Many times, when you ask someone how they are "BUSY!" is a common response. Some wear "busy" like a badge of honor. "Busy" indicates that you are so good at pretty much everything that you are constantly in demand. While it's definitely nice to be wanted, it's also exhausting to try to do everything all the time for everyone.
As someone who was formerly a member of every group and an organizer of every event--to the point where it way way more work than fun--I've learned a thing or three about managing my time to increase my overall happiness.
Time Management Skill #1: Saying No
People talk a lot about time management as a way to squeeze the most life into every waking moment. I used to try really hard to do everything I thought I *should* do. (The word “should” is a hint that perhaps I didn’t want to do some things very badly.) Want to know a little secret? One of the real tips for effective time management is deciding what you’re not going to even consider doing.
I always appreciate being asked to help out, attend a function or be a part of a group. Now, I find other ways to help that involve a time commitment I'm willing to make. Do I want to volunteer to run a junior roller derby bout? No, but I'll donate items for the silent auction. Do I want to organize all of the volunteers for the school fiesta? No, but I'll volunteer for an hour to sell tickets or just contribute money. I've learned to say no to things that I'll end up dreading, and to say yes in a way that I won't hate.
Saying no is freeing. It's beautiful to be invited to an out of town wedding for a passing acquaintance and politely decline to attend. It's nice to not to go to every single class my daughter takes and feel like I'm a bad parent if I don't pay close attention to her every move. It feels good when I take care of myself by not committing to go to multiple events on a given day because it's just too much all at once.
I've also gotten better at realizing that I don't need to give an excuse or an explanation for saying no. I get to just say "no thank you" or "that's not my thing" or "I have a conflict" and that's enough. I get to manage my time, priorities and energy as I see fit--and everyone gets to be okay with that.
Time Management Skill #2: The "Stop Doing" List
In life, all of us have received a talking to regarding the value of sticking with things. I came equipped with way to much of that skill. I am the queen of work more, try harder and overachieve. I kept on dating someone way after it was clear that the relationship was going nowhere. I stayed involved in organizations long after the benefit to me was gone out of a sense of obligation (and probably of my own importance). I stayed in jobs that had stopped being interesting because it was easier to stay than it was to find something I'd like more. I've kept going with lots of things because "I'm no quitter!"
Today, I am proud to be a quitter. It's just a matter of figuring out when it's time to keep trying, and when it's time to call it a day.
I decided to end a marriage when there was nothing else constructive I could do to make it work that would not seriously impede my own happiness and self worth. I quit volunteering to run an art festival when I realized it was a source of stress instead of a source of joy. I quit a part time job because the hours were terrible and my time was more valuable to me than the small amount of pay I was receiving. Knowing that you don't actually have to finish everything you start is an important life lesson to learn.
My "stop doing" list was a welcome relief to obligations I was taking on for no good reason. I stopped getting together with friends who weren't fun. I stopped going to family gatherings where my drive time was way longer than time I would get to spend with individual people at the event. I quit finishing books that I started reading, but didn't like and stopped watching tv shows that lost my interest. I also quit denying the fact that I need a fair amount of alone time to maintain my happiness.
Quitting really is freeing when you don't view it as failure, but a non-judgmental ending that opens up the possibility of new beginnings.
Time Management Skill #3: Trying New Things
Really? How is trying new things a time management skill? For me time management is really happiness management. Part of my ongoing happiness comes from learning and trying new things. Now that I've freed up time by saying no and quitting things that no longer serve me, I have time available to try whatever appeals to me at the place I am in life.
Recently, I tried soma yoga, started a roller derby skills class and decided to go roller skating with my daughter weekly. I now block off time to blog and read. I also spend time with my husband, go to movies at my favorite local theatre, schedule much-needed introverting time and hike new trails with my best friend. Over time, I'll hang on to what I still enjoy, move on from what I've discovered isn't my thing. Maximizing my time (whatever that looks like to me) makes me feel better.
What About You?
Brenda is an innovative learning and development leader, instructional designer, and continuous learner.