Read an Excerpt
Time Management from the Inside Out
The Foolproof System for Taking Control of your Scheduleâ"and Your Life
By Julie Morgenstern, Janet Pedersen
Henry Holt and Company Copyright © 2004 Julie Morgenstern
All rights reserved.
WHAT'S YOUR MOTIVATION?
Do you ever feel like you are off by just a step? That no matter how well you plan your days, or how disciplined you try to be, one unexpected thing comes along and wham ... you're thrown completely off track?
Does this sound like your life?
The alarm goes off for the fifth time (after half an hour of hitting the snooze button) and the race begins. After speeding through your shower and throwing on some clothes (not the ones you wanted to wear, mind you, because you forgot to pick those up at the dry cleaner), you inhale a quick breakfast, kiss the kids good-bye (after some tense moments at the door about lost backpacks), and dash to the office. The minute you arrive you're hit with one crisis after another. You never have time to look at your to-do list and end up staying late to catch up on tasks that were all due yesterday. By the time you finally get home, you're feeling guilty, cranky, and starving. After a patchwork meal of leftovers, you yell at the kids to do their homework and clean up their rooms, then wander the house picking up dirty socks, that morning's newspaper, and a dirty cereal bowl, while thinking about the bills you forgot to pay and the workout that you didn't get to. Eventually, you tumble into bed, exhausted, only to start the race all over the next morning.
I have so much to do, I don't know where to start. I feel as though my wheels are spinning at one hundred miles an hour and I'm getting nowhere fast.
— Liz S.
I spend more time writing lists than actually getting anything done. I have little notes to myself everywhere, and still I forget things!
— Susan E.
I am good at starting projects but get sidetracked easily. Before I know it, the day is gone and I am left with a million and one unfinished projects.
— Bill B.
Balancing my life is so hard. I'm constantly changing hats between roles: wife, mother, employee, friend, boss. I always feel guilty taking time for myself because there's so much everyone else needs. But, I am soooooo tired at night.
— Catalina F.
When life becomes about the million and one things on your to-do list instead of getting to what is most important, and actually enjoying yourself, something is wrong. You don't need to end each day exhausted, depleted, and unfulfilled instead of satisfied. You can get back in balance.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION?
Why are you reading this book? You picked it up for a reason — because there are meaningful activities you are not getting to. Something essential is missing from your life. What is it? Quality time for your family and friends? Time for a hobby? Time to grow your business? An overall sense of balance?
Before writing this book, I conducted an informal Internet survey and asked my Web site visitors why they wanted to become better time managers. More than 70 percent of fifteen hundred respondents said they wanted to find more time. What varied was what they wanted that extra time for. What do you want?
I want more time to spend with my friends, to work on craft projects, to have fun.
— Jenna B.
I want more time to talk one-on-one with my kids.
— Frank R.
To gain time for personal enjoyment — reading, listening to music.
— Lance L.
To be able to accomplish things. My bad time management is stopping me from accomplishing my goals in life, especially finishing my Ph.D., so I can be gainfully employed as a psychologist.
— Paula H.
To stop and smell the flowers, instead of trampling over them in a mad rush to be somewhere I should have been an hour ago.
— Stanley R.
I want peace internally — a sense of satisfaction at my accomplishments rather than constant frustration.
— Becca G.
To be able to feel like I can take time to do things I know I need to be doing for me everyday (spiritually).
— Kylie A.
Right now, at the beginning of this book, write down your own compelling reason. If there were one thing you could add to your life to make you happier and more fulfilled, what would it be? Jot that down on a piece of paper and keep it close by — paper-clip it to your daily planner, pin it to your refrigerator, or place it in your wallet.
I guarantee you that if you follow even one third of the strategies contained in this book, you will be able to add that activity (as well as many other fulfilling activities) back into your life. This one little statement will provide a starting point for your journey to becoming a better time manager, and will help you stay motivated as you learn new skills that may feel awkward at first. It can be a struggle to change ingrained behaviors, but when you focus on what you have to gain, it's easier to succeed.
DEFINING GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT (FROM THE INSIDE OUT)
Time Management from the Inside Out is based on the belief that you have the power to make choices, take ownership, and influence the course of your days — instead of feeling victimized.
Good time management is not about buying a great calendar or planner. It is not about learning tricks to move faster, or about doing everything with mechanical efficiency. It's about creating days that are meaningful and rewarding to you, and feeling a sense of satisfaction in each and every one of your tasks.
