One of the most important things to master in order to live our healthiest and happiest lives is how to spend our time wisely.
How many of us complain day after day, “I wish I could do all the things I wanted to do, but I just don’t have time!”
In most cases, we do have time to do the things that we want to do, but we just haven’t yet mastered the art of managing our time. When asked why we are not meeting our needs or pursuing our dreams, many of us respond that we don’t have the time. At the same time, most of us spend 2-4 hours each day watching TV or using some other form of media. That’s a huge chunk of time right there! If we used all or even half of the time we do to watch television, we’d have 1 or more hours each day we could devote to exercise, meditation, or pursuing our passion.
Managing your time is both a science and an art. Speaking to the science aspect, there are a number of concrete, practical techniques that can be used to help us: tracking appointments and activities in planners/calendars, making to-do lists, making goals of getting x amount of tasks done each day, etc. These are tools that can be very useful and help to keep us on track in getting things done and meeting our needs and goals.
Speaking to the artful aspect of time management, one great technique is to multi-task your activities as much as possible. I know the old adages talk about the beauty of doing one thing at a time, (and I agree that this can be a very enjoyable, even zen-like experience), but in our fast paced society, this just isn’t practical much of the time. If we are serious about getting our needs met and living our dreams, then we better learn to multi-task- that is, schedule our activities in such a way that allow us to meet multiple needs at once.
Case in point: Last night I met 4 needs by attending a Drumming Circle. My first need of spending quality time with loved ones was met because a close friend joined me. Other needs that were met included: Having fun, engaging in group activities that enhance my feelings of connection/community, and getting to experience live music.
Let’s look at a different scenario. Say my same friend called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to a horror film with her that evening. In the past before I learned to master my time, I might have said yes to be a good sport, even though I’m not a fan of horror films. The problem with this is, by going along to the film, I’d only be meeting one of my needs: the need to spend time with a friend. Seeing as I wouldn’t be enjoying the movie, no other needs would be met. Thus, I would not only leave the movie feeling drained and unfulfilled, but I’d still have a handful of other needs that hadn’t been met. Consequently, I wouldn’t have very much to gain from this use of my time.
In planning your day, week, and month ahead, figure out ways to incorporate multiple needs at once. Say you’re trying to get more exercise in and you highly value spending time with friends- so grab your friends and start doing physical activities together. You desire more time in nature and you want more quality time with your kids- plan a family friendly nature hike for everyone to enjoy (and get some exercise and fresh air while you’re at it!)
What are the activities that fill up your time that meet multiple needs? Do you do your shopping with a friend so that you can meet two needs at once? Do you exercise while listening to audiobooks or your favorite podcast?
What are the activities that fill up your schedule that meet only one need? How could you incorporate other needs into this activity as well to make better use of your time?
Do you fill up one or more hours a day of “time wasters” such as mindless television, video, games, cleaning your bathroom floor with a tooth brush, and the like? Limit your time doing these things to one hour per day at the most, and use the extra time that you would have alloted for that to something meaningful that will leave you fulfilled and inspired. Take those dusty paint brushes and canvasses off your shelves, take that walk along the beach, call that old friend you’ve been meaning to get in touch with.
When you begin to make better use of your time, you will not only feel greater life satisfaction and fulfillment, but a greater sense of control and feelings of ease about your life.
Think twice before you make the statement that you “don’t have the time” to exercise, to cook healthy meals, to pursue your passions. You do have the time- you have 24 hours in your day just like everybody else. Yes, there are things that need to be done every day, and yes, you have your responsibilities, but there are likely extra pockets of time that you could be using in higher, more fulfilling ways if you give it some thought.
The question is not whether you have the time to do what you want and need to do, but whether you are using your time wisely. May you use your time wisely today and every day.