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This past week was the time for most where we change our clocks to end Daylight Saving Time. I remembered it always, as many did, by the phrase “Spring Forward, Fall Back“. Of course, most of us don’t have to worry about it much anymore as our computers and smartphones will do it for us. That, and a few years ago I got one of those alarm clocks that automatically adjusts for Daylight Saving Time. After that, my only chore is to go re-set the ones that don’t automatically adjust.
The gist of it for us is that we theoretically “gained an hour” this weekend. Never mind that we really just get back the one we lost in the Spring, everyone looks at as gaining an hour.
So here’s a question for you:
how much more productive did that “extra hour” make you this weekend?
Since it occurs in the middle of the night, likely the only benefit most see from it is the extra hour of sleep (that you lost in the Spring). Some, like me, got up at the same time as always, usually around 5 a.m., and followed our normal routine. Being a weekend, many were taking time off from being really productive anyway; but even if we weren’t it is doubtful that the extra hour made us any more productive. It has more to do than just with the fact that the change occurs in the middle of the night.
Time is Not Important
Time is not what makes us productive. With each tick of the clock, time passes no matter what. Twenty-four hours and today becomes yesterday, tomorrow becomes today. That’s all any of us ever have; from the President of the United States to the most successful person in your organization to the least productive person you know. Everyone has 24 hours in a day. Yet, many times, our time is frittered away with things like
- Constantly checking our Facebook page (this has become one of the biggest wasters around)
- Playing games, either online, on a smartphone or tablet, or on a game box
- Television (and most of it is trash)
- Going to meetings
- Being somewhere else in our mind other than where we are
- Running in multiple directions throughout the day
There is, of course, much more but that is a good start.
A good friend of mine and a very wise person, Jeff Bigby of Awaken the Nation, shows the math of our time in his presentations. Jeff asks his workshop participants about how they spend their 110. See, Jeff points out the following formula on your weekly schedule:
- There are 168 hours in a week
- We spend an average of 56 hours sleeping (assuming you are sleeping eight hours)
- We spend 40 hours working (or more, not including the commute)
- About two hours a day in meals for a total of 14 hours per week
- That leaves about 58 hours per week.
- Go to church? Let’s say two hours. That’s 56 left or 8 hours a day.
So, in that eight hours a day we have “administrative” things we have to do during the day, plus whatever else we want to do to. Reading, family time, devotional/meditation time, community service, watching television, etc. The point is that there is a part of your week you have limited control over. Most of us NEED eight hours of sleep a night. Most of us MUST work 8 hours a day for five days a week. Eating 3-5 regular meals a day is CRITICAL to good health (as is eating the right things)! So we have 110 hours a week over which we have almost total control!
So the issue is not time; it is how productively you are using that time. You cannot manage time, no matter how hard you try. So, what do you manage?
Manage YOU Not Time
I am no different from you on this. I waste time pretty much every day. But I have become aware of that and aware of my ability to make choices in changing that and examining my time wasters. If I can do that, I am extremely confident that you can too. Here’s some of the things I am doing to help bring that under control:
- Prioritize and Categorize
Establish things into areas of must do, should do, nice to do for the week. Ideally, do this on Sunday night or Monday morning. Within each of those categorize them based on the part of your life they address; such as work project, family, health, etc. Within each category, number them based on importance. The importance is determined by time constraint, critical stage, or just your own personal plan.
- The Daily Big Three
Each morning, or the night before, list the top three things you need to carry out that day. Take the top items of each category and place them on your list. Number those according to importance. There may be more than three, but the point is that you don’t go to bed tonight without accomplishing the Big Three. Place the bullfrogs at the top of the list; the things you procrasitate on or simply hate to do. Get them out of the way first thing and the rest of the day will be pleasant by comparison.
It doesn’t matter what others say to us, it matters what we say to ourselves. Encourage yourself. Talk yourself up. Remember what you are made of. Many of your tasks will be things you don’t want to do, have often gone out of your way to avoid, and might even be incredibly boring. If you don’t talk yourself up, you will simply find another excuse.
- Reward System
For each item accomplished, provide a reward of some type. It should be a reward that is quick, easy, and yet provides incentive. If you are a Facebook fanatic, each item completed earns you 15 minutes of Facebook time. Now, for that to be a real incentive has to mean that you aren’t getting Facebook time without accomplishing the task. If you are going to do it anyway, it’s no incentive.
Sometimes one of the big three does not get accomplished due to something out of our control, but that’s a rarity. Either way, fault or not, provide a consequence for not completing one of the big three. Just like providing consequences for your kids, it has to be timely, connected, and reasonable. For example, I read about what person who uses the consequence that when he doesn’t accomplish his tasks he wakes himself up in the middle of the night to work for an hour or two. He values his sleep so much that it provides him incentive to manage himself better and avoid that consequence. Be careful, though; if you find yourself administering a consequence too much it starts to lose its impact. Change them up from time to time.
At the end of the week, take a look back and see how things have gone. Did things go better or worse? Where could things have gone better? Why? How could you do it differently? What can you tell yourself to help make it better?
So this is a little system I use for me. How about you? How do you manage yourself daily? Got tips and tricks? Be a river and not a reservoir! Share them here
Focus or Flurry – Too Busy
Non-stop from the moment you get up until it’s time to put your head on the pillow. Personal and professional schedules often overlap. You spend a good amount of time driving from location to location. Sometimes you cut activities short in order to rush on to the next one. When you are ready for bed you are totally exhausted and can’t seem to catch up on rest.
