People who get things done have to learn to say no–to others and to themselves. ~ Donald Laird
It isn’t unusual to hear someone say that they love all things vintage because it represents a time when things were simpler and the pace of life was slower. In the modern world, we are always connected via our phones while disconnected to what is going on around us because we are looking at our phones. And, in some circles, being overwhelmed and hyper-busy is a badge of honor.
We have calendars with stickers on the wall in the kitchen or on our phones/computers that send us reminders. There are tons of books on how to manage our time. But things are still slipping through the cracks.
Time management isn’t working. We can’t manage time. Time is fixed at 24 hours a day. But we can manage our boundaries so that how we use our time is a reflection of our values.
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Here’s the rub. Often we are being asked to make choices between two or more good options when it comes to how we spend our time. It’s easy when we have to choose between something good and something dreadful. We choose the good thing and don’t feel guilty about saying “no” to the dreadful option. But when we have to choose between multiple good options, we use up a lot of psychic energy feeling guilty, second-guessing ourselves, or, worse, we just abdicate our responsibility and let everything slip into crisis mode where the choices are made for us. I believe that living a glamorous lifestyle means that we need to be intentional about how we use our time. Being intentional means that we can be fully present instead of frazzled, distracted, exhausted, and perpetually late.
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So, how do we manage our boundaries? Douglas Reimondo Robertson shares some questions/exercises in his book Making Time, Making Change: Avoiding Overload in College Teaching* (I think K-12 teachers may find this book useful, too).
- How do you currently use your time? To what do you currently give your time? How would you describe the major areas of your life, as you organize your life right now? Take a peek at your credit card statements or your checkbook to help you answer this question. You may be surprised by how much of your life can be discerned by where you spend your money (If in doubt, just ask the market research department of any major store…).
- In your conception of a healthy, balanced life, how would you use your time? This is a pragmatic question, not a wishful thinking one. Given your current finances, obligations, constraints, and so on, are there important activities missing from your life that you would like to add? These may be things like, meditation, exercises, rest, creativity, relationship-building, etc. You get to choose.
- What are your five “absolute yesses**?” What are the five things that you are committed to making time for, no matter what, whether it is daily, weekly, or monthly. You might think of these as your “non-negotiables” and take priority over everything else.
Hopefully, answering these questions will help you see that living well is really a result of making choices based on what is important to you and that are in alignment with your values. After you’ve answered them, you can create a “time budget” and assign a time value to your activities. It is like creating a financial budget, only you are using time instead of income. You will be able to live intentionally instead of trying to cram as many activities as you can into a time slot.
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My friend, Meggin McIntosh, teaches workshops on productivity and time management and she did one for our early career faculty last year. During the workshop, she had us think about our time as an empty egg carton and each activity/responsibility as an egg. She had us fill up our egg cartons until it was full. But then she wanted us to see what happens when we keep trying to add eggs to the carton after it is full. It doesn’t work and we just end up with a big old mess of broken eggs. To say that it made an impression on us would be an understatement and I think about that egg carton with the smashed eggs in it every time I try to add more things than I can handle to my schedule.
Are your “absolute yesses” part of your life right now? Or do you need to firm up your boundaries and start saying “no” to others…and yourself?
*Affiliate link–If you decide to order the book from the link, I earn a very small commission. Thank you for supporting Modern Retro Woman.
**Being the geek that I am, I looked up how to spell the plural of “yes.” Both “yeses” and “yesses” are acceptable, depending upon whether you are referencing Webster’s or the Oxford English Dictionary.