Efficient Time Management

Do you manage your time well? I used to a long time ago. The company I worked for bought all their employees Franklin Planners and sent us to be trained. That worked well for a while, but after I quit to take care of my husband it wasn’t necessary anymore, and it’s been a long time since I formally set goals and worked to achieve them.

But things have changed. I’m writing a novel and trying to learn to be the best author I can be in the process. It’s not as simple as just sitting down and writing a story. There are subplots to layer in and character arcs to develop, not to mention learning the process. (When I started I didn’t even know what subplots and character arcs were.) It’s like going back to work again.

Just because I now have what amounts to a full-time job, it doesn’t mean that I don’t also have to take care of my husband, my dog, and our home. We still must eat and have clean clothes. Some of my friends are such good housekeepers that they will only work on their hobbies after their chores are done. I love these ladies, but housework just doesn’t do it for me. God, my writing, and my dog, Toby, are what has kept me sane as we dealt with dementia on top of blindness and short-term memory loss.

I love writing, and it has added so much value to my life that I want to continue writing until I die. So, I need a way to make the time to write and develop my craft while still taking care of my other loves and responsibilities.

Recently, I bought the book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. It was exactly what I needed. Both authors gave up successful high-level careers in industry to pursue their own businesses so they could spend more time with their families.

“We tend to think effective people are busy. Not so, unless they’re busy with the right things – and many people aren’t.” (Harkavy, 2016)

The authors asked me to list my life ‘accounts’ (work, family, etc.). Each of us will have different ‘accounts’ because we’re all unique. Someone with three small children is going to have different life ‘accounts’ than I do with a disabled husband and a dog. Someone else might have a job and be going to college as well. But all of us are trying to improve in some way or another. The authors of Living Forward recommend that you not choose more than twelve life accounts.

Once you’ve built your list, then you need to prioritize them. Here’s an example from the book of nine basic life accounts:

The inner ring, the Circle of Being, is composed of accounts focused on you and how you relate to yourself. The middle ring, the Circle of Relating, is focused on how you relate to others. The outer ring, the Circle of Doing, is activities dealing with you in relation to your output.

As I studied their examples, I learned that my priorities are wrong and have been for years.  I always put my own needs last. I eat last, I shower last, I get dressed last – anyone with dependents knows what I mean. I make sure everyone else has what they need to keep them healthy - exercise, good food - but then I don’t have the energy to do the same for myself. I’ve been burning my candle at both ends for a long time, and it’s beginning to catch up with me.

As I continued to read Living Forward, the next step the authors wanted me to take was to evaluate the status of my life accounts. They even provided an online app to help me do it (https://livingforwardassessment.com). Of course, the ‘accounts’ in the online app don’t match mine precisely, but the results were still very interesting. They said I had a lot of passion for wanting to improve, but I wasn’t making much progress. I knew that was the situation for some of my life accounts, but they put almost all of them in that category.

“Having priorities is essential. So is having them in the right order. It’s time to take your list of Life Accounts and arrange them in priority order from most important to least important. Obviously all of them are important, otherwise they wouldn’t be on your list. But not all of them have the same importance.

For example, your career is important – but probably not more important than your family. Yet, so many people live as though work is their highest priority. Ranking your Life Accounts forces you to decide what takes precedence if push comes to shove. And shoving will happen, guaranteed. …

The order you choose is up to you. This is going to become the plan for your life. Ask ‘What is the most important Life Account in my list? What is the one I would not be willing to sacrifice no matter what?’

The only Life Accounts we would recommend that you put near the top of your list are those related to yourself. For you, this might be a single account or three separate ones as we suggested (i.e., Spiritual, Intellectual, and Physical). Here’s why: You can’t take care of anyone else unless you first take care of yourself.” (Harkavy, 2016)

This was a radical shift for me. The idea of taking time each day to take care of myself was eye opening, but where was the extra time going to come from? It’s not like I’ve been wasting time doing unimportant things all this time.

“… We have to attend to ourselves first (second only to God for us) in order to be spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically available to others.

If you have trouble with the semantics of putting yourself first, think of it as preparation to serve others. …” (Harkavy, 2016)

I’ll admit that when I’m rested, and I’m eating healthy foods, I am much more creative, patient, and just a better person than when I’m tired and not feeling well. So, maybe they have a point.

The next step in establishing my life plan is figuring out where I want to go. And the authors say I need to be crystal clear about it because if my goal is not crystal clear in my own mind, I may let other well-meaning people or exciting opportunities lead me to make decisions I will later regret.

That happens to me often. Life is full of exciting opportunities, and I want to investigate all of them because they’re so interesting. Time after time I find myself being distracted by an interesting tidbit of information. Hours later, I realize I didn’t accomplish my goals for the day because I was chasing an interesting opportunity. Sometimes we need to chase opportunities. New and exciting things keep our lives from being boring, but I want to learn how to do it on purpose rather than just because I got distracted.

So, now it’s time for the hard work. I need to establish a purpose for each of the life accounts I’ve created. Then I must envision the future and decide how I want each of my life accounts to grow and change. Then I need to be honest with myself, and record my current reality in that life account, even if it’s a reality I’m not proud of.

The tasks I’ve already listed are hard enough, but once I’ve gotten to that point, I must make Specific commitments to move from my current reality to my envisioned future. The authors recommend that these commitments or goals be SMART.

  • “Specific – your goals must identify exactly what you are committing to with as much specificity as you can muster.”
  • “Measurable – … You want to know absolutely, positively whether or not you fulfilled your commitment.”
  • “Actionable – make every commitment start with an action verb.”
  • “Realistic – A good commitment should stretch you, but you need a dose of common sense.”
  • “Time-bound – every commitment needs a time period associated with it.” (Harkavy, 2016)

Once you have established your life plan, you need to implement it. I’ve planned so many things in the past, and then set the list down and forgotten about it. The authors recommend that you read through your life plan every morning for the first 90 days after you develop it. Then once a week. Review it every quarter. Modify it if necessary every year. Perhaps these are the steps I have missed in the past.

But, be careful. Don’t give yourself so many goals that you use up all your time. Leave yourself time to think. Time to plan and reflect.

“What we desperately need is margin – time to breathe, to reflect, to act. How does lack of margin make you feel? Anxious? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Conversely, how does margin make you feel? Relaxed? Focused? Present? If you are to be successful with your Life Plan, you must create more margin so you have room for what’s important, not merely urgent.

Margin is possible. But it requires you to recognize the forces that threaten to gobble it up and then enact the appropriate countermeasures. It specifically requires that you learn and practice three skills: triaging your calendar, scheduling your priorities, and saying no to more requests.”

I do not yet fully understand all the aspects of time management that the authors are sharing in Living Forward, but I’m committed to keep trying until I do. I have a lot of dreams and a lot of responsibilities. I’m not willing to give up on my dreams. I’m also not willing to give up my responsibilities. The only way I will be able to do everything I want to do in my life, is to learn to manage my time better.

How about you? Do you manage your time well? If you do, leave me a comment and tell me how you do it. If you don’t have a method that works for you, I highly recommend the book Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. I enjoyed reading it and what they say makes sense to me. Now I just need to create my plan and let it work.

Have a great week, and good luck managing your time efficiently.

References:

Harkavy, M. H. (2016). Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.