Time Management from the Inside Out is about designing a life that is a custom fit for you, based on your unique personality and goals. It's about identifying what's important to you and giving those activities a place in your schedule, and helping you feel deeply satisfied at the end of each day.
There is no "right" way to live your life. I won't tell you to live a simple, calm life, or try to convince you to fill every waking moment with intense, productive activity. This book doesn't contain truisms like "The early bird catches the worm," or impose value systems urging you to either work less or play less, or encourage you to be anything other than exactly who you are. What's offered here is a process, not a prescription.
Time Management from the Inside Out honors and celebrates the fact that you are an individual. It allows for the expression of your unique and personal relationship to time, and the fulfillment of your own personal goals. We each have different needs at different points in our lives. There may be a time in your life when work takes precedence over everything else; another period when family becomes your priority. The tools here allow you to adapt your schedule and days to the changes in your own priorities. The strategies in this book are skills for life.
DEVELOPING A BIG-PICTURE VIEW
No matter how hectic life gets, the most successful people in life have a big-picture view that helps them rise above the chaos and maintain their perspective. A big-picture view is your overriding vision, your belief, simply put, of the meaning of what your life is all about, of what you want it to be. Your big-picture view keeps you on track, providing the context and motivation for all your decisions about how you spend your time.
Your larger view is what keeps you going to the gym, and taking care of yourself, because you understand how feeling healthy and energetic helps you fulfill your other goals. Perspective makes it easier to do tasks you dislike because you understand how each task fits in with your higher life goals.
Your big-picture view gives meaning, motivation, and direction to your life. It's your baseline, your springboard, and your landing place for handling all of life's challenges, choices, and surprises. It becomes easier to cut tasks from your to-do list when you run out of time, while still feeling good about your day. You see that there are many ways to achieve your goal, and no one task will make or break your success.
The program in this book will help you develop your big-picture view and provide you with the practical tools for making your vision a reality. The lessons are presented in sections, starting with new ways of looking at time (part 1), a quick-start program to free up some hours quickly (part 2), and then moving into a full program for designing the life of your dreams (parts 3, 4, and 5). The program in this book follows the natural arc of mastery — focusing on technical skills toward the beginning and addressing psychological factors none fully toward the end.
TOOLS TO GET BACK ON TRACK
What this book will not do is provide a plan that will make your life run perfectly smoothly — no time management system can do that. No matter how well you plan, no matter how organized you are, no matter how skillful you are, there are countless things that could throw a wrench in your day.
Good time managers face that reality. They understand that good time management is not about creating the perfectly balanced life in which everything always goes as expected. It's about having the tools to get back in balance, to come back to center, and to stay true to your own goals when you get thrown offtrack.
The program in this book will help you tune in to who you are and what you want, and then give you the tools to build your life around what's most important to you. You can learn new skills and modify some behaviors, but you can't really change your essence — and you shouldn't. Together, we'll go through a process of self-discovery: your likes and dislikes, natural habits, needs, and desires. These preferences and little idiosyncrasies will become the foundation of your time-management system and help you recover each time you are thrown offtrack.
So, think back to that one critical task you never seem to find enough time for. Why aren't you getting to that meaningful activity? You may be assuming there just aren't enough hours in the day. But, sometimes, it pays to take a closer look.
The next chapter, "What's Holding You Back," is a diagnostic tool that will help you figure out why you aren't getting to what really counts. Are your issues technical, external, or psychological? You might be surprised by how simple the solutions may be.CHAPTER 2
WHAT'S HOLDING YOU BACK?
Think about the note you made to yourself at the end of the last chapter, the one important thing you never get to. Is it time for yourself? For your friends? To get your financial house in order? Let's figure out why you are not getting to it. This chapter will help you quickly pinpoint the problem.
A Three-Level Diagnostic
One of the most helpful tools in getting back in balance is knowing what is throwing you off. When people manage their time poorly, they very often jump to the conclusion that they are internally flawed somehow, that they are simply incompetent in this area of life. They may throw their hands up in resignation, convinced that "out of control" is just how life is supposed to be in the modern world. Both of these perceptions are inaccurate and self-defeating.
It's usually a combination of forces that creates time-management problems. Consider the following three levels of errors and obstacles to accurately diagnose what is going wrong. When you understand all the causes of your problem, you can create true change from the inside out.
