can work with what we have in an efficient manner so as to move towards a higher quality of life?”
The following are three such strategies.
Order of Importance
Last month we spoke about values and asking the question, “What’s important to me in X?” We can ask this same question when it comes to ordering your list of things-to-do for a day or week. When you make your list, (day or week), prioritize your activities from – most important things to get done to least important things to get done. (Think of an inverted pyramid). Organizing your tasks this way has several advantages:
One, you will be able to see that what you thought was important to get done isn’t so after all. You now will have the choice of discarding those less-important activities to free up some time. It’s sort of like deleting non-essential files on your computer’s hard-drive to create additional space.
Two, in many instances, taking care of the most important things has the added advantage of simultaneously completing minor tasks as well. Think of it as collateral benefits – two (or several) for the price of one, so to speak.
Learning to Say “No!”
Think about it. How many times do we say “YES” to activities – without – taking into consideration the full consequences they will have on us and on the quality of time we want for ourselves? The reasons why we say “yes” to tasks are too numerous to mention. But learning to say “NO” to deadweight activities is a useful habit to embrace.
Take a moment to breathe –focused rhythmic breathing, for at least three minutes. This activates what Dr. Herbert Benson calls The Relaxation Response, a heightened physiological state deep rest that allows the body and mind to take a break and restore itself. Many breathing techniques for accessing this state of focused rest abound. One simple strategy is to: Breathe in for four counts, hold for three counts, and then exhale for eight counts. Repeat for at least three-minutes. That’s it. If you find your mind wandering, that’s fine. Just return back to your task. It’s like physical exercise; the more you practice the better your focus becomes.
From the womb to the tomb, time is already pre-determined for us, so we can say it’s limited. It’s not how much time we have, quantity-wise – it’s what we do with it - quality-wise - that makes life worth living.
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