There is nothing wrong with being busy. Busy keeps us active and keeps us from wasting time focusing on the negatives of our lives. It’s not being busy that is the issue, it’s HOW we are being busy. Are we busy with things that are targeted or are we simply busy with activities? Busyness that is not targeted and purpose-driven can lead to a distinct feeling of emptyness. We are so busy that we must be getting somewhere, but why does it still feel incomplete. Our busyness has no real meaning. We spend our time in flurry.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” Socrates
“It is not enough to be busy. Even the ants do that. The question is: what are we busy about?”
Henry David Thoreau
Not sure if you are one of those who are too busy? Here are 7 signs that you are too busy:
- You are always surviving. You can’t remember what open time on your calendar looked like or the last time you were ahead of schedule.
- Meals coincide or overlap with other events. If you don’t have time to sit down and simply enjoy a little family meal time or quiet meal time, that’s definitely a sign.
- You tend to be tired even in the mornings. You can get rest from all the flurry.
- You can’t remember the last time you read a book.
- You have interruptions to your interruptions.
- You cannot consistently set aside a time-frame for a specific activity, like exercise.
- You do not engage in intentional, daily growth
Focus or Flurry – Making the Change
We must make the transformation from being too busy to being productively busy. We have to move from flurry to focus. And it starts with the decision to do so. You must resolve that you are tired of being tired, you are fed up with not getting where you want to be. It doesn’t solve your problems, but it helps provide the resolve you are going to need to implement this.
Create calendar blocks. Each block should be at least an hour preferably but certainly no less than 30 minutes each. You won’t need to block every waking moment, you are simply trying to make sure that you set aside specific activity blocks. You will protect these blocks ruthlessly, letting nothing short of real emergencies (spurting blood, sinkholes, hurricanes, earthquakes) get in the way. You need these blocks labelled on your daily calendar:
- Spiritual Time. I call this devotional time but you can call it what you want. The point is you need daily time dedicated to developing your spiritual life. This helps make everything else better, it is THAT critical. Ideally, this is your first block of the day. Get up earlier if need be to have time for it. I find that’s what works best for me, before everyone else gets up to have my devotional time. If you have kids, it’s even better to let them see you engaged in this daily as it also encourages them to develop the habit.
- Hard Time. This block is set aside for doing things you know you need to do that day but avoid and postpone until it is too late to do them. Set aside time for it and strictly do not allow yourself to do anything else during that time frame until the hard thing is done.
- Personal Growth Time. A block designed for you to intentionally grow yourself. Remember my 1% rule: if you simply grow yourself intentionally by 1% a day you will see exponential results.
- Reading Time. Do nothing but read. Magazines or trade journals, books, white papers. Do not spend this time on the newspaper or social media. We want reading time that feeds us.
- Me Time. A block where no one else but you is your concern. Do whatever you want as long as it isn’t for someone else. You need this for your sanity and balance.
Positive Attitude = Positive Results
Zig Ziglar warns about “stinkin’ thinkin’” and “hardening of the attitude“. Norman Vincent Peale refers to “empty hearts and empty minds” who take on a defeatist position. Tony Robbins cautions you to avoid seeing the garden as overrun by “weeds“. John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, and the list goes on, all talk about the overwhelming difference that attitude can make. More importantly, they speak to how a negative attitude yields nothing but negative results.
Conversely, to the person they will also tell you that a positive attitude leads to more positive results. Zig Ziglar says
“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will”
And from Peale,
“Change your thoughts and you change your world!”
“We will act consistently with our view of ourselves, whether that view is accurate or not.”
“People may hear your words but they feel your attitude.”
Positive Attitude = Riches?
Does a positive attitude make you rich overnight? No, of course not! The idea behind having a positive attitude isn’t to change your fortunes instantly but to change you instantly and consistently. When you become consistent in your attitude, it will play out in your actions. It has to, you can’t help it. It has to do with what psychologists call “Cognitive Dissonance“.
In simple terms, it means that you cannot think one way and act in an opposite manner on a consistent basis.
The mind can’t handle it and therefore will either change your thoughts or change your actions to bring consistency. If you think positively and act negatively (which would include not acting at all), then your mind will adjust one or the other. In most cases, your mind will side with your actions. So while we always point out that our actions speak louder to others than our words do, the same is true within us. What you do speaks louder to your mind that what you say.
Does that mean that we should stop talking positive until we start acting positive? Not at all! Because while our actions have more influence with our mind, our words have influence with our mind as well AND with our actions. So even if we take positive actions but continue to think and talk negatively, it will start to affect our actions. They will become less positive and less powerful and once again our mind will brings things back to consistency.
So the real secret in the power of being positive is to combine BOTH positive thoughts and positive actions. They influence one another and influence our mind as well. When we are consistent in both thought and action this way, our mind can be more powerful. Instead of having to sort through the inconsistencies of our thoughts and actions, the mind can spend time on other things like true creative thought and dreaming big dreams.
I’ll be writing all this week about positive thinking. I invite you to share your thoughts, experiences, and even positive quotes that are meaningful to you. Share what you know so we ALL can be more positive and more effective.
- For at least the next 30 days, read or listen to something positive each day FIRST THING IN THE MORNING. Studies have shown that what first enters our mind on the day has incredible influence over our day.
- What is one thing you have wanted to do but have not begun yet? Write in down in detail on a piece of paper or on your computer or tablet.
- What one positive action can you take TODAY to begin? It doesn’t have to be a big action, it just has to be positive and move you closer to the objective. Make a point not to go to bed tonight without doing that.