You don’t need a new tool for time management; you need boundaries.
Productivity and time management is at the front of everyone’s mind. There are thousands of articles and books available promising to deliver a magic solution for you to do the most in your 24 hours.
The truth is the answer is to do less. I realize that simply doing less in a world that promotes hustle culture and makes you feel like you’re wasting your life if you aren’t spending every waking hour doing something “productive” is not easy. It’s not easy because you’ve been convinced that your status and importance lie in how much time you are spending and that you can have it all. You can’t have it all. It’s not possible. When you pursue having it all, something else get’s less time in your life, such as health, relationships, and fun.
Burning the candle at both ends is not normal human behavior, and it’s the reason why everyone is burning out and stressed. There is a belief that you can spend your later years relaxing if you hustle in your younger years. How does that make any sense? Consider this, have you gained more control over your time or less control over your time the older you’ve gotten? I am sure the answer is less because the older you get, the more responsibilities you acquire, which means more time to take care of those responsibilities. These are responsibilities that you’ve convinced yourself that you have to have; in reality, you’ve chosen those responsibilities.
So how can you reclaim your time and do less? Reflect on the questions below.
How am I spending my time?
To reclaim your time, you must be clear on what you are spending your time on. Once you know what you are spending your time on, you will be better positioned to cut things. The hardest part about figuring this out is gaining an awareness of the time you give to others in the name of having fun or being nice. This is the time you spend helping your friend or family member solve their problems by either listening to their complaints or actually spending your time solving their problems. Also, spending time at social activities that you feel obligated to be present to avoid upsetting your friend is another example.
Reclaiming your time from these activities is challenging because people are involved, and I know you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. The best thing you can do in this situation is to have an awareness and start cutting back on your time spent in these areas as you feel comfortable. When you see that you are starting to make headway creating the boundary and feel comfortable creating boundaries, you can be more aggressive about taking your time back from people. To be clear, it’s not that you don’t care about their problems or being present at their social events; this has to do with you being there for yourself and not burning yourself out.
Is this activity improving or taking away from your life?
There was a time in my life when I was volunteering for everything. I held a position on the boards of several non-profits while volunteering for committees at the company I worked for. My belief at the time was serving on all those boards would demonstrate my leadership abilities, thus providing me with lucrative leadership opportunities in the future. That belief was flawed. While giving my time to those boards gave me some leadership opportunities and satisfied my need to help others, it didn’t bring anything else beneficial to my life. In fact, it gave me more stress.
If you feel like you need more time in your day, you should be asking if all the activities you’ve added to your life are helping or hurting you? Also, make sure you are clear about what you are getting in exchange for spending your time doing these activities. Be careful with thinking you will be paid back in recognition; expecting recognition from others can negatively impact your self-worth.
Is this activity related to the impact you wish to make in this life?
We, as human beings, all desire to have a greater impact than ourselves in this world. We have often been led away from those desires because they are replaced by the constant barrage of influences telling us what we should care about and believe in. But ask yourself if everything you are spending your time on is what you want to do. I am not referring to the one-off activities that someone in your life has asked you to go to for the afternoon. I am referring to the time spent talking on the phone with your friend complaining about their life. I am talking about the committee you are volunteering on that has unproductive meetings.
Get clear on the impact you want to have in this life, and then evaluate the time you’re spending. If you want to make a difference, it will take you longer to get there if the time you spend on what you really love is sporadic; when you figure out what you love and the impact you want to have, it will become easier for you to say no to others staking claim to your time.
So the next time you are tempted to purchase a new tool to help you with your time or implement some new strategies you read in an article, ask yourself the above three questions; it will save you money and time.