“If our thoughts shape our world, then we can decide every moment is valuable and then make it so.” – Lori Deschene
How many times have you looked back on your day and wondered where the time went? How often have you been so busy that you didn’t have time to simply live?
Similarly, how many times have you had to start over after putting hours, days, weeks, or even years into a project or venture?
In any of these cases, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve wasted a significant amount of your time on Earth.
But that’s only true if you make it so.
The truth is, your time and experiences are as valuable as you perceive them to be. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is completely up to you.
Valuing Day-to-Day Moments
How many of you reading this actually enjoy running errands or doing chores?
If you didn’t raise your hand, I don’t blame you. These daily maintenance tasks can leave us feeling like we’re stuck in a hamster wheel. Go to the store, buy food, come home, cook, wash dishes, clean up…and do it all again tomorrow.
It’s easy to feel as if you’re just going through the motions. That you waste inordinate amounts of time running these errands on a daily basis. That there’s so much else you could be doing with your life.Advertising
While there really is no escape from having to complete these daily tasks, you can escape the idea that completing them is a waste of your time.
Instead of approaching these tasks thinking “Okay, once I get through this, I’ll have time to relax,” aim to get as much as you can out of each experience.
Grocery shopping can become boring if you always buy the same old stuff. But there’s nothing that says you can’t spice things up a bit (see what I did there?). Actively seek out new ingredients for a recipe you’ve never tried before. Put a little extra effort into what used to be a monotonous task, and you might end up actually enjoying yourself. Ironically, this will all end up taking more of your time, but you’ll almost immediately see the value in such time well spent.
Doing laundry, sweeping the floor, and scrubbing the bathtub are most likely not on the top of your list of exciting things to do in life. But, of course, they must be done. And if you change the way you approach these seemingly menial tasks, you’ll find much more value in each of them.
Think of all that goes into these chores. It might not be glamorous work, but it is strenuous. Keeping your home spotlessly clean requires you to have a consistent vision of what you want each room to look like, and persevere through a ton of adversity – in the form of your kids, pets, and spouse. Understand how meaningful it is that you’re constantly fighting against the grain, but still have the intestinal fortitude to press forward.
You’ll probably learn some tricks along the way, too: better ways to keep grime away; an easier way to fold t-shirts (believe me, there is one); the best way to get your kids to clean up after themselves. These are all skills you picked up along the way while completing these Sisyphean tasks that seemed to be a complete waste of time.
That is, they seemed that way until you took the time to see the value in each of them.
Valuing Failed Efforts
When I first started writing on the web, I had no idea what I was doing. I pitched articles that had absolutely no value to my clients. My ideas were boring. I was overwhelmed by the many published writers and bloggers with hundreds of articles under their belt. I remember thinking I just “didn’t have it.”
If I were to have quit back then, then, yes: all of the time I spent trying to become a writer up until that point would have been a complete waste. I wouldn’t have learned anything, and certainly would not have grown professionally.Advertising
Instead, I started thinking: “How can I learn from these shortcoming? How can I use these experiences of failure in order to grow?”
I learned that failure is not an end in and of itself; it’s simply a bump in the continuum toward success.
Once I began to tie my failures into my journey as a writer, I began to see the value in each of my failed attempts.
I stopped deleting rejected pitches. Instead, I started reading over them to see how I needed to improve.
Rather than completely erasing drafts and starting from scratch, I began reworking them section by section until they were as close to perfect as possible.
Instead of completely ignoring a client after being rejected, I began contacting them to get insight into what they were really looking for, and how I could change my approach to better suit their needs in the future.
I’ve definitely faced setbacks along my journey as a writer. But, because I’ve improved the manner in which I approach these setbacks, I can honestly say that, as long as I’m writing, I never feel like I’ve wasted my time.
A Changing Wind
So far, I’ve discussed fairly minor incidents that might set you back a couple hours, or at most a few days.
But what about the setbacks that seem to erase years of your life?Advertising
I’m talking about those of us who have graduated college only to discover their degree is useless. Or those who have been laid off after twenty years at the same office. Or those who realize they’ve been stuck in a rut for years, but are afraid it’s too late to make a change.
When these revelations hit you, it can be a hard pill to swallow. You’ll probably feel as if you’ve completely wasted your life, and there’s no way to get back on track.
Well, it’s not true.
As with everything I’ve discussed so far, you’ve only wasted your time if you allow it to seem that way.
Throughout my college years, I studied literacy education. I wanted nothing more than to help struggling students become proficient readers every day of my life. I was, and am, good at it.
But, in a market in which hundreds of applicants vie for a single position, and those that do get hired are the first to be laid off when budget cuts roll around, I finally decided the educational field wasn’t for me.
I could easily look back on my time in college and working as a tutor and substitute teacher as a waste. I’m not working in the field, so how can I say my past experiences in the educational industry are useful to my current situation?
Thinking that way would be a complete disservice to my past efforts, and my current abilities.
Instead, I choose to focus on the strengths I’ve gained over the years, and leveraging them in my current occupation as a writer.Advertising
I absolutely love reading and learning about anything this world has to offer. That hasn’t changed. Learning new information provides me with more material to include in my writing.
I enjoy explaining complex ideas in relatable and memorable ways. I don’t need to be in front of a classroom to make use of that skill. In fact, as a writer, I have more time to ensure my explanation is comprehensible as possible before I publish it.
I feel fulfilled when I know my efforts have helped improve the lives of other people in some way or another. Writing on the Web allows me to reach many more individuals than I could ever imagine reaching in the confines of a single classroom.
Just because I never truly reached my initial goal of becoming a full-time teacher doesn’t mean my journey was a complete failure. I may have had to redefine how I use the skills I’ve learned along the way – but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost those skills entirely.
There will almost certainly come a time in your life when you need to leave the past in the past. But you should never forget what you’ve learned along the way.
Time is life’s greatest teacher. If you learn from its lessons, you’ll never waste a moment of your life.
Featured photo credit: Hourglass / Mustafa Awwad / Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com
Last Updated on March 23, 2021
Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time
One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.
The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.
You need more than time management. You need energy management
1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive
How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.
I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.
I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.
2. Determine your “peak hours”
Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.
Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.
My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.
In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.
Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.
3. Block those high-energy hours
Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.
Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.
If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.
That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.
There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.
Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.
Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com