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Issue 86

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In this issue ~~

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Time

There’s no getting around it:  We live in a busy world. Everyone I know – clients, friends, everyone – has more to do than they can accomplish in any given day. We’re going all the time, with jobs, emails, family, friends and other pursuits.  We don’t even get to rest on weekends, and we go back to work on Monday still tired.  As a result, we’re always rushed and frazzled, dealing with cluttered spaces and cluttered minds.

And yet, with so much to do, we’re always trying to cram in even more.  We fear that if we don’t keep going, we’ll fall irreparably behind, so we keep pushing ourselves to do and achieve. It’s like a merry-go-round that we can never get off, and even the adrenaline rush wears thin after awhile.

So, what can we do about this?

What I’m going to ask you to do is counterintuitive.  With so much to do, the tendency is to want to do more, to work harder. Instead, I’m going to ask you to slow down and do less.  But how (I hear you asking) will I get everything done?!

Before we get into some practical suggestions, let me put your mind at ease.  As a sometime reader of quantum physics (now you know what I do in my spare time!), I’ve learned that time is relative.  (Remember Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?)  Psychologist George Pransky, who has studied the process of thinking, asserts that when we slow down our thinking, we actually slow down time!

So, when we slow ourselves down, we can actually be *more* productive.  We know that creativity happens when you slow down. How often have you slaved over a project, only to get your best ideas when you’re taking a walk or a shower?  I recently read about a study that found that European workers, who generally have 2-3 times as much vacation time as Americans, were more productive.  Running yourself into the ground, and depleting your physical and mental resources, is not productive, and certainly not much fun.

We have to begin by changing our thinking.  Bigger is not always better.  You don’t *have* to have the top-of-the-line everything.  You don’t *have* to strive to be at the top of the ladder, with all the responsibility that comes with it.  You may find a comfortable spot in the middle of the ladder, or choose to get off the ladder altogether and liver a calmer, simpler life. Some folks in Europe even started a Slow Food Movement (www.slowfood.com)!

Look at what really matters to you, and make some choices. Carl Honore, author of “In Praise of Slowness,” lived the busy, hectic life of a journalist.  A turning point for him was when he was actually considering using a book of “2 minute bedtime stories” for his young son. It made him realize what was really important to him.

There are also some practical steps you can take.

~ Put some time-saving systems into place, like automatic bill paying and family schedules. 

~ Use calendars and to-do lists to remind you when things need to be done. Break down big projects into steps, and schedule those steps on your calendar. (Find out how to get my free Time Management System at the end of this article.)

~ Delegate whatever you can. New helping professionals like virtual assistants and professional organizers are proliferating. They’re well worth the investment.

~ Let go.  You don’t have to read every email or piece of paper that comes across your desk.  Information is readily available, so there’s a pretty good chance that if you need something, you’ll be able to find it.

Short of running off to a deserted island, we have to accept that this is the way life is, and do what we can do to make it easier on ourselves.  It’s about balance – handling our responsibilities and enjoying our achievements, but also finding time for relaxation and fun. 

I would love to tell you that there’s a magic formula to make this happen, but the truth is, it’s going to take some work. There are many things pulling at us, and we have to make the choice to get off the merry-go-round.  Change doesn’t happen through wishful thinking.  You have to be the change you want, to start putting it into place now.

It starts with an attitude shift, followed by action. Start with baby steps and work your way up.  It may be scary at first to let go of the hectic pace, but once you start, I think you’re gonna like it!

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Time Management System

Once again, I’d like to offer my complimentary Time Management System – a Word file for organizing your projects and putting them on a schedule. While the system might not cut down on the number of tasks you need to do, it can help you be more organized and make the best use of your time.  To download the file, click here.

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Action Challenge

Is there something you've been wanting to do, but haven't been able to find the time?  This week, find at least one hour to get that started, and then find that hour every week to keep it going.

 

Wise Words

"Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Recognize that neither technology nor efficiency can acquire more time for you, because time is not a thing you have lost. It is not a thing you ever had. It is what you live in. You can drift or you can swim, and it will carry you along either way."

~ James Gleick, Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

"The best reason to take your time is that this time is the only time you'll ever have. You must take it, or it will be taken from you. It is telling that the phrase 'taking your time' is synonymous with slowing down. If we want to live life fully, we do best to slow down. I don't suggest that we turn back the clock, trying to retrieve a bygone era when life was slower. We couldn't, even if we wanted to. We should revel in our electronically supercharged, unbounded world. But, to make the most out of this new world, to avoid feeling overbooked, overstretched, and about to snap, to make modern life become better than life has ever been, a person must learn how to do what matters most first. Otherwise, you will bulldoze over life's best moments. You won't notice the little charms that adorn each day, nor will you ever transform the mundane into the extraordinary."

~ Edward M. Hallowell, MD, Crazybusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!: Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

The Tortoise Workbook: Strategies for Getting Ahead at Your Own Pace . . . Sharon Good

Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America . . . John De Graaf

Downshifting: How to Work Less and Enjoy Life More . . . John D. Drake

Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, and Technology . . . Jan Jasper

Creative Time Management for the New Millennium: Become More Productive & Still Have Time for Fun . . . Jan Yager

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity . . . David Allen

Take Time for Your Life . . . Cheryl Richardson

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed . . . Carl Honoré

Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures of Food . . . Slow Food Movement, edited by Carlo Petrini

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© 2006 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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