Time isn’t your master, you are

In the penultimate article of her series on well-being and resilience Liggy Webb turns her attention to managing time 

Imagine if time was a bank account and, each morning, you were credited with 86,400 seconds. If, by the end of that day you hadn’t spent any of the credits they would instantly be deducted from your account. What would you do? Well the chances are, I expect, that you would make every effort to invest them and invest them wisely. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much we take time for granted and then regret the moments we lose or waste?

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In transport economics, the value of time is the opportunity cost of the time that a traveller spends on their journey. In essence, this makes it the amount that a traveller would be willing to pay in order to save time, or the amount they would accept as compensation for lost time. The value of time varies considerably from person to person and depends upon the purpose of the journey, but can generally be divided into two sets of valuations: working time and non-working time.

This can sum up life very well and it is important that we make the most of our time and make a balanced investment into both work and home life.  

One of the biggest challenges that many people face is personal time management and the ability to prioritise. Let’s face it, we all have our own quirky little habits that we have adopted and I am sure we have all been guilty of putting ourselves and other people under unnecessary pressure by just not being as well-organised as we could be. This can have a big effect on our stress levels too .The more efficiently we manage our time, the better we will feel generally.  

It is also important to respect other people’s time and, if our own lack of personal organisation or time-keeping disrupts others, then it is important that we take responsibility and do something about it.

Also, it is worth considering that, no matter how organised we may be, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn’t change. All we can actually manage is ourselves and what we do with the time that we have. Many of us are prey to time-wasters who steal time that we could be using much more productively. It is so easy to go off-track or become distracted by something that is so much more interesting than the task in hand.

Procrastination is the ultimate thief of time, and putting off what we can do today is something many people are guilty of. It is actually far better to do the thing you least like doing first so that it doesn’t hang over you making you feel gloomy at the prospect.

It is important to remember, the focus of time management is actually changing your behaviours, not changing time. 

Review time – have you ever stopped and really analysed how you spend your time? It is a really useful exercise for 14 days to record how you spend your 86,400 seconds so keep a log and this will be a good place to start changing any unhelpful habits.

Eliminating your personal time-wasters – once you know how you are spending your time you will easily begin to see how you waste time. Very often it will be things that you can change and being honest with yourself will help.

Create a system – it’s amazing how so many people don’t have a good system in place and work rather randomly and react to whatever comes along. It is a far better approach to be proactive and have more control over your day. Making a priority plan will help you to stay focused. Learning how to manage emails can be helpful. One system I use is that when I have an email in my inbox I make a decision straight away of what to do with it rather than open it and go back to it later. I either action it, delete it or file it.   

Avoid procrastination – it is so tempting to put off what you don’t like doing to another time or even another day or week. One of the best pieces advice that I have had is to do what you least like doing first. Get it over and done with and I guarantee you will feel lighter and more motivated. There is nothing worse than having something hanging over you. It slows you down and makes you feel heavy.

Avoid the ‘Superhero Syndrome’ – some people are their own worst enemy because they want to portray the image of someone who is infallible and capable of taking the world on their shoulders as a cartoon superhero might! We are not however superheroes we are human, therefore we are not infallible and there really is only so much that you can do. Learning to negotiate and on occasions even saying no is not only necessary it is essential and will take the pressure away, and you are less likely to let people down and stress yourself out!

Be tidy – the tidier and the more minimalist you are the easier it will be to find things and this can save lots of time. It is also good for your mind because it will help you to focus and feel more in control. Other people you work around will also appreciate you being tidy as it makes life better and easier for them too.

A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.
Charles Darwin



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