UNDERWOOD: Where does the time go?

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By Rick Underwood

It is the season of hustle and bustle. So much to do and so little time to get everything done: Gifts to buy, meals to prepare, travel to relatives, parties to attend, special religious services to observe, just to mention a few – things that, literally, wear us out.

There never seems to be enough time. The clock keeps ticking and the present quickly fades into the past. “Hurry sickness” takes root. Nerves are on edge. Fatigue overwhelms us. We eat too much and don’t get enough sleep.

Or we don’t have any appetite and take to our bed. It becomes difficult to relax even when we have a few minutes. In some cases some of us lapse into compulsive behavior and or depression.

“Happy Holidays!” we blurt out or squeak out! No wonder many of us are exhausted when January arrives.

And ironically the older we get, the faster the time seems to go. If only we could capture time in a bottle. The bottom line is that time rolls on and it is completely up to us how we use it and what we do with our time.

Take a few minutes and write down a couple of sentences about what you need to do with your time. 

For example, “I’m trying to learn to spend my time wisely.”

Or “I tend to waste too much time.”

Now rewrite those sentences and substitute “life” for “time.” This little activity can help us get a perspective on what we need to do.

In other words, we (I) (you) must choose how we live our time (lives). If we want to take charge and manage our life a bit differently, we can begin by answering the following questions.

What has to be done? What has to be done first (most important)? How much of it has to be done? How fast does it need to be done (deadline)?

As we answer these questions, we will be able to determine what is most important and in which order we need to do those things.

Keep these five principles in mind as we think about our work/life:

1.      We eliminate or delegate our low payoff activities.

2.      We get organized.

3.      We execute around what is most important to us.

4.      We simplify tasks if we can.

5.      We swap certain activities with someone who likes or is good at doing those tasks, and we take on one of theirs that we like.

Now we are ready to create a healthy “to-do” list. Most folks list everything they can think of on their to-do lists. Good time managers know that a to-do list should include the following qualities: It’s a physical action, it can be accomplished in a sitting or a trip, it supports progress toward a recognized goal, and it is something for which you are the most appropriate person for the task.

Next we are ready to create a healthy, realistic to-do list:

§       Don’t put too much on it.

§       Put some air in it so there is some flexibility.

§       List possibilities instead of imperatives.

§       Schedule tasks.

§       Be creative in ordering the tasks.

§       Turn the big jobs into small pieces.

§       Schedule breaks and small rewards.

§       Make long range personal goals as motivators for yourself.

§       Be ready to abandon the list in case of emergencies

When the holidays get crazy and there is so much to do, most people do first, manage second, communicate third and then plan and set goals. We call this crisis management.

We all know the result of this approach…stress, stress, and more stress.

There certainly are emergencies that arise that we must attend to immediately, but the tyranny of the urgent wears us out.

Today, let’s take a few minutes and think about the things we need to do. Many things like phone calls, texts, Facebook posts, E-mails, mail and interruptions act on us and appear to be urgent. The key word is “appear.”

The key to getting control of our time is to set goals and plan. Then we have the chance to communicate our plans to others who can help us. Next we must manage others to whom we have delegated tasks, and before we know it, life flows more freely.

 Research clearly shows that we can get four to 10 times more done if we take a few minutes to plan our month, week and day.

If we want to enjoy this busy holiday season and have time to prepare for the meaning of the season, we can implement some of the above ideas. Have fun!


Rick Underwood is minister at Hempridge Baptist Church and a performance consultant and managing partner of the Leadership Management Institute. He can be reached at nextlevelinstitute@insightbb.com.