Level 1: Technical Errors. Perhaps all that is standing between you and what you want to accomplish is an easily resolved mechanical mistake. You may have never learned a particular skill or technique, but once you do you can simply make the appropriate adjustments to your approach and you're all set. Problem solved.
Level 2: External Realities. It would be counterproductive to deny the fact that sometimes environmental factors beyond your control directly interfere with your ability to manage your time and tend to what you consider most important. By identifying the true source of the problem, you can more directly address, adapt to, or manage the issue.
Level 3: Psychological Obstacles. Sometimes, internal forces and fears prevent us from achieving the life we desire. By recognizing certain self-sabotaging habits, you can begin to break free of their control.
Each time you get thrown off track, use the diagnostic below to ask yourself, "Is my problem technical, external, or psychological?" For example, if you are having trouble delegating, the problem could be technical (You don't know how to do it), external (There's no one you can delegate this to), or psychological (You feel guilty asking someone else to do this for you.).
If the problem is multifaceted (as is often the case), I encourage you to tackle the technical errors and external realities first. It's been my experience that once you overcome the problem pragmatically, the psychological resistance usually melts away. This book was organized in such a way that you'll be focusing on practical skills first, then on whatever psychological issues may be holding you back.
Try rereading this chapter whenever you get stuck, and ask yourself what's causing the problem right now. You may discover that there are certain obstacles that tend to cause problems for you over and over again. Ultimately you'll learn to recognize them when they surface, quickly diffuse them, and stop them from sabotaging your efforts to manage your time.
LEVEL 1: TECHNICAL ERRORS
Error #1: Tasks Have No "Home"
One of the most common causes for not getting to important activities is that you haven't set aside a specific time in which to do them. If you think you'll pay bills or write a thank-you note when you are in the mood, think again. When you catch yourself thinking, "I'll have fun, or pamper myself in my spare time," stop! There is no such thing as spare time!
As it is, our days are already packed with more things to do than there will ever be time for. The only free moments we get are when some other activity falls through at the last minute. Unfortunately, because we're caught off guard we usually can't think of what to do with those unexpected moments.
So if something is really important to you, set aside a specific time in your schedule to make it happen. You'll learn more in chapter 4, "The WADE Formula," chapter 10, "Time Mapping: Creating Your Ideal Balance," and chapter 13, "Assign a Home," about how to assign "homes" for each task.
Error #2: You've Set Aside the Wrong Time
If you've set aside time to do something but find yourself still not getting to it, it's possible that you've set aside the wrong time. We all have unique energy and concentration cycles: Some of us are morning people; others are more energetic at night. Other factors can impact our motivation as well: sunshine, the time of year, life circumstances, and how much rest we are operating on.
If you are working against your own natural rhythms, it will be hard to effectively tackle a task when you've planned to. If you can't bring yourself to balance your checkbook each month, maybe the problem is that you're always trying to do it at night after work, when your mental energy is low. If you schedule the task in the morning instead, you might find yourself more motivated to tackle those figures.
For more about working with your natural energy cycles, see chapter 7, "Understanding Your Unique Relationship to Time."
Error #3: You've Miscalculated How Long Tasks Take
Most people are very unrealistic about what they can accomplish in a day. If the time required to complete your to-dos exceeds the time you have available, you simply won't get to it all and will end up feeling frustrated and demoralized. This is completely avoidable. If you get better at calculating how long tasks take, you can plan a realistic workload. Learning how to estimate how long tasks take is a skill anyone can learn, as you will see in chapter 3, "Making Time Tangible." Furthermore, when you know what your big-picture goals are, it will be much easier to eliminate, shorten, or delegate tasks that don't serve your bigger picture. Chapter 4, "The WADE Formula," and chapter 12, "Purge," will help you reduce your workload to fit the time allotted.
Error #4: You're the Wrong Person for the Job
Too many of us make the mistake of thinking that we have to do it all, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It can be hard to admit that when it comes to certain tasks, you're simply the wrong person for the job. But it can also be liberating. We each have unique talents and skills, and so do other people. It can save a lot of time, headaches, and heartaches to admit that someone else can do a job faster, better, and more efficiently than you. Maybe you have an assistant, or friends or family members, who would actually enjoy a job that's difficult and tedious for you. If someone else is better at balancing your checkbook or designing a new sales brochure, accept that, hire them, and move on.
You'll learn more about the art of delegating in chapter 4, "The Wade Formula," and chapter 12, "Purge."
Excerpted from Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, Janet Pedersen. Copyright © 2004 Julie Morgenstern